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Yup, it’s a river of blood. You shall continue to expect this game to be one of realism. (Picture: Red Candle Games)

Horror game Detention is like a Taiwanese Silent Hill

Detention is an acclaimed Taiwanese indie game taking place during the White Terror

Video gaming
This article originally appeared on ABACUS

It’s almost the Lunar New Year. So let’s talk about something ominous and horrific!

We've streamed the horror game  Detention three times on our Twitch channel, and each time we were completely absorbed by it. It's a simple game, but still captivating.

Developed by Red Candle Games, Detention puts you in control of a high school girl in the 1960s when Taiwan was under martial law.

It starts with a boy named Wei meeting our protagonist Ray in their school, the last to evacuate from campus ahead of a typhoon. The pair were then unable to leave as their only way out was blocked by a river of blood. Y'know, normal typhoon stuff.

Just to be clear to everyone, typhoons do not normally produce rivers of blood. (Picture: Red Candle Games)

It all gets darker from there, with Ray finding herself on a chair in an auditorium while Wei was being hung upside down on stage.

Detention is effectively a point and click adventure game, all about exploring for the right items to solve puzzles and unlock more areas of the map. There's no combat at all -- the only life-threatening thing in the game are wandering ghosts, which you can avoid by holding your breath or averting your gaze.

Oh, did I not mention ghosts earlier? Yeah, this game has ghosts. The kind that eats incense ashes or sniffs you while carrying a lantern.

The supernatural elements are key to telling the story, which digs into the psyche of a suppressed, traumatized and guilt-ridden teenager at a difficult time in Taiwan's history: The " White Terror”.
It's all depicted with impressive visuals. Some horror games shock you with jump scares, others feature tricky game mechanics to challenge your survive skills. But the feeling of dread in Detention comes from the hand-drawn constructing  a spooky environment that consistently keeps you on edge.
The game's art director said that he drew from a number of other horror games such as This War of Mine, The Cat Lady and Neverending Nightmare. Looking at the finished product, while the general atmosphere of the game resembles This War of Mine, the character designs are clearly influenced by The Cat Lady and Neverending Nightmare.

But beyond that, what really endears me to Detention is something far more personal -- the references to traditional culture that I'm familiar with.

It's the first game I've seen that makes Chinese superstitions interesting. Gambling with dice that are made of human teeth? Catching dripping blood with a rice bowl? It's insane, but also infinitely fascinating. It’s like going on an Airbnb experience where the theme is to experience all the crazy superstitious practices in just a few intense hours.

But Detention is also not without flaws. Since the game is so simple to play, the only thing that drives players is the plot. And while it does seem to be well enough told, if you lose interest, a lot of the game's appeal disappears.

The pacing is also really slow. It's probably intentional, as a slow pace is often key to creating suspense. But there are many points where we felt like the game deliberately slows down to the point of being annoying -- like when you lose the ability to run at certain points.

All in all, Detention is a very enjoyable experience. It has been constantly talked about among indie developers across China and Taiwan as a model horror or mystery title. On Steam alone, the game has already sold over 354,000 copies since its launch in 2017.

For example, recently I tried the demo of an interesting indie game from Hong Kong called Cage. Their developers told me that they tried to create a Detention-esque game but with Hong Kong’s own infamous yet mysterious Kowloon Walled City.
So if horror games are your cup of tea, Detention is a good one to add to your list, with many online reviews comparing it to the early Silent Hill titles.
If you want to learn more about Detention, check out our entire stream here!

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