Game review: Detention – old-school survival horror set during Taiwan’s White Terror

Set in Taiwan in the 1960s, during the period of martial law, this point-and-click adventure is intense and unnerving as it delivers slow-paced scares rather than jolts from the blue

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 10:22am


Red Candle Games

4/5 stars

Detention is a throwback to the early survival horror days of Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but with an important political statement as its backbone. Available for PC and Mac, it’s set in 1960s Taiwan, during the suppression of political dissidents in the White Terror martial law period.

The surrounding sense of fear and oppression isn’t shoved down our throats; instead, just as in filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s horror flicks, the theme acts as an undercurrent for the character’s own personal nightmares.

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Most of the creeping madness takes place in a run-down school, and we switch back and forth between two playable characters. Detention’s gameplay is inspired by old-school survival horror, but it’s really a point-and-click adventure. Rather than keeping track of your health and shooting down monsters with limited ammo, you’ll spend most of the game solving basic puzzles and moving the story forward.

Where the game truly excels is in its overall design. The hand-drawn visuals are hair-raising and unnerving. The sound is equally as intense, with eerie laughing and whispering combined with music that takes a page straight out of Silent Hill. And in the place of straight-up shocks are slow-paced scares, the kind that take measures of intelligence and restraint.

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It’s all framed against that political situation, with doses of Buddhism and dashes of the island’s culture thrown in for context. Without them, the gameplay and design would’ve felt familiar and possibly a little too dated for my liking.