After our interview with Red Candle Games about their horror game Detention, they sent us a review copy so we could see what it was all about. Detention takes place in 1960s Taiwan, during the period of martial law known as the White Terror. If you aren’t familiar with the historical context, however, don’t worry. Notes and documents throughout Detention do an excellent job of building up the atmosphere and conveying the situation.
Detention is set in a school that has been abandoned due to a sudden typhoon warning. Left behind, you must explore the school and survive the supernatural forces that have appeared. Although you’ll encounter enemies, there is no combat. Instead, you’ll have to sneak past enemies and even hold your breath so they don’t notice you. These encounters add a nice bit of tension, but the game mainly uses its bleak atmosphere, disturbing imagery, and grim story elements to create a sense of horror. Its gameplay, meanwhile, focuses on exploration and puzzles.
As you explore the school, you’ll find items and clues that let you solve puzzles to proceed to new areas. Many puzzles use the strange logic unique to horror games, such as finding incense to burn at an altar or playing the correct melody on a piano, all with the goal of getting past locked doors and other obstacles. This structure makes it feel like an adventure game, but also a lot like survival horror – just with a lessened focus on combat. In fact, as I explored each area, searched for items, solved strange puzzles, and picked up notes that gave me a glimpse into Detention’s world and story, it reminded me of nothing more than the traditional survival horror games I love.
Although the environment starts out fairly normal, it becomes more surreal later on in the game, and it’s filled with symbolism that hints at the truth. Learning the events that led to the school’s current condition is one of the most interesting parts of Detention, especially since the story is revealed to you piece by piece. The mystery is handled well, and it kept me guessing until near the end, when everything started to come together. The music also deserves a mention, because it meshed perfectly with the creepy and often somber tone of the game.
Detention is fairly short, taking about four hours or so to complete, but those four hours are wrapped up in a horrific atmosphere and fantastic puzzle-solving gameplay that should delight fans of classic survival horror and horror adventure games.