Review by horror_spooky
I most recently started doing reviews over Xbox Live Arcade games, and so I've also decided to take the liberty to review some indie games as well. You see, on the Game Marketplace for the Xbox 360, there are independently developed games usually priced at 80 MSP or even lower. These games are bite-sized and while many are shovelware or rehashed flash games, there are a few that stand out from the bunch and end up being amazing pieces of art. One example of a great indie game series that is available for a mere 80 Microsoft Points on Xbox Live is the Decay series, and here are my thoughts on the first part.
Decay Part 1 is a horror game styled as a point-and-click adventure title. The game is creepy and weird from the get-go, but since I don't want to give anything away story-wise (the plot is VERY important in these games, and I would hate to ruin it for anybody it would kill the atmosphere and horror vibe), I will only discuss what happens in the trailer, and at the very start of the game before the gamer has control of the player.
The game opens with a close-up of a person that is hanging from a noose in their bathroom. The camera then pans up to the close-up of the person's eye, which is rolled into the back of their head. The eye starts shifting and moving, and then rolling around frantically, until it settles on the camera. For a few moments, players have to stare right into the dark pupil, which sets the perfect tone for the rest of this bite-sized adventure.
Upon gaining control of the main character, players are then thrust into a gameplay world centering around point-and-click adventuring. The developers did a good job at adapting the 360 controller to work like a computer mouse. The mouse moves fast across the screen and the triggers slow the mouse down in case more precision is needed.
Players are tasked with solving puzzles and finding the items necessary to do so, while trying to figure out the mystery behind the game. In this sense, Decay Part 1 plays very similarly to a survival-horror game like Resident Evil or Silent Hill. It feels very similar to these two games, actually, except Decay doesn't draw its scares from grotesque monsters or low health bars. On the contrary, Decay relies entirely on its atmosphere.
Even though it's obvious that nothing is going to jump out and kill your character in the game just based on the fact that it's a point-and-click adventure game, Decay is still scarier than hell. It's easily one of the scariest games this entire generation. The dark corridors, the loud, aggressive noises, the scurrying of what sounds like footsteps behind closed doors these elements all blend together to create a sort of terrifying ambience that makes you dread every time you tap the d-pad to go to a different room. The graphic design is excellent, chilling, and creates the perfect atmosphere for the horror game.
Of course, the most important part of any horror game or movie is the sound design. If a video game developer or a director screws up the audio in a horror game, then the atmosphere is completely tarnished. Jaws wouldn't be scary at all if it wasn't for the classic Jaws theme that inspired terror into the hearts of movie-goers. Resident Evil wouldn't have those great scares if the audio wasn't purposely kept entirely quiet until key moments when players would be blasted with sound by a zombie lunging out of a door or a dog crashing through a window. Simply put, sound makes a difference. Luckily, Decay Part 1 does exceedingly well in the sound area as well. The background music is chilling and foreboding; the creepy noises heard all around you make the absolutely terrifying; and the musical jumps will make even the most fearless gamers jump out of their seats and drop their controllers on the ground. Decay Part 1 is an example of sound design done perfectly. Aspiring developers and current developers should take notes.
The main downside to this otherwise fantastic game is the length. Decay Part 1 is a very short game. The game can be completed in under 20 minutes, easily, and perhaps even under 10 minutes. Granted, the game only costs 80 MSP, and there are certainly difficult puzzles and tough areas of the game that people are going to have problems with, but the overall experience still feels a little empty. The game ends so abruptly that it doesn't feel complete. And while I guess the title itself suggests that the game obviously isn't complete but part of a series, that still doesn't change the fact that Decay Part 1, by itself, isn't a complete experience, and doesn't feel even close to being like one. It's a shame because otherwise, this game is damn near perfect. I can't wait to see what these talented developers come up with next.
Decay Part 1 is certainly worth the measly 80 MSP it sells for. The main downside is length, but anyone looking for a great horror game that offers genuine chills and thrills shouldn't let this little indie gem slip past their radar.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/11/11
Game Release: Decay - Part 1 (US, 05/01/10)
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