These days I’ve mainly been using my Switch as my primary gaming device – I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, the Switch is the comfiest handheld that I know of, and I’ve tried em all… So one of my complaints about a while after I got it was that there weren’t any stellar horror games on this bad boy. We have like Outlast and Layers of Fear, but I’m totally not into those kinds of horror games… In comes Detention.
Now this game has actually been out for a while longer than just the Switch release, but like all barely known indie titles, it gained a lot more traction after hitting the eShop. This is a game made by a Taiwanese developer called Red Candle Games who wanted a game that represented their culture, so there’s a mix of a lot of things such as Buddhist and Taoist beliefs as well as traditional Chinese culture – When it comes to that aspect I think the game shines through and through, as it really doesn’t try to westernize anything or try to make anything easier to understand. The game shows you things how it is in other cultures and I applaud it for that.
To start off the game is set in a spooky high school during the White Terror period in Taiwan. For those uninformed of what the White Terror is, it was a time of martial law in Taiwan where everyone was oppressed, the media was controlled, kids couldn’t even read books and it was just an overall oppressive and terrible time. The game uses this period to talk about the hardships faced during that time as well as tell a story about characters affected heavily by it. I won’t say much but the game starts off in the school, as you have to uncover secrets and discover the other horrors.
So I assume if you play on PC the game is a point and click kind-of deal, but on the Switch you just use items through menus and use the left stick to control your character left and right, and that’s basically all the mechanics in the game. Oh, and you can hold your breath to hide from that scary ghouls and ghosts, which sums up the entire game’s mechanics.
When it comes to gameplay I think the game is lacking, but I don’t mind it too much because the overall experience was really good, and is essentially totally narrative-focused. There’s no combat, just hiding and running away from a couple of ghosts here and there, until eventually the game just gives up for some reason and stops having enemies to encounter around the second half. Again, I don’t mind it but it would have been way more interesting to see that whole side of that game expanded upon. Where the game shines is the item based puzzles which are a hoot, even though they can be a little easy at times. Still, there are a couple of headscratchers here and there, especially a really interesting one where you have to play a piano correctly by ear.
The game’s visuals have to be the most interesting thing about it, honestly – The game is steeped in this very dark and oppressive colour scheme and an almost painting-like art style which makes the surreal and creepy imagery stand out like a sore thumb and works to really unnerve you. I think as a horror experience this game is one of the best, but as a horror game there really isn’t any major threat to hide from, and it also isn’t mechanically deep enough to allow the gameplay to be the thing that gets you scared. Again, I’m fine with this as if it was another run and hide FPS horror game I’d have chucked it in the bin by now.
Despite everything that goes against this game’s favour, I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to almost anyone who wants a new horror game. It is very short but it’s definitely worth it – Snuggling up in bed late at night and playing this in handheld mode was like telling myself a scary story in the dark; the story is fantastic and the way the whole game ties in the historical and cultural aspects of Taiwan into it is really interesting and unique. The game boasts some of the coolest puzzles I’ve seen in a game in a long ass time and overall I was scared… Which is what this game needed to do first and foremost.
I give Detention a: