You thought Reperfection Vol. 1 was less of a horror game and more like a thriller with not enough violence? Our next review will surely give you enough blood and guts to fuel your nightmares.
Harvester Games’ Downfall doesn’t shy away from splatter and offers adventure fans a mature storyline with visceral imagery. So easily-offended-people, stay away… or come closer if you dare.
A man stays at a hotel with his mentally-ill wife and is suddenly plagued by nightmarish visions and murders of the past.
Fiction of terror
The story doesn’t promise a lot at first, but it gets more twisted the more one progresses in the game. This is mainly because of how the past unfolds and how hints and allusions make the player question his own judgements. Is this all real, what really happened and what is happening now? So many questions and a lot of answers to choose from.
The dialogues are written quite well, the characters are mainly believable, even if they perform some actions which are of the stereotypical they-do-that-in-horror-movies-but-no-normal-person-would-do-that-in-the-real-world variety. The only annoying part is the constant use of swear words. Granted, in some situations they would be quite natural, but in a lot of others they are simply overused and unnecessary.
Unlike so many serious adventure games, mystery or otherwise, Downfall does not follow a straight line from A to B, but rather twists and turns with every new discovery the player makes. It might have some parts which don’t always fit, but with different moral choices which affect the ending, this is a rare occasion of mature storytelling coming to fruition.
Reality of horror
The game wants to shock, and it does so in many different ways. On the one hand, it indicates that there is something quite sinister going on in the hotel, gruesome murders done by a mad axe man. This is fine storytelling and gives the player enough uneasiness to walk around these dark corridors of the building. The atmosphere is its strongest point of effectively scaring the player.
On the other hand, there are quite a lot of splatter scenes which of course make it an adult game, but do they also make it a mature game? Like Phantasmagoria, there is a thin line between what to show and what to leave to the player’s imagination. Downfall doesn’t leave a lot to it when it comes to bloody death scenes, and there are plenty with exploding heads, torn-off body parts and other disgusting stuff.
The game’s foreboding atmosphere is not only achieved by its storytelling, but the graphics and sound effects as well which complement it, even if to varying degrees.
In general the art design is outstanding as it has a unique graphic novel look. Cutscenes with dream and nightmare sequences are both beautiful and disturbing. The rooms of the hotel may show a little too much blood and guts at certain points, but all in all it is quite a bizarre atmosphere.
Character animations are rather weak, especially when it comes to movements. It often looks as if some are left out to save memory space. The same can be said about the character design as well: not a lot to get excited about as some are a rather blurry mess or move in ways more associated with freeware fanadventures.
Sounds of another world
The sound effects are minimalistic, but they create enough suspense and uneasiness. Outside the hotel, sudden thunder and lightning can be quite scary and shocking when one doesn’t know when they’re triggered. Unfortunately there is no voice acting and some hand-made sounds are a bit low-budget, but this doesn’t deviate from the experience.
The musical score is fantastic as it has another personal touch (the game designer also does the vocals in a song) with low piano sounds in sad situations or sudden guitar riffs in rather controversial killing scenes. Suffice it to say, as a stand-alone soundtrack it would be great to listen to as well.
Investigative skills and mysterious puzzle solving
With all the accomplished storytelling and presentation, the gameplay tries to keep up, but doesn’t always achieve its goal. Fortunately there are no sliding-tiles, typing-in-codes puzzles or other mind-bending illogicalities. Most of the inventory puzzles are easy to get right without too much thinking (even if some are downright sick, like the one which involves a cat swallowing a key and the player has to get it out), and it’s nice to have some locations locked so that the player is not overcome with too many possibilies.
This is actually one of the most motivating things about the game: the more one progresses in the story, the more locations can be visited and the more complex it gets. Something quite refreshing considering that so many adventure games, especially the comic ones, throw countless items and locations at the player to make their puzzle design even more complicated and alienate newcomers.
So is the game suitable for beginners or casual gamers? Not really. There are quite a few instances in which hints to solutions are rare and some objects can be easily overlooked to solve certain puzzles. It’s really a shame that the character doesn’t give enough useful comments. Of course this makes it more realistic but also more frustrating to play. There are also some scenes in which one can die. They might be interesting for the story and pacing, but they don’t always work to the gameplay’s favor.
What is also quite annoying is that there are still some bugs: Again and again inventory items just disappear or can’t be selected. This can be solved by other means (clicking on the right-and-left buttons in the inventory makes the items show up again in a magical way), but they are just as annoying as some (or at least one in the first playthrough) system crashs.
A Game To Remember
Rough around the edges in the graphics and game design department, Downfall is still a little gem for those adventure players who want to have a more adult and gritty experience. If one overlooks the in-your-face violence and splatter effects and sees what lies beneath the surface, this is a unique horror game which will stay in the mind of the player even after the credits roll.
Buy the PC game on
Wadjet Eye Games Website