Harvester Games‘s horror adventure game Downfall: Redux ups the ante of our Halloween horror gaming week with more blood and gore, but also a more mature story.
Joe Davis and his wife Ivy make a one-night stay at Quiet Haven Hotel to save what’s left of their marriage, but soon she disappears and Joe slowly but steadily loses his grip on reality and sanity.
The new and old horror
As the original game has already been reviewed 7 years ago (and is now available for free), this article is more about how well the story holds up today and what changes have been made in this remake. The most important changes to the story are that there are references to The Cat Lady and Lorelai (see preview) or wait a day longer for the full review…). There are additional scenes, fleshing out some of the characters in a meaningful way as well, while the ending masteryfully weaves two seemingly disconnected stories together. The plot remains as simple in its beginning and as complex as the player progresses, dealing with mature topics like human relationships, depression, suicide, as well as victims of fashion of which Ivy feels to be a part of, questioning if her looks still hold up to the standard. The writing is honest and at times brutal when it comes to what people can say to each other in the heat of the moment, but there are also heart-felt moments of hope and love. This is certainly not a game for the easily offended, as swear words are constantly used, even so many that they feel to be controversial for controversy’ sake.
Nightmarish visions and violence
Speaking of controversy, blood and gore effects are plenty and disgusting, with exploding heads and guts flying around, splattering the walls in some scenes. The game doesn’t shy away from showing everything, and even if this is still psychological horror that mixes reality with dreams and nightmares, one is often shocked of what is presented on-screen. However, if one perseveres and has the stomach for it, there are many scenes that defy expectations, e.g. when Joe steps from a hotel room into a field with a house, or when the eyes of TV screens accompanied with the murmur of party guests is following him. The atmosphere is as weird as it’s disturbing and creepy, because exploring the hotel and its many rooms opens doors to the human psyche most games are afraid to tread. Sexual harassment, abuse, and other dark secrets are revealed by some of the hotel guests who seem to be real and unreal at the same time. In general, the story development and how the hotel changes with Joe makes this a unique game that can compete with any horror movie and still feel original.
Changes of behavior and storyline
One can influence the way how Joe behaves and how the story turns out by choosing the appropriate dialogue options, resulting in three different endings. Depending on the choices made, there’s a sanity system working behind the scenes: One starts with 27 points and either keeps these or loses them in so-called tendency events. This obviously adds to the replay value and more playtime than just 4 hours and also makes sense in the context of the story, as one can turn Joe into a loving husband, a cold realist or a bitter skeptic. However, one won’t be able to see the consequences without restarting the whole game, as the limited number of savegame slots makes it difficult to jump to key moments of the game.
Gameplay-wise, there are fortunately no dead ends and the puzzles have been slightly tweaked. This doesn’t mean that one won’t get stuck at times, which isn’t because one can’t think of logical uses of inventory items, but because there are so many rooms to remember. Without a map or a fast travel option, one feels rather lost, especially since the various camera perspectives add to the confusion. It doesn’t help that the protagonist moves rather slowly and using items is very fiddly because of the keyboard as the only input option. This is too bad, because the puzzles fit rather well in the dream and nightmare scenarios. The solutions have their own sick logic and one has to be prepared that almost all of them are tasteless and disgusting, e.g. when carrying around a severed head, reanimating a corpse, or trying to find ways to kill off some characters.
Looking and listening to the horror in new ways
Technically, the original game has received a huge update with a great soundtrack and most screens being almost like a surreal painting. The only downside are the jarring animations of the characters which become very noticable during conversations. While most of the voice acting is quite good, the main character delivers his lines in an exaggerated manner that is almost unintentionally funny, which is mainly due to the amount of swearing. Still, the atmospheric music and creepy sound effects add to the uncomfortable feeling one has when wandering through the hotel. The use of rock songs or ballads is done in a cinematic way that becomes prominent in the opening and finale, making them even more potent to go through.
A strong piece of horror gaming
The original Downfall wasn’t for everyone, and this won’t change with Downfall: Redux, as the portrayal of violence and gore is quite hard to stomach, together with taboo themes that most people might find too depressing or controversial. Still, this is what makes Rem Michalski’s new version so important: With updated visuals and sounds, plus some game tweaks and narrative changes, this is an emotional tour de force that will please any horror fan who likes both gratuitous violence, but with a touching storyline and believable characters. It might not be as good as The Cat Lady, but it remains a must-play game that tries something different without making compromises.
Download the original PC game for free on
the Screen 7 website