Detention is a point and click indie horror game made by Red Candle Games, a Taiwan based video game developer.
The game is set in a 1960s Taiwan during the nation’s “White Terror” period where Martial Law was imposed. During the prologue, a student Wei Chung-ting meets Fang Ray-shin another student who is his senior. For some reason, they were the only people left in the school and are trapped there. They decide to wait out in Wei’s classroom. Wei then left to look for a phone to call for help and Ray fell asleep meanwhile. Ray then wakes up only to find herself inside a hellish Silent Hill-esque version of the school filled with nightmarish dreamscapes. From here on, you will play as Ray throughout the rest of the game.
The gameplay follows a traditional point and click format where you solve puzzles to progress. You can tell that the developers put a lot of care into their game. Up until the penultimate chapter, every scene and puzzles are visually distinct from one another and were made to be memorable for the player. Clues and supplementary reading materials picked up will be stored inside the player’s notebook which can be accessed anytime. Similarly, items will be stored in your inventory.
Most puzzles are pretty straightforward and you shouldn’t have any problems as long as you keep note of what items are in your inventory as well as read the notebook entries. What is unique about the puzzles in this game is that many puzzles incorporate Chinese religious beliefs (for e.g the burning of Hell notes) which I find very interesting and got me googling to read up on them.
The main threats in the game are various spirits that will be attracted to and attack Ray if she comes too close. You are able divert their attention by placing an offering on the ground for the lingered spirit to feast on. However, most of the time it involves getting Ray to pinch her nose and hold her breath in order to walk past them without getting noticed. It’s a pretty simple and straightforward mechanic that serves its purpose. Players can save their progress at altars found throughout the school’s premises. The altars are easily spotted as they are lit up with an eerie red glow.
Graphically, the game doesn’t look amazing from a technical perspective. The most noticeable would be the character models as they look and move like stiff mannequins. I wished the developers had used hand drawn sprites instead. However, this is mere nitpicking as the art direction and sound design found in the game are absolutely top notch. Red Candle Games’ masterful use of terrifying imagery coupled with a spine-chilling sound design are used to great effect that makes for an incredibly atmospheric and memorable gaming experience. There were a few moments that made me jump from my seat. There’s very few, if any games I can think of that can rival Detention in this area. For these reasons, I highly recommend playing this game using a headset for an optimal experience.
The final chapter differs from the previous chapters as it eliminates the horror elements, playing out like a traditional narrative driven point and click adventure game. There are two endings present in the game so be sure to do at least one playthrough obtaining the ‘true’ ending. The game features a powerful narrative with strong political undertones that is mostly told through a combination of flashback scenes and notebook entries. Things will start to make sense as you progress further into the game and you will realize that Ray’s actions were shaped by her own experience with her troubled family relations. The story is extremely bleak and you will no doubt feel sorry for Ray after seeing what she has been through.
Overall, I really enjoyed playing Detention and would highly recommend it. It is such a well-crafted indie gem that fans of horror or narrative driven games ought to experience at least once. Detention has also since been adapted into a live action feature film which has won multiple 2019 Golden Horse Awards in Taipei.
I also found out that Red Candle Games has in fact released another horror game somewhat recently in 2019 called ‘Devotion’. Devotion differs from Detention as it is a first-person game similar to that of Gone Home instead of a point and click side scrolling game. It is unfortunate because it was removed very shortly after its release on steam due to controversary with one of it’s in game assets. Devotion was well received by critics, with a 85 Metacritic score. I hope that one day it will see a re-release on Steam.
Final Verdict: 8/10