Review: DISTRAINT

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Silence of the Sleep was a refreshing break from the horror genre with its unique pacing and animated cast. The developer went on to create DISTRAINT in a scant three months as a challenge, so it would hardly be fair to expect the same level of detail. What’s surprising about DISTRAINT is not that it still manages to be as beautiful or harrowing, but that it manages to cram a solid story into its short runtime as well.

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You play Price, a pleasantly bobble-headed little fellow with the unpleasant job of repossessing property. He’s only three claims away from being made a full partner at his firm, but as you might expect they don’t exactly go as planned. You’ll experience his tale in simple side-scrolling adventure fashion with only five or so buttons to guide you; left, right, use, inventory, and light. They’re all you need to navigate hallways, solve simple puzzles, and speak to the other denizens of your dreary world.

Do not be put off by the Charlie Brown-looking people, because there’s still plenty of menace to be found in DISTRAINT. The atmosphere is what makes the game, with looming shadows cut by dusty sunbeams and sickly lights flickering against decaying walls. Even with the limited interaction you’re sure to feel trapped in Price’s terrible world, a fitting fate given where the story goes with his weary conscience. There are quite a few surprises and sudden spooks to look out for as well, which will keep you on edge for much of the game. And it’s not even all straight horror, as there are few instances of macabre absurdity and even humor sprinkled in.

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DISTRAINT will last you just shy of two hours, but its a more complete and meaningful game than most twice its length. The writing is snappy and cuts right to the point, the characters are colorful and animated with charming bobs and sways, and the scares are well-earned. In the end the only thing I could have asked for was more time with Price and his acquaintances, but the poignant ending is worth seeing it all come to a close so soon. Anyone looking for a good story with some tense, creepy moments will be happy with this one.

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