In recent years I’ve realized that coming across a game that leaves a lasting impression is getting harder to find. Detention manages to achieve this in great stride. Being an atmospheric point-and-click adventure, Detention draws its influence from a very dark time period in Taiwan when the state was under Martial Law. With a unique visual style and themes that draw upon real Taiwanese folklore, it offers a unique experience I absolutely fell in love with.
For those unaware as I was prior to playing the game, the White Terror period in Taiwan was a time when the Chinese government was on high alert for any signs of communism. This meant reporting your family, friends and loved ones for suspicion of communism or anything that went against the country. During this time thousands of innocent civilians were arrested or executed and freedom of speech was a criminal offense. This period lasted from 1949 to 1987, which up until then was the longest amount a time a country had been under Martial Law.
Detention’s story takes place in a remote school located in the mountains. Our protagonist Wei is left alone at school while the impending danger of a typhoon looms around the corner. While attempting to escape, Wei meets an upperclassman named Rei and together they attempt to leave the school. With all exits blocked and the typhoon getting stronger, they decide to ride out the storm inside the school. This is where Detention shifts from being grounded in reality to the supernatural.
After taking control of Rei, what you see may not actually be happening. Reality and the supernatural are blended together, leaving you unsure what is or isn’t real. Spirits take the form of enemies in Detention, but there is no way of fighting back. These spirits are based on real Taiwan folklore and your methods of avoiding them come straight from the stories. The further you progress into this twisted world, the more you learn about Rei’s past which unfolds through puzzle solving. Every puzzle invokes symbolism, detailing an event in Rei’s life that led to the decisions she’s made thus far. It’s a gripping method of storytelling that truly draws you in and leaves you guessing until the very end.
Your mouse is the only means of control in Detention, being a point-and-click adventure game you’ll be discovering items and solving puzzles by examining the environment. Puzzles are mostly logic-based and your notebook that you carry helps retain a lot of the information you gather while exploring. One puzzle in-game leaves you on your own to solve, which was a nice change of pace after feeling the notebook carried most of your mental burden.
One of the greatest aspects of Detention is its amazing sound design. Able to pull you into the game and orchestrate every moment of heart-pounding terror. At the same time they cunningly use silence to instill suspense. The sound designers for Detention outdid themselves. While Detention is heavily text based, any and all dialog is performed by authentic Chinese voice actors, meaning every sound is there to immerse you into the culture and time period.
Detention is a process not a place
Detention brings a lot to the table, offering a unique experience and theme I’ve never seen before in a video game. It’s main focus is its fantastic story, if that’s not something you’re interested in then it might not be for you. Everything blends together perfectly in Detention, a unique and beautiful visual style, a heart-wrenching narrative, brilliantly executed sound design which all comes together to deliver an excellent experience. Roughly taking me 5 hours to complete which was more than enough for the narrative it offers, Detention is easily worth the asking price of $11.99. Red Candle have outdone themselves and I’m looking forward to seeing what they deliver in the future.
Release Date - Janurary 12, 2017
Special thanks to Red Candle Games for providing a review code