A Gripping Detention
Sometimes a great game flies under the radar, detected only by a few people lucky enough to play it. This is the case with Detention, a survival horror title from Taiwanese developers Red Candle.
Set during the White Terror (1949-1987), the game uses a number of survival horror tropes to metaphorise the horrors of martial law
The game is similar in some ways to the Silent Hill series in presenting an abstract horror story where the atmosphere of dread and horrific imagery serves to create fear more than jump scares (although there are a few of these to be had).
Detention features a number of references to Taiwanese culture, folklore, tradition, and religion, including a series of enemies called the Lingered.
The game takes place at a school where two students fall asleep during a typhoon and wake up alone. The version of the school that they wake up in is a violent and haunted place with the sense that they are always being watched.
Detention’s unique visuals use 2D characters but does not come across as overly cartoony, its art style reinforcing the inherent creepiness. In keeping with survival horror games’ usual gameplay, players collect items to help them to escape and well, survive. Rather than fighting enemies, players are encouraged to avoid them, sometimes by holding their breath or by leaving food for them.
Weifan Chan’s beautiful score provides Detention with its haunting atmosphere. The game’s enemy sound effects are all deeply unsettling and the sound design draws the player in.
With a total playtime of around five hours, Detention is not an overly long game, but manages to use this time relatively well. With the exception of some necessary backtracking, everything serves a clear purpose.
As sometimes happens with localisation, there are times when there are minor grammatical errors with the games English translation, but these are rare and part of the price of being able to experience this horror title.
As the pre-game disclaimer points out (and the above review may indicate), this is a disturbing and sometimes violent game and player discretion is advised. And yet, it would be a mistake to dismiss this game as yet another survival horror or to be off put by the violence without considering that the game has a deeper message.
In presenting the White Terror in this way, Dentention makes the horror of that event evident, felt in a way that it would not be presented in a more straightforward manner.
Detention is currently available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Steam
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor