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Psychological horror games have undergone something of a renaissance over the last few years culminating in the massive praise for the iconic P.T. and it’s subsequent Silent Hills history. With P.T.’s success, a horde of psychological horror games were released regularly, some to overwhelming praise and others to overwhelming negativity. 2D horror experiences have really benefited from P.T’s initial success and one man developer Jesse Makkonen’s Distraint is a solid experience that went almost completely under the radar.
Distraint is a 2D psychological horror experience surrounding Price, a young man attempting to make a name for himself and climb the ladders of success with a company named McDade, Bruton & Moore as he evicts a number of characters from their homes throughout Distraint with devastating consequences. Originally released for PC (now, with a sequel) and now ported to consoles, Distraint is an experience similar to other 2D indie horror games such as the 2012’s superb Lone Survivor and Red Candle Games’ 2017 masterpiece, Detention.
Distraint, much like the aforementioned Lone Survivor and Detention, introduces us to a hallucinatory world where our lead character Price’s sanity is tested by the grief and regret surrounding his choices in life. Makkonen has provided Distraint with a unique visual palette that is an absolute joy to watch unfold and the hallucinogenic visuals are what gives Distraint it’s own unique flair. Smokey atmosphere populates almost every scene and vibrant colours shine through in Distraint’s weirder moments. Each character Price meets is visually interesting and once things go awry, Distraint’s visuals really shine through.
Regards gameplay, once again Distraint is similar to titles like Lone Survivor, Detention and Neverending Nightmares relying more heavily on a point and click interaction as opposed to constant action oriented encounters with grotesque monstrosities bleeding your ammo or resources dry. When you do encounter some sort of monstrosity, your only option is to run as Price isn’t exactly a warrior. It is wholly atmospheric and really drives home the feeling that Price is hopeless in some of his weirder encounters.
Makkonen also manages to channel his inner David Lynch as Distraint relies heavily on the strange and absurd for tonal effectiveness. Price’s mother and father are creepy, three men regularly bestow strange ‘words of wisdom’ upon Price throughout with jazz music shining through these moments and a trip to a nursing home gives Price (and ourselves) some effective disturbing moments. It is extremely solid stuff from Makkonen.
Sprinkled throughout Distraint’s run time are a number of puzzles that are fairly simplistic, never feeling overdone or irritating in execution. Makkonen has also provided some interesting additions to these puzzles that result in interesting outcomes like how you can pop an achievement for simply attempting to fill your coffee machine with toilet water. It’s silly but it keeps Distraint feeling fresh and interesting.
Although there aren’t many negatives to take from Distraint, the runtime and overall easy difficulty is a slight bit of a disappointment. Distraint clocks in at about 1 to 2 hours depending on your investigative purposes throughout and unfortunately, once the ending hits, Distraint has no real replay value after that point. I have no doubt that I will wish to return to the world of Distraint in the future and with the current sequel pending release on consoles, another one hour run for fun isn’t completely out of reach.
Overall, Distraint is an extremely solid little 2D horror experience. Makkonen has also given us PC’s horror experience, Silence Of The Sleep and although I have not played Silence Of The Sleep, I have no doubts it is another enjoyable effort from Makkonen. With some seriously solid David Lynch-esque atmosphere and an ambitious visual style, Distraint is well worth your time and with a ridiculously low pricing of just five euro on PSN it would be detrimental to give it a miss if you are a horror gaming fan. I eagerly await Distraint 2’s release on PS4 and Jesse Makkonen is a developer to keep a close eye on for the future.