It’s not too often for psychological horror games to include thought provoking puzzles, however I can thankfully say that the combination of the two is very good. Shining Gate Software, the developers behind Decay: The Mare have created a truly enjoyable game. It’s been available on Xbox, Android and Windows for a while, and has now come to PC and Mac, but is the short length of the three combined episodes enough to justify a purchase?
You play as Sam, a drug addict who tries to escape his past in an institution known as “Reaching Dreams”. Things go wrong quickly enough and he finds himself caught in an endless loop of nightmares. This point and click adventure game does more than just throw you into this messed up, asylum like hospital, but it immerses you in it. I played this game as all horror games should be played: in a dark room with surround sound headphones. The audio is really well done and sharp throughout the 2 hour experience. The soundtrack is hauntingly beautiful with piano and string instruments and really pulls you into the games dark atmosphere.
You don’t know what is going on, and your only way to make sense of the situation is by solving various puzzles. As you progress through the many rooms of this institution, many areas are locked and don’t become available to you until later on when more riddles have been solved. The puzzles are really well thought out and solving them makes you feel rather accomplished. There were a few times when I circled a room for minutes, about to give up having not realized that I missed something simple, but that was rare.
Even more of a rare occurrence is when the game scared you. This game is not heavy on the horror elements, rather it lulls you into a false sense of safety in a dark and creepy place, only to have that safety pulled out from under you in one of the few scare scenes. They are well done, and even when I thought I knew they were coming, they either still scared me or they outsmarted me and got me moments after.
Whilst it does have a built in hint system, it never solves the puzzle for you, instead it just points you in the right direction. If you find yourself wandering through rooms aimlessly, it can show you the path to go to get back to the correct room. Once you are in that room it simply tells you that you need to keep searching. Once you find what you need and are stuck on a puzzle, it doesn’t say what to do, but instead will tell you that you need a clue to solve the puzzle if you don’t have it already. The key to solving puzzles is always in the environment, and looking in the right places is all that is needed to complete them. One of my favorite puzzles involved a Polaroid camera. Taking pictures revealed things in the room that are only visible on film and cannot be otherwise seen by your own eyes.
Decay: The Mare is a short game, but is one to be remembered. It tells an intriguing story that is just complex enough to warrant a second playthrough to grasp all of the details. The gameplay is clever and the suspense and horror are done perfectly. For the rather cheap price of $10/£8 for all three episodes, this purchase is a no brainer for anyone who loves using their mind to solve fun puzzles in a rich atmosphere. I sold a friend on this game just by telling him about it, you should also consider a purchase.
A review copy of Decay: The Mare was provided by the Shining Gate Software PR team and is available now on PC and Mac via Steam and the App Store; or you can pick it up via Google Play, Windows Phone or Xbox Live Marketplace for the older versions.