Decay: Part One 80 MSP
"Decay is an episodic thriller/horror adventure game. The story in Decay is very dark and the game has a very creepy atmosphere and challenging gameplay."
--Xbox Live Marketplace Description
Shining Gate Software, the developer of this awesome Indie Game, is responsible for all Decay games. They create quality 3-D games that are masterfully designed and suspenseful--you get the idea that you're in a horror story that unfolds as you play, sort of like an interactive book of sorts. The Decay series is easily a top-pick for all gamers out there, especially fans of suspenseful horror games.
Decay Part I is the introductory title in the episodic series made by Shining Gate Software, and it begins the complex and cryptic tale that is the basis of the games. The whole story is a mystery, however we learn new things as we collect items and solve puzzles--the puzzles aren't very hard, and they require logic to solve. Shining Gate also offers hints and tips on their website, especially for those frustrated by the many mind-games.
Basically this game is a first-person mystery adventure game that is very similar to most detective games on PC, and it reminds me of Interplay's classic PC game Alone in the Dark. It's in full 3D and contains many fabulously detailed meshes and textures, as well as interactive environments. This game is truly a worthy bearer of the adventure horror title specifically because it makes the player feel a sense of complete disorientation by keeping things very mysterious and unexplained--basically, you really are alone in the dark in this Indie.
III. Story Line
Decay's story line is quite enigmatic and there are many inexplicable and unexplained fragments of story throughout--generally you learn more and more through the use of items such as notes and other puzzling messages written on the walls. The spaces are empty, and you are alone--or are you?
The story of this game delves in the supernatural world of ghosts and spirits, however in the first game you aren't really introduced to this phenomenon. Basically, you are a father who had a family--a daughter and a wife--and for some reason you have awoken with a noose around your neck. Supposedly the main character tried to commit suicide (or maybe he did, and he's dead? One of the many questions you might ask yourself while playing this game) and who was presumably haunted by something...
As we move onwards throughout the levels we find out that our neighbor was a total psychopath who killed his entire family--the dreaded Mr. White. Perhaps the same evil that haunted Mr. White is now haunting our main character, and he might be slipping deeper into the madness that threatens to consume his very soul...
III. Game Mechanics
Decay functions much like you'd expect any cursor-scrolling adventure game would; it has an interactive menu that allows you to not only combine items, but "Examine" them as well to inspect them for hidden clues. This is essential to solve the puzzles and get farther in the game.
There is a scrolling cursor reminescent of what you'd find in a standard PC game, and that is your main tool in finding items and solving puzzles. Most buttons are unused as far as the control scheme goes, yet the directional pad is utilized quite heavily as well as the main buttons--A, X, Y, and B. You can't free-walk in this game--its seperated into "scenes", sort of like an old movie. Each scene depicts a certain environment and often these environments can be interacted with.
There is no essential combat or health, or any form of real interaction with other characters in this first version. Basically you are completely alone, and that allows players to feel the entire sense of isolation that is necessary for any suspenseful game. The basic goal in the game is to learn more about the mystical circumstances that brought you here, to solve the puzzles, and to move onward so that you can solve the ultimate puzzle--the decryption of Decay's heavily encrypted story line.
Although this game lacks weapons, it has no use for them. Items come into play heavily, and every single item in the game is in 3D--quite exceptionally, too, for an Indie.
Nearly every item in the game serves a unique function, however some are sort of trophies, if you will, or tokens that offer a hint of the story as well as a sense of what and who the character is. This small oddity offers a refreshing sense of commendation to the player, especially if the token item is something humorous or something that's a hoomage to other games.
Items can be Combined, Examined, and Used. Our character Uses items when they're logically called for--in example, you'd use a "key" on a "Locked Door", and a "Remote Control" on a "Television Set" (yes, you do get to watch TV in this game, but it's only one channel). This sense of logic when using/combining items is what allows the player to succeed by thinking abstractly and outside of the box.
It's also very advantageous to examine everything and to look around--you may miss an important item that is "hidden" underneath something else, or behind another object, etc. Keeping aware of your surroundings and focusing as well as keeping a logical frame of mind can be the difference from solving a puzzle or wandering around not knowing what to do.
V. Unique Features
Decay is the first game of it's kind on the XBL Indie Games Marketplace, and its series has yet to be rivaled by any other series or game. It has surely re-defined the Indie Game "adventure" genre, specifically by adding a sense of infinite perplexity to the game that makes gamers want to keep playing.
It has yet to be surpassed or challenged in both its genre and general game style by any other developer.
Shining Gate Software is truly a unique game development teamm that employs an emphatic sense of the unknown to their games. As a society, we have all been entertained by horror movies, stories, and graphic novels--the demand for this industry of blood and gore is very high, and it is no surprise that Decay's game series is popular as well. Gamers all around the world clamor for more from the studio, and all the Decay games have been critically acclaimed and recognized for their unique gameplay.
Overall, the game has many unique features--the main being the wonderfully detailed 3D environments and items. The development team has worked countless hours rendering these objects and their persistence is reflected in the quality of the designs and textures. From the opening scene to the very last segment, Decay Part I captivates us with incredible graphics for an Indie title.
This fantastically strange Indie also features a dynamic cursor that is much like you'd expect while playing a PC game of this genre--giving it that classic feel of playing a retro first-person survival-horror game. This cursor allows you to inspect various objects in the environment, and often you can interact with this objects to start or finish a puzzle.
VI. Critique (The Good & Bad)
We all know most retail games are rated by many categories, one of them being graphics--gamers love high resolution games that sport amazing graphics. That being said, Decay Part I has some of the best graphics that you'll find in an XBL Indie Game, especially out of the horror games. It distinguishes itself from other games by using 3D environments to creep players out and to imbibe a true sense of the occult and the mystery that's associated with it.
Puzzles are the main bulk of content in Decay--it's how the game basically functions to provide a challenge. These puzzles are cleverly designed to flow not only with the general theme of the game but with the story line as well--every puzzle has a key into what the story actually is, and who our character is, etc. Most of these puzzles are quite easy and take a keen and observant eye to solve quickly.
This game manages to do something that is quite hard--to make scary horror content without using violence or extreme amounts of gore. It's a pure psychological thriller that utilizes many other elements other than simple blood and guts--isolationism, for one, or the sense that you're being "watched" but no one's around. It is very rare to find an Indie Game that utilizes this kind of structure, especially one that is of the adventure classification.
Boring to Some
Decay isn't for everyone--it's more of an acquired taste. It's slow, and it has no combat or fighting in it--moreso an introspective journey into the hellish landscapes of a tormented person's mind. It's highly recommended that you try before you buy--all XBLIG's offer a Free Trial to download on the XBL Marketplace so that you can see if you enjoy the game or not before you make the purchase.
If players can't solve the puzzles, they don't want to play--it's as simple as that. Some gamers just want to play a game, not to think about it or even think outside of the box. These are more reflex-oriented gamers, not those who find importance in detailed storylines and such. Even though Shining Gate offers walkthroughs and tips, if a gamer is discouraged by not being able to solve a puzzle, they don't want to go out of their way to figure it out--they'll just move on to another game.
Gameplay Is Too Short
The gameplay for Decay Part I is estimated at 30 minutes, give or take. For some it may take longer, for some it may take less. Overall, though, it was meant to be a simple introductory chapter and a practice run for the team to learn and experience their craft. The other two titles in the series are planned to be double what the first is. For 80 MSP, this game is a steal even if it's too short, however some players might really dislike that and it'll discourage some from playing.
As you can see, Decay Part I is a great and expansive first-person horror adventure that offers unique puzzles, a cryptic and psychologically macabre storyline, and classic game dynamics that are found in early PC survival horror games.
The first title in the series illuminates only a smidgin of detail that the other games will bring, and this inspires gamers to continue onwards to the next chapter, and so on, until the mystery is finally decoded. Suspense and creepy atmospheres as well as dark and disorientating imagery combine to make this game an unforgettable experience for all horror-movie fans and horror gamers everywhere.
VIII. Developer Info
Shining Gate Software was founded in 2009 and is native to the country Sweden. Shining Gate began development on their first project, the Decay series, later that year. With months of work they released Decay Part 1, the first installment in the saga--also the most successful in terms of Ratings.
Shining Gate also offers contracted work--they'll work on an Indie Game for either a professional or amateur and are looking to expand to a professional medium.
--Deeke777 @ The XBL Indieverse