Decay: The Mare is a point and click adventure title developed and published by the folks at Shining Gate Software and is the sequel to the Xbox Live Indie title, Decay. It tells the story of Sam, an addict that checks himself in to a mental institution called Reaching Dreams in a last-ditch effort to kick his horrible drug problem and turn his life around. All goes well until he falls asleep on the first night and all his nightmares suddenly come true. All the other patients are mysteriously gone and it is up to Sam to search the institution for clues of their disappearances and hopefully find an escape from this endless hell.
The gameplay mechanics of this title are extremely simplistic and streamlined. The entirety of the game follows Sam as he explores the dilapidated interior of Reaching Dreams, looking for clues to solve certain puzzles in order to progress. The puzzles in this game are a mixed bag and I felt they were more lackluster than not. While some took a bit of critical thinking, most of the puzzles were extremely straightforward if you just explored the surrounding rooms. Hell, one or two of the puzzles had the clues in the same room. Now, this is not a bad thing that the puzzles are easy: it makes it more enjoyable to a larger demographic. However, when the entire game is just exploration and puzzles it is a little disappointing when they are not too challenging.
An issue that I have mentioned in my previous reviews is the fact that point and click adventure games can be a bit clunky on consoles. The fact that you must move your character around looking for interaction nodes can just be awful when the screen is highly populated and you usually end up clicking on the wrong thing the first time around. I was expecting this game to be the same, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the control scheme that they went with. Having a cursor in the middle of the screen streamlined the interaction for me and made the game much less frustrating as I always knew what I was clicking on. This isn’t something that affects the game as a whole, but I really enjoyed this scheme compared to other point and click adventure titles out there.
The visuals of Decay: The Mare are pretty underwhelming and remind me of older PC titles. While I loved the atmosphere that was provided, the actual graphics were very clunky and most of the animations were extremely blurry. The run-down, destroyed sections of the mental institution gave off a spooky vibe and had the potential to send chills down my spine. The overall landscape also had potential, but it was all squashed by the low-resolution graphics style. For being a horror title, the lack of differing jump scares was a bit disappointing and made me wonder why the game was even touted in the horror genre. With that in mind, the three or four scares that do come from this game didn’t leave much impact. I mean who really gets freaked out by a moving picture frame or a hand coming through a mailbox slot. All in all, the graphics and lack of scares left much to be desired.
However, the story and soundtrack of this game was on-point and helped save this game in my eyes. To prevent spoiling anything, I will not go in-depth, but the story would be the main reason I would recommend this title. While the story comes in chunks here and there, following Sam through his journey is rewarding and it is interesting to see him grow as an individual trying to cure his nightmares. This game provides an amazing story arc1 that requires some interpretation but still ends up explaining all of the mysteries. As long as you can get through the other annoying aspects of this game, you will be rewarded with a pretty interesting tale of an unknowing individual. The audio of this title helps to define it in the horror genre as the sounds are really good. The creepy visuals help a little, but I honestly felt more terrified if one of the sound cues went off when I wasn’t looking at the screen.
My time with Decay: The Mare was a short experience with mixed feeling throughout. While I had fun throughout the game, there was a multitude of things that just did not sit right with me. I could not understand why the game was released as one title, yet once you get into the game it was broken into three episodes. At first, I thought that it may have been their style of chapter select, but upon completion of the first episode, I was kicked out to the title screen and had to load episode two. This makes sense for anyone who wants to go through the game in multiple settings and the game helps with that by replaying the final cutscene of the previous chapter. However, I completed the game in one setting, which is not too hard, and the process of kicking me out to title screen ruined my immersion and it took some time to get back into it. I feel like the game could have been streamlined by automatically launching episode two on completion of the first one, but still, have the option in the event that people play the game chunks at a time.
In the end, I did enjoy my time with Decay: The Mare, but this game isn’t for everyone. I feel that everyone should experience the story, but the actual gameplay can be a hit or miss. Decay has a runtime of about two to three hours unless you are completely stumped by some of the puzzles. It is a very short experience that has a lot more downs than ups and could have been better with a bit more polish. If you are on the fence with this title, I would say to wait for a sale before picking it up.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review
Final Score: 6/10
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