Detention is a dark and atmospheric point-and-click paranormal horror game from the Taiwan-based studio, Red Candle. I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t heard of the developers before as this appears to be their first major release, hopefully, the first of many. The first thing that stood out to me, when I saw the game on Steam earlier this year, was the art style and the setting of the game. The game is set in 1960’s Taiwan during a period which is dubbed the ‘White Terror’ in which the whole country was under martial law with authorities constantly on the lookout for communism. This terrible period lasted from 1949 to 1987 and must have been horrible to live through, however it makes a very interesting, yet eerie, setting for an adventure game. This game manages to tell its story while getting under your skin and making you feel all freaked out and engaged so much that you can’t stop playing. The game is delivered with a simple control style, quirky puzzles, graphic notes and paranormal aspects from various cultures – which, when all combined together, really interested me and made me want to experience this game even more.
Detention operates as a point and click game, but adapted for consoles, so you move around as normal and, if you get close to an item or an object, an icon will appear on screen symbolising if you can look at or pick something up. There are also some inventory puzzles, where you will obtain an item elsewhere and use it to overcome a problem. These aren’t too difficult and you should be able to complete them with no issues.
Detention begins in a classroom, Ms. Yin, the teacher, is teaching the class when one student appears to fall asleep. Ms. Yin is called out of the class by an ‘instructor Bai’, the screen fades to black and when we return to the scene there’s only one student present, the one sleeping. Upon awakening, we find out this student is called Wei and is our protagonist, we also find out that everyone else has left the school due to an incoming typhoon warning – although why everyone would leave and let Wei continue to sleep if it was such an important event is only the start of the mysteries.
Wei decides he must leave the school and get to safety. Whilst looking for a way out you are made aware that the school is halfway up a mountain, in the middle of nowhere with only one way out. The quickest exit involves going through the auditorium, however, upon entering the building, you find a girl named Fang, who is a few years older than your character, asleep on the stage. You both decide to try and leave the school together but you find all the exits are barred and the bridge has collapsed into a dark red river. You decided to get shelter from the weather inside the main school building and work out what to do next from there.
The story from here unfolds into a kind of supernatural and paranormal tale. It has elements of a ghost story, dark family secrets and psychology. Although Detentions setting and time period drew me in, the story going forward has less to do with the setting and more in how particular events affect people and influences them to do certain things. You find notes in various locations and are shown flashbacks to make sense of whats going on and why.
Detention is presented in a way that you don’t know if it’s real life or if it’s all just a dream for your character. The various colour tints over almost greyscale visuals with a vignette effect around the edges make it feel like it’s old and eerie. Technically there is no jump scares, although I did jump about three times when I wasn’t fully concentrating and I ran straight into the Lingered (Spirits which haunt the school grounds which come in various forms) which result in an instant death.
When you ‘die’ in Detention, you are taken to a hillside which you climb and obtain a hint on how to overcome the spirit you encountered, you are then returned to the point just before you encountered your tragic end previously and are able to overcome it and proceed. There are static save points throughout the game, so if you die you can continue, but if you want the game to save where you are, you must use one of the save points.
There is no combat within the game, each of the Lingered have a specific way to bypass them, this usually involves standing still and not breathing (holding down R2), however, you also have to look away from certain ones and even distract some so you can walk past them. There aren’t many Lingered in the game, but they do sometimes randomly pop up when you’re not expecting them – the game is more focused on the story than having you constantly avoiding them though.
The puzzles themselves are really clever, I won’t go into them in too much detail but you will need to use your sense of hearing for one of them and another requires you to think logically about it. I really enjoyed trying to figure them out – it’s a nice change from having puzzles that are so easy you can breeze through them without paying attention.
There is no voice acting within Detention, it is all subtitled. The lack of voices just adds to the tension and atmosphere of each room as you carefully read the text at your own pace whilst listening to the sounds around you. Speaking of the sounds, the main atmospheric part of Detention is the one part I haven’t mentioned yet, the music and the sound effects.
You can clearly hear everything from your footsteps to your heartbeat as you walk through the empty hallways. Whilst outside you hear the howling of the wind hitting the trees and inside you hear the ringing of the phone in the distance and the ticking of clocks. This is built upon with a creepy ‘soundtrack’ – I wouldn’t really call it a soundtrack as such, but a collection of prolonged sounds that emphasise what is happening at that point. For example, at one point you are running around the halls looking for answers and the music is like a howling, scratching noise which fades away upon entering a building, where all you can hear is all of the ambient sounds around you. It really adds to the overall experience and helps build up a sense of uneasiness and terror.
Graphically, the developers have opted for a very artistic 2d-style game. The characters look very flat, but the backgrounds are so beautiful and detailed, they both blend together perfectly. As I mentioned before, the colour is almost fully drained out of the gameplay apart from a few areas and some light sources within the game, which gives the area a glow of colour. This may not be to everyone’s taste, with modern releases pushing for 4k ultra texture and ultra-realistic quality, but Detention really captures the environments which range from the classrooms to a make-shift prison to the outside fields. Each area captured the dark side of a normal environment (except the prison, that’s clearly not normal in a school).
The final aspect to touch upon is the length, I performed a playthrough of this on my YouTube channel and it took me just over three hours on my first playthrough. I only managed to get one of the endings (there are two) and I didn’t collect all of the items, so a full 100% time may be about three to four hours with the chapter select. To me, the price point for this length seems about right, it is £8.99 – so it’s about the price of a Blu-ray movie and provides a bit longer in terms of entertainment.
Detention is one of those rare games that you come across that not a lot of people may have heard of. It’s creepy, eerie and unsettling but thoroughly enjoyable and really interesting to pick up and read all the in-game notes and experience what it was like. I’ve played and seen people play games much longer than this which don’t ever give off the same impact – if you are a horror fan, or if you like atmospheric games, this should be one on your radar, I just hope they bring it to more regions so more of us can enjoy it.
- Very deep story with many layers coming together into one narrative
- Interesting setting, one which I don’t think we have seen touched on before
- Really good puzzles that actually get you thinking about the solution
- The ambient sounds and bursts of music really build up the tension
- Some may not like the length of the game (three to four hours)
- The final section of the game seemed to drag a little, not enough to affect the game, but the pacing changed towards the end
- The music-based puzzle may have some people looking for a solution if you are not that good are replicating a song based on sound alone