Review: Distraint

A few million years ago, there was an Atari Lynx Dracula adventure set in a gorgeous sepia toned Transylvania. And that's what Distraint: Deluxe Edition instantly reminds me of, using the lack of colour, the narrow spaces in its tight aspect ratio and all the sound it can throw through the speakers (better yet, headphones) to freak out the player.

The story is pretty grim too, you're a young sad sack called Mister Price, working for the man and charged with foreclosing houses on the weak and the elderly. This bobble-headed bumbler, with constantly blinking eyes and matching bobbly quiff that looks a bit like an octopus dangling down, isn't evil per-se, but he could have got a job anywhere else. Frankly he deserves to go to hell just for that.

Each home or place he visits plays host to a series of increasingly grim puzzles as the sad tales of the owners come to light. Find items and use them in the right place, nothing too complex, but finding where to go and what do to can still be tricky, with many doors and locked off areas. An Exclamation mark appears as he walks past anything of interest, and you'll need to pay attention with all the freakery going on.

That's as the main thrust of Distraint's strength is using the weird, the sense of dread, surreal and the abstract to make you forget about the adventuring too-and-fro. Shadows at the window, screeching creatures passing in the foreground, scenes of madness, it all does a great job at providing mini scares.

Those lights from the TV sets casting static, then a harsh glow, but its just a TV set - or is it? etc. etc. That mystical gas can't be any good can it? All little tricks that add to the sense of unease.

With twists and turns, and logic flying out the window, this is a great compact tale to follow, with little interludes adding a family tale and a moral core to the whole thing. All of which neatly comes full circle, hopefully Distraint 2 will soon be making its way to the Vita.

Sure, some items are hard to spot against the backgrounds, and the inventory and use mechanic is one of the weirder ones I've seen, and if you're holding one thing, you might miss being able to pick up another, but otherwise this dark yet soulful adventure comes highly recommended.

Score: 8/10
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Price: £5.79 (PSN)
Developer/publisher: Jesse Makkonen/Ratalaika
File size 114MB
Progress:  Behind the green door
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