If you're a horror fan, you need to play Detention.
Games like Detention are a rare breed, if I do say so myself. While there are plenty of great horror titles in the market with better graphics and gameplay from developers with bigger budgets, I’ve always believed that the best products often come from indie developers. With Detention, the concept came to fruition when a Taiwanese game designer asked himself, “Why can’t I find any game out there that could represent our culture and share with the world about the place I grow up in?”
This resulted in the Point and Click 2D horror game Detention from Taiwanese developer Red Candle. The designer in question, Mr.Yao or Coffee, managed to team up with a lot of talents to create a unique game that stands out due to how it’s steeped in Taiwanese culture.
The game is heavily influenced by Taiwanese/East Asian culture, particularly Taoism and Buddhism. It's also set during Taiwan's martial law in the 1960s. Despite its heavy Asian influence and a setting that are foreign to most of us, Detention continues to attract more people from around the world due to its universal message and unique horror that most fans of this genre can definitely enjoy. It was particularly clever of Red Candle to make an English version, as it allows more people to enjoy Detention and it has made many fans want to find out more about Taiwanese culture to understand the symbols and meanings used in-game.
It's an achievement that reminds you why some of the best horror movies were made in Asia, except this time it came from Taiwan instead of Japan or Thailand, which is why Red Candle is a developer that many would keep an eye from now on.
This game needs to be played with little to no knowledge to fully appreciate it, so I will keep this as spoiler-free as possible.
You start off Detention as a character named Wei, who fell asleep on his desk, only to wake up and discover there's a typhoon and no one is at school. You try to leave the compound, and along the way you bump into a girl named Ray, who is also left behind. The both of you try to escape, but school begins to change. The world is set in a monochrome look, and there are more mysteries than you would initially think.
Beyond puzzle solving, you will also need to deal with spirits carefully to avoid being killed in the game. Often the horror comes from when you're trying not to get killed, but Detention has some moments where the act of solving the puzzle itself will leave you scared and uncertain. There is one particular puzzle that does just that, and it’s a horrifying act in itself.
There are very few jump scares, as the game focuses on scaring you through its setting and the revelation of what happened to the characters. The jump scares they have might not be enough to make you leave your seat, but it will leave you feeling unsettled. It's a true testament to the fact that great horror comes from engaging storytelling and Detention does this best.
Despite having to solve puzzles and dealing with dangerous spirits, this game is still essentially story driven and eventually you will be playing to find out more about the narrative as a whole. Even so, if you're into games like Silent Hill and The Cat Lady, then this game is right up your alley.
Detention is a game that proves that Asian horror games are still a powerful medium to spread culture and history, and one that I personally hope to see more of in the future.