Point and click games have seen somewhat of a revival in recent years, both from retro titles seeing re-releases and newer imaginings of the genre, most notably the recent swathe of games that simply demand you click everything in sight until you've hit the right item to progress. No, the latter isn't a great representation of the genre but unfortunately exists.
The beauty of true point and click games however, is the breathing space you're given. Breaking away from solid action, you’re drip fed story at a pace that works with your own learning curve so what better genre to mix with point and click, than horror!
This is something that Decay: The Mare is looking to throw your way, dropping you knee-deep into a psychological thriller with the concepts of murder, suicide and the supernatural all blended together as you're hunted by…well, that would be telling you too much now wouldn't it!
While for the most part Decay: The Mare does its job, it's also not a complete success story. From the very begging you’re greeted with a trippy intro and thrown into a dark, grizzly room. Left to your own devices, ready to claw your way to freedom, you’ll quickly adapt to the really old school point and click mechanics that Decay: The Mare wears so well, with hardened puzzles at the core of it all.
As the difficulty increases, your frustration will inevitably follow meaning that tension from dark rooms, creepy sounds and claustrophobic surroundings will leave you somewhat shaken and eventually reaches boiling point when you come to the realisation that this is a point and click thriller with no weapons to speak of! That impending feeling of doom and vulnerability really pushed the dial-up and made me trip up on puzzles from fear of that face I’ve just seen in the window eventually finding me!
While this is great, the big issue here is the pacing which creates multiple problems. First is the difficulty ramp, which for some can be extremely off-putting. Yes there is help at hand in the form of a hints button, but if players are forced to endlessly use hints, then they may well feel disconnected.
The other issue is fear fatigue (patent pending term, I swear!) after feeling tense for so long you almost feel numb to it all, as the jump scares or confrontations just don't happen often enough or when they do, they don’t stick the landing in order to relieve all the tension that the game has worked so hard to ladle on with a heavy hand.
Pacing issues aside, there's a lot of game here to enjoy should you have the patience to push on, but how does it stack up visually I hear you cry?
Well, thankfully, while the graphics aren't anything to write home about, they do their job and support a well-built game so its obvious the team behind Decay: The Mare were aware of their limitations and utilised lighting among other tricks to soften the blow.
Considering this is an indie offering also is a rather impressive feat in and of itself but
it’s your ears which may feel left out when playing Decay: The Mare sadly. Voice acting isn't the best and unfortunately isn't even consistent. The games main narrator will verbalise his thought surrounding the plot and key points, while everything else is delivered through subtitles. Now, I’m not saying subtitles are ab ad thing at any stretch but it's somewhat of a pet peeve for me to constantly flip back and forth between voice acting and text. Add to that a rather slumber inducing performance and you've got a rough patch right there.
The games background music is actually pretty decent and really goes someway to making up for the issues around voice acting but again, and rather frustratingly, the game hits another stumbling block in consistency. On plenty of occasions the music would simply stop and leave me to scratch my head in silence. While I was thankful for the chance to think, I couldn't tell if this was planned to perhaps add tension because if so, it really failed. In reality it simply brought me out of the game on many occasions.
So how do I feel about Decay: The Mare overall?
Well, despite the stumbling blocks, Decay really does work hard to deliver a strong point and click adventure with some decent jump scares and great moments of tension, both from hard puzzles and scary surroundings. So while its not perfect, its great work from such a small team and if you’re fan of this genre its definitely worth a shot!