D: The Game – A Delirious Experience That Asks You to Hurry & Slow Down
D: The Game moves at a slow, languished pace. It glides along as you move through the surreal mansion you’ve found yourself in. It asks you to really drink in the empty halls and stare deep into the eyes of the decaying corpses. To really mull over every strange event that happens within the game. However, you’re on a strict time limit the whole time. With only two hours to finish the game, the pace and timer feel at war with one another, creating an internal conflict in the player that makes for a crushing horror experience.
A mass murder has happened at a hospital. Richter Harris, the hospital’s director, is responsible. He’s keeping hostages right now, too. Laura, his daughter, hears about this and comes to the hospital to see what’s going on. Upon entering, she’s ushered off to some old castle through some sort of warp gate. Now, she’ll need to solve its puzzles and explore to find her father and figure out what’s gone wrong.
D: The Game is an FMV game from 1995, and it is not a game that moves too quickly. Much of your time in the game will be spent slowly looking around and walking through the halls. Laura moves as if she’s tiptoeing everywhere. This makes sense, since there’s a serial killer on the loose. Father or not, you’re going to be quiet with a killer nearby. This means she does everything at a snail’s pace, and if you find trouble, you’re not going to be escaping it too quickly.
I was a little annoyed at this pacing, initially. When I started hearing voices calling for Laura, their cries growing in intensity as she slowly panned the room looking for their source, it started to grow on me. That slow pace meant you couldn’t always find the source of your fears in a hurry. You couldn’t just rush from place to place, letting fear spur you on. No matter how eerie things got, you had to plod through the area. This made me really soak in the terror when I was scared, as I really couldn’t do much to escape it. I just had to walk and pray.
D: The Game gave off a sense of helplessness with this movement speed. On that first playthrough of the game, when I had no idea what to expect, I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to get away if something came for me. When weird things happened, like water suddenly switching to blood and then back again, or a spiked wall started rushing toward me, there was no sense in backing away. The movement gives the game this sense of inescapability. That you’re simply walking deeper into some hellish end. That you have to embrace your death, as there’s no escaping it. And this game loves to spring surprise traps on you.
D: The Game is an earlier 3D game, too, which comes with its own visual baggage. The characters look rough, but this feels like it adds to this sensation that things aren’t quite right, here. Characters would look strangely tense or vacant. It feels like being in a world of strange mannequins. In an action game, these kinds of visuals might be off-putting, but that sensation just adds to the creeping fear in this title. The characters and bodies have this unnatural look to them, which adds to the odd, dreamy feel of the world.
And again, you’re slowly taking this all in. You can’t rush through any of this stuff. You tiptoe through halls. Stare into strange dead faces for far too long. Laura’s own wordless shock looks stunted and unreal. Her flashbacks are filled with plastic people doing strange acts. Many games can feel like nightmares, but this one really seems to take you to some unnatural, horrifying world. Then, it asks you to take it all in without flinching. There’s no turning away from what you see.
D: The Game needs you to hurry, though. Despite the slow pace, you have two hours to finish the game. There’s no saving and trying things again. No pausing to take a breather. No running between goals. You have to figure your way around before two hours are up, and that’s it. Knowing you will fail if you don’t wrap things up in that time limit adds this incredible pressure to your pokey meanderings. You can feel failure weighing you down, but often, there’s nothing you can do to hurry.
On top of the regular tale, there are flashbacks you can find that will give you some more background story. These come as glowing insects that scurry around the environments. They’re not all easy to find, but collecting these bugs will give you some insight into your background. They also show you some bizarre sights and events that add to the mysterious, eerie mood of the game. To know the full story, you’ll want to explore to find these bugs. But you need to rush if you’re going to reach the end in time. It creates this constant tug-of-war in your mind where fear pushes you to hurry, but curiosity makes you dawdle.
When you can’t run to escape or to speed things up, it’s hard to be cautious, too. You have to just hope you survive no matter what you do. This would normally prompt me to take it easy and think about what to do next, but you don’t have time to waste in this game. So, you have to keep pushing forward into the things that frighten you. When you see a mirror growing closer and can feel that something weird is going to happen, you still can’t stop. You can’t afford to lose any of the time you have. Despite the unease the game has built in you with its slow place, strange happenings, and creepy locales, you have to push forward as fast as you can. you can’t give in to fear and slow down. Which means you often blunder into scares and traps.
D: The Game takes us through a horrifying place at a leisurely pace, asking us to soak in every morbid detail and unreal memory. It asks us to stride up to something that might kill us when there’s no way we’ll escape. Its rough visuals and age only enhance this fear, making this world feel bizarre and unwelcoming. We want to run, yet a part of us wants to understand it all. A part is willing to risk our life for answers. All of these elements create a war within the mind that increases intensity and fear as you work your way through the game. With its visuals only growing more discomforting with age, it further strengthens that tension into a truly bizarre, unsettling game. It’s good to see that Limited Run are making this experience available yet again.