Dollhouse is a lacklustre horror game that unfortunately falls victim to its repetitive nature. It does have some interesting aspects weaved into it, but it ultimately left me frustrated and with strained eyes from the low lighting. The developers have been listening to player feedback and added a colour mode, a tutorial and bug fixes, but the actual core game itself is sadly…just boring.
+ Voyeur mode which eliminates all enemies and disables player deaths.
+ Colour mode
+ Players can see through the enemy’s eyes to track its location and other important items, but at the expense of revealing your own location.
+ Dedicated developers who are tirelessly listening to player feedback and trying to implement fixes.
– The original black & white mode is very straining on players eyes and everything looks the same.
– Constantly running around a dark labyrinth looking for items whilst being chased the entire time.
– Extremely stiff controls that lead to myself and 2 other people who I also got to test the game, to feel sick. Possibly also due to the low lighting as well.
– Very frustrating to find certain rooms/items.
– If players die, they lose everything and must return to their body to retrieve their items.
– Small player-base for multi-player mode.
– Very dark and when the flashlight runs out of charge, I could not see a thing, but just had to wait until it slowly recharges.
Play as Marie, a detective who is trying to uncover her memories by delving deeper into her own mind. She has no idea where she, or her niece are. In this cryptic world, Marie begins to piece together her memories and choose which memories to erase and which to include into her overall story.
Gameplay: An Overview
Unfortunately, this is where it goes downhill. The entire premise of the game is running around in a dark, procedurally generated maze to collect and find memories and place them in a memory machine (which look just like the tonic machines from Bioshock). When you have collected enough, you must enter a room and find the rules of the puzzle. The puzzles in each chapter are different, but the irritating part is that players must go back into the labyrinth and FIND the puzzle components, which I found to be quite frustrating. Whilst players are fetching all these items, there are enemies that stalk and attack the player. If you die, you lose all your XP and items and must try find your body to regain your lost possessions.
One form of enemy are mannequins that stalk players when they aren’t watching. In other words, they move when players aren’t looking directly at them. If they catch up to you, they slash you in the back, but players can heal if they collect repair kits, which are found scattered throughout the map. To combat the mannequins, players can use items to flash and subdue the enemies, so it is important to always have these items on hand.
The main enemy tracks players through each map and is quite deadly. Players can use RMB to look through its eyes and deduce its location, as well as to find and mark other items of interest in the area. I enjoyed this mechanic, of being able to see through the bad guy’s eyes, as it helped me find the memory reels. It also acts as a risk to players, this is because the longer we watch through its eyes, the more it is attracted to our location. This risk trade-off was quite interesting and worked nicely in the game, however, constant chasing, did not.
Movie-clips & Script
In-between the chapters, there are ‘scripts’ that tell Marie’s story. There are some blank sections in it where players can drag lines of text to alter the story. These aim to give players some backstory but also enables some interaction, rather than just reading a huge chunk of text, which was nice.
The memories that are collected each chapter are used between chapters to create a coherent movie of Marie’s life. This is where players can choose which memories to erase, and which to keep. Once done, it is then evaluated by critics, if it is coherent then players can get XP and rewards.
Very early on, players are shown a skill tree of powers and can select 2 to begin with, with more to unlock as the game progresses. Some examples of these power-ups are; being able to see enemies in the vicinity, infinite sprint stamina, see all items in the area etc. This was a nice addition to the game, but it was eerily like the Bioshock franchise and even used the same font.
The puzzles are OK, they differ each chapter and usually involve things like finding all the TV’s and changing them to a certain channel or deducing patterns. The puzzles itself were not bad but having to go back into the dark maze where a deadly creature is forever stalking you, was frustrating. I spent majority of the time running around in circles trying to find where I was supposed to go, rather than doing the puzzle. Most of the time this led to me dying (in normal mode) and having to restart.
The original game was intended to be noir, with gritty black and white art. Unfortunately, this does not pair well in dark maze scenarios where everything looks the same. Luckily, developers listened to feedback and added the colour mode, which is what I played in. The colour mode is better, and I get a better understanding of where I am, however it was still far too dark and this caused strain in myself and my partners eyes when we played. I tried fiddling with the settings but to no avail. Overall, the graphics are decent and give an eerie vibe, but it is not something that I can enjoy in the darkness and with the looming threat of being ever chased.
Bugs & Glitches
When Dollhouse first released, many players experienced game-breaking glitches and now around 5 months later I am happy to say that I did not experience any glitches.
Price & Content
Dollhouse has some interesting aspects but is ultimately flawed in its core gameplay, for $AU42.95 I cannot recommend this. I am an avid horror fan and do enjoy chase scenes, however, a game made solely of just that, in a dark maze, is not horror to me.
The developers seem to be really trying to add new aspects and are quite honest and accepting of player feedback. I am grateful for their dedication to this project and I see great potential in Dollhouse, I would like to play another title by these dev’s, maybe one that is more focused on story rather than chases.
Dollhouse is a horror game that tries very hard to encapsulate the panic and tension that occur during chase scenes, but unfortunately it fails to achieve this goal due to its repetition and confusing labyrinth environment. It’s extremely dark scenes left my eyes feeling strained and quickly lead to me to play in Voyeur and colour mode, which improved the experience, but is not something that I would choose to play. I appreciate the developers releasing patches to fix bugs and to combat some of the lighting issues, but the game itself is not something that I can see myself and other horror enthusiasts enjoying, especially with its high price tag.
Sadly, I cannot recommend this game and I advise potential buyers to look up gameplay before purchasing and to be aware that it’s dominantly just a chase cat & mouse scenario.
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