Distraint: Freaky Scares Done Dirt Cheap

I first noticed Distraints’ graphics.  The gameplay pictures immediately reminded me of Sega’s Ghostbuster’s game from decades ago.  That game was a pixel platformer that gave all of the human characters large, detailed faces.  The effect was both funny and kind of disturbing; your big-headed hero seemed more like costumed Disney World character than recognizable actor.  Distraint takes some same sense of discomfort and runs with it.  Along the way, the game has a lot of fun displaying horrifying images in pixelated forms.  Walk down a hallway and watch blood ooze through the walls.  Venture into a basement and see a body being fed into a woodchipper.  Look behind you to see an enormous rampaging elephant barreling down on you.

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Well, this is gross, but it’s not like the walls were particularly clean before they started bleeding.

Distraint’s plot centers around your character (Price) and his rise in a heartless company that forecloses on people’s homes when they can’t pay their mortgages or rent (a process apparently called “Distraint,” I feel like I should have known that).  The levels in the game center around your character’s efforts to expel various residents from their homes and his attempts to cope with the guilt he feels as a result.  That guilt seems to be pretty substantial as your character experiences frequent hallucinations of blood-splattered hallways and monstrous beings.  Worse, the regular world here seems to hide some dark secrets as well.  Kicking people out of their houses isn’t great work, but it’s far from the most horrifying activity occurring in Price’s world.

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Apparently the Pep Boys also run some kind of real estate firm.

Gameplay is mostly basic problem solving; find an object here and use it in this space over there.  Finding these solutions is never terribly difficult but a couple of these solutions are pretty dark, particularly the ones involving meth and cannibalism.  Some of these puzzles are fairly innovative in their design and execution.  However, to appreciate this game I think you need to both enjoy basic puzzle solving and the game’s dark sense of humor.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a game that looks this cute is afraid to get really dark, and don’t go into this expecting a happy ending.

You guys haven’t heard the half of it.

The Best Parts:

The creepy atmosphere and gallows humor kept me playing straight through.  The puzzles are interesting and occasionally really dark.

The Worst Parts:

The puzzles can be a little difficult to figure out (and I think at least one involves pure trial and error) and sometimes involve noticing an item that’s hard to spot.  I never did get  truly frustrated, but I did occasionally get a little annoyed.

OUR RECOMMENDATION: BUY IT (on the IOS)

The game costs a $1 on the IOS and is the perfect game to get you through a long flight.  There are intriguing ideas here and while the game never quite hits the heights of other similar games, it is an interesting little adventure at a great price.