Distraint: Pocket Pixel Horror

   DISTRAINT: Pocket Pixel Horror- screenshot

Distraint is a pixel 2D sidescrolling horror game by Jesse Makkonen. It’s quite an achievement of a game to have been made in just 3 months, and it’s also rather trippy in parts – which in this case works in its favor.

Before I get on to the actual review, I should specify: I played Distraint on mobile, but I know it’s also available on Steam. Not having the steam version, I’m not sure if there are any big differences between the two except for the free android version having ads. The ads were unobtrusive enough, but they were unskippable little videos, so they were a bit annoying in that sense. I only encountered them when reloading the game, though, so it wasn’t a big issue.

If there are any other differences, well, just keep in mind I’ll be reviewing the android version.

With that out of the way, let’s start: Distraint is a pretty minimalist looking horror game. The interface is kept nice and simple on the android version. Two arrows and three comfortable buttons (one for action, one for inventory and one for the menu) are located at the bottom. Since it’s a side-scroller, that was a very comfortable way of handling moving about the map.

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I first went into it. The visual of the game, to me personally, was both appealing and unappealing; I wasn’t overly fond of the sprite design, however, their quirky looks gave a new level of creepiness to the story that I didn’t expect. The backgrounds and settings, were beautifully done and most eerie to travel through, making the experience a pleasure.

The story revolves around Price, who guided by greed, seizes various properties from some people in order to gain partnership on the company he works for, a company led already by three very creepy, very shady guys. Along the way guilt and remorse eat away at him and he begins tripping all throughout. Or so it would seem. The game has very weird, very out of the blue moments, but unlike other horror games of the type I’ve reviewed, in this one it actually works in its favor. The very few jump scares (more like startle-scares) were mostly predictable, but not obnoxiously in your face, and also lend themselves to an eerier gameplay rather than just being there for a cheap scare.

Cover art

Which leads me to the sound, as some of these scares were things like a ringing phone. The sound, music and ambiance wise, was wonderful. The creepy music played throughout was perfect for the game, for the weirdness of it, there were, however, a few sounds that looped annoyingly or that were too loud for my taste compared to others.

But looks, story and sound all formed the perfect little creepy vibe to keep you on your toes the entire time, while still touching on your emotions, and truly making you care for at least the main character and the first two people he evicted. The third one… not so much. Even the very few “timed” events that were around were perfectly easy to complete without ripping your hair out… which leads me to the puzzles. The puzzles were simple but fantastic – perfect for a casual player, but perhaps it won’t cut it in that aspect for people who want a bit more difficulty. There is, however, a decent amount of backtracking and the damn character will not run. That is usually one of my major complaints on horror games that involve puzzles that send you backtracking through maps and maps: a lack of the ability to RUN.

You make me sad, developers. You make me sad.

Other than that, the game is fantastic. A true horror game indeed, which relies not only on the cheap scares but on some actual psychological aspects and on a great ambient. The ending is heart-touching, and I completely loved my play-through of it.

Definitely recommended if you’re into horror!

4.5/5

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