Distraint : Deluxe Edition
Developed By : Jesse Makkonen
Published By : Ratalaika Games
Category : Adventure, Puzzle, Horror
Release Date : Sep 13, 2019
Video games have always been known for tackling a wide variety of genres for an equally wide variety of reasons. They can tackle comical subjects to make us laugh, frightening ones to make us cringe and cower, or serious subjects with the intent to make us question morality. That morality focus can either be hefted onto the character, or it might break the fourth wall and make you question your own with the decisions you make as you play. However, Distraint : Deluxe Edition on the Nintendo Switch takes a slightly different approach, and forces you to watch as your main character deals with his own issues off the decisions he’s made.
Our journey follows that of Price and his journey to become partnered at the law firm of McDade, Bruton & Moore, hoping to add his name to the end of that list. However, before he can, they have assigned him the heart wrenching task of handing out distraint’s to three local tenants and seize their property due to all of their inabilities to pay. First he is sent to the apartment of an old woman, and afterwards he can feel his humanity is gone, so the rest of his journey follows him visiting the other two clients and dealing with himself and his choices along the way.
You’ll explore Price’s world from a 2D side perspective, in both the present as he reflects on his choices, and the past as he relives them. Each interaction presents itself as a small linear puzzle where you’ll need to perform a chain of actions in succession. For instance when you encounter Price’s second appointment, a man who lives in a cabin near the woods. When you first meet him he’s sitting outside, and refuses to talk to you until you go back to his cabin and prepare a fire. Which leaves you to navigate the maze of his cabin’s rooms in order to find wood and something to start the fire.
All the puzzles you’ll be dealing with are very linear, so you won’t be able to just accidentally stumble on a solution for something later on and jump ahead. Which is a good thing, because it gives you more time to soak in the beautiful pixelated world that Price lives in. The entire game is letterbox framed, meaning there are black bars above and below the main picture. Normally, I would feel robbed of an image but the developer really found a way to maximize such a small space and make it feel vibrant and full.
Audibly, the games soundtrack is incredible. It’s light and mostly sticks to the background, however there are moments when it spikes, and these are key moments because they typically go hand-in-hand with some of the more eerie visual cues in the game. You’ll hear the music climb as something red creep by a window that you’re near.
While the visuals and audio may be on point for Distraint the story leaves things a little lacking. To me, it took wide swings between trying to be creepy, and then super serious, and even at other times a little comical. These constant step-betweens made it hard to consistently keep a level of emotions with where the story was going. Sometimes that’s okay, but I felt that in a game such as this that seemed to take away from what was intended to be a rather serious matter.
For those looking to get an in depth experience from a game that produces minimal gameplay and maximal story, you may find a bit of a struggle to do so with this one. I am, however, willing to concede that it just may be in how I approach wanting to experience my stories from games. Nevertheless, it is still a pretty fun experience.
While it takes some (again, in my opinion) awkward emotional turns, Price’s journey is still quite the ride. It doesn’t seem like much at first, but eventually being forced to watch his past decisions only play out will grow in an angry crescendo with the realization that you are just watching and not able to change it. Story aside, Distraint is a beautiful game and I loved the art style, and whether or not you get heavily invested in the story you will enjoy every single pixelated step that you take and every puzzle you solve.
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A code for this game was graciously provided to The Switch Effect