GAME REVIEW: The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker

My first experience of proper full motion video in a videogame was Command and Conquer. The move from the in-game sprites to actual people talking to me and building up the tension just blew my young mind. Now, many years later, I find myself being beguiled by a game that uses FMV to create a sinister “whodunit”, the murder of a psychiatrist leaving the patients he was treating as the prime suspects.

D’Avekki Studios The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker sets the player as the replacement of the deceased titular doctor, the collection of patients previously under his care now looking to you for help from the other side of the screen. The player interacts with the game by typing questions or keywords into the text entry bar. If a word matches something that relates to the character on screen at that time, they will talk about it, usually giving even more words that you might use as your next query. The patients will even ask your advice at certain times, giving you the chance to take the feeling of interaction to a higher level. The game keeps track of the conversations you’ve had in a note system, handily using *’s to indicate if something is worth delving into further. Anything marked with ** in the log is essential to moving the narrative forward. Each patient also has a coloured dot, or traffic light, next to their name. It starts at red, but once you’ve discovered enough information to progress, it changes to amber. If you discover all of their responses in that act, it will turn green. Once you’ve turned all of the patients dots to at least amber, another box will appear letting you move on to the next part of the game.

I enjoyed interacting with the characters on screen, the HD video, the presentation and acting all seemed to be of a really nice standard. The ghostly way the patients wait on the green couch or jiffle around while you ponder what to ask next is also a really nice stylish touch. The actual “interacting via typing” thing proved to be a slightly mixed bag though. When the conversation was flowing and I was hitting valid questions/keywords four or five times in a row, it felt really satisfying and immersive. When I hit words that felt like they should work and they didn’t, it pulled me right out of things again. The game does offer a Hint system that is on a time-delay, limiting how much you can use it in a set time. When you type “hint”, it suggests a question that you could ask. On a few occasions, the hint was awfully close to what I’d already been typing, which was a little frustrating. I can understand why I missed the mark on those occasions, and it did take me at least until Act Two before I had gotten fully into the flow of how best to ask things. When you ask an unknown question, the characters do have a variety of “I don’t know what you’re talking about” reactions, some of which are quite amusing.

As far as the narrative, I was very impressed with the story. The game takes place over five acts, each turning the screw a little bit more. As you move through the game, relationships and interactions between the patients come to light, muddying the waters with regard to who might be telling the truth and who might be as mad as they sound. The madness takes the form of the patients thinking that they have various special abilities, time travelling and shape-shifting to name but two, all of them struggling with their place in the world and their odd relationship with Dr Dekker. I was particularly impressed with the occasional moments in which a patient would tell me something that my character had done whilst outside of the office, causing me to wonder who I was really playing, and leaving me in a quandary as to whether to argue the inaccuracy of what they said, or to just go along with it as part of their “therapy”. This was something I didn’t expect to happen and I must admit that I did find it very engaging.

My play-through took around 7 hours, and amazingly, I did accuse the correct person of Dr Dekker’s murder at the end of it. The game is described as having story branching and multiple endings, but I decided to play it the way I would normally choose to, I.e. getting my own story out of it and moving on. There is a spoilerific post on the game’s Steam forums where users describe the endings they got and what befell the characters, and they all seem pretty varied and interesting to me. It certainly appears that if you’d like to give it multiple play-throughs, you’ll still find new things for awhile.

The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker is out now on Steam for PC and Mac, and is currently £6.99 (and around a 15 gigabyte download if you need to keep that in mind). For the price of going to the cinema, it provides many hours of interesting story-telling and interaction that I think is pretty spot on value-wise, gauging by my own sense of value at least. If you like picking your way through a tangled plot and playing a game in which your own discoveries and interactions twist said plot, I think you’ll enjoy The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker.

Click here to visit the game’s Steam page.

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Casey Douglass

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