First of all, full disclosure; I am a massive fan of point and click adventure games and the old-school text based adventure games. I’ve played just about every LucasArts adventure game there is, every point and click game worth a dime since. I’ve spent hours on games like Zork, Planetfall and Cypher.
And I’ve also played a lot of Simpsons Cluedo.
The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker is in its own way a rebirth of the text-based adventure games and then bred with classic board games like Cluedo and Guess Who. But rather than relying on the imagination of the player to build the world and the conversations within, it is done for you. It’s all very brilliantly acted, a little camp and some of the actors seem to be a bit too into it, but it’s fine. It all fits the “insane Lovecraftian madness” thing that seems to be going on around us.
In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming
The setup of the game is a simple one. And although a little strange, compared to the patient’s you’ll speak to it’s quite normal. Oh yeah, the patients YOU speak to, they are all your patients. Essentially you are a replacement psychiatrist for the recently murdered Doctor Dekker. The police suspect that one of his patients may have been the murderer, and have asked for your help to find out “whodunnit”. But you’re not there on the police’s instructions. You are a doctor after all. Treating these patients should be a priority, leave the police work to the police, right?
The gameplay is simple and as I said akin to the text-based adventure games of the past. Ask a question, start simple “Hello Nathan” and then watch an FMV response from him. Nathan might respond expectedly “Hello Doctor” and leave you at a dead end, requiring you to ask about his demeanour, something he’s holding or to ask another everyday question.
“How has work been?” is always a good follow-up, everyone’s always got something to say about their job.
“Oh, we’ve been very busy at work. I actually did Doctor Dekker the other day”
And in that reply, you’ve now unlocked a rabbit warren of follow-up questions. “You did Dr Dekker? Why have you been busy? What do you do for work? How does this make you feel?” – You are a psychiatrist after all.
The gameplay loop is easy, albeit repetitive, but the story is enthralling enough that it doesn’t feel like a chore asking questions. It was finding these rabbit holes and like Alice, diving headfirst into the adventure the keep the game moving at a good pace. That endorphin pumping “eureka I got it” moment. The FMV’s are fun and interesting, and there is a hint option if you get completely stumped (guilty for using it once or twice).
Madness rides the star-wind
Going back and forwards between patients is an option as well. As you learn more about the patient’s, you’ll find that all their stories cross paths. Sometimes they contradict each other, and sometimes they make no logical sense. And other times they are the perfect alibi for one another.
The police and your secretary Jaya, who is just accidentally creepy, will drop off evidence, small tidbits of information that you can question the patients about.
The music and the soundtrack all add to the game’s atmosphere, and fair warning you may get one or two jump scares. The music is eerie, bassy and at times it seems to keep pace with your questions. Only stopping to catch its breath when you’ve come up out of the maze to catch some air of your own and rethink things over.
The cinematography is excellent, the camera will shift, shake and change with the mood of the conversation. Sepia and black & white filters are used, but not obnoxiously, or pointlessly either. Sometimes focusing on key elements to talk about, sometimes feeding you red herrings. The only thing I thought was weird about the FMV’s was the shoes. No one in this damn office seems to wear shoes. Maybe it’s a British psych thing, but every psych I’ve seen here I’ve comfortably worn shoes.
And the best thing about this game is that I can tell you whodunnit, and when you play through they may not have ‘dunnit’. At the start of each new game, Doctor Dekker’s murderer is randomly selected from a pool of 6 possible candidates. Will you choose to be a cynical, straight bones Doctor?
I have dwelt ever in realms apart from the visible world
Keeping the insanity in check and their internal demons at bay. Refusing to believe anything these people claim, and treating them with a sound and sane mind. Will you give into temptation and answer their questions of you, giving out too much information or critical information at the wrong time?
Did they break the fourth wall, or was that just you over thinking things? Are you just as insane as the patients? Are there insanities realities or? Is what they claim to be true actually true? Why does everyone see the same girl? The cephalopod? And what is the Cult of the Kinetic Mind really all about?
For about $10 on the Steam platform on PC, I’d recommend giving this game a shot. It’s a style of game that I think is often under most people’s radar. But for a solid 6-8 hours, it can make for a good lazy day off or a week on the train to and from work or university.
It’s not without its problems, no game is perfect. I found myself frustrated once or twice because I was stuck, only to use the hint system and be told to ask about something I’d already asked about. I guess some of our “Australian” sentence structuring and colloquialisms got lost in translation.
A solid 7/tentacles on the Great Old God for this one though, for its story, intrigue, length and price definitely worth it. And don’t worry, it’s a new chair you’re sitting in.
The Infectious Madness of Dr Dekker was reviewed on PC with a code purchased by the reviewer.
Game Title: The Infectious Madness of Dr Dekker
Game Description: A Lovecraftian murder mystery FMV game with a dash of Cthulhu.
Madness of the Old Gods - 7/10
I do declare there's been a murder - 6/10
Cthulhu, in the cosmos, with the tentacles - 8/10