18th Jun2018

‘The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

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It’s no secret that I’m a fan of FMV games, Wales Interactive have released some thoroughly enjoyable games recently with The Bunker and Late Shift and I also played the mystery game Contradiction which although flawed was an enjoyable experience. With The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker, despite its plus points, I found myself wearying of the limitations of the genre and couldn’t work out if I was just expecting too much or if I was just burned out from playing too many similar games on the trot.

The mystery that forms the backbone of the game is that one of Dr Dekker’s patients has seemingly murdered him and you are the replacement therapist who has to not only try to solve his murder but also cure his patients along the way. The game plays out through several chapters which are split into days, on each day you can choose which patient you’d like to talk to (although you do have to speak to each of them in order to progress) and listen to their stories, making occasional choices for them when they ask you for your advice. Is the murderer Nathan, the lonely young man ensconced in grief due to the loss of his fiancé? Bryce, the strange gravedigger (who constantly gazes over invisible half-moon reading glasses at you, like an unimpressed geography teacher) or perhaps the seductive Marianna who suffers from blackouts? Well, here’s the kicker…the killer is randomly chosen on each play-through and for me it was almost a deal-breaker.

You may remember the 1996 PC game Ripper, it had quite a top-notch voice cast and was similarly an FMV mystery that suffered from the same problem. As each character has to keep their intentions vague so as to not give away if they are (randomly, remember) the killer, what you end up doing is listening to the stories of their lives and examples of their unique powers (or are they?) and then at the end making a random choice as to who is the killer (if you are wrong, you can chose again until you are correct.). It instantly removes any mystery or intuition from the entire game. I found the acting to be of a high quality and the way in which the game is filmed clever due to the framing and cinematography used to make the visuals interesting (the entire game is set in a single office, mostly staring at a green leather couch) and so not having a solid narrative structure felt like a strange design choice. Each patients’ story is interesting and kept me involved for most of the time but I really wish that the murder of Dekker and the ‘curing’ of the patients were kept entirely separate as what I felt I ended up with was an awkward meshing of the two.

The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker has a built-in hint system and notebook that keeps track of what has been said but it’s not particularly useful as I found my character making notes of conversations of interest that I couldn’t pursue until the current set of questions had been asked, unlocking the next set. It felt clunky, as does the in-game parser that allows you to manually type in questions. The reason this felt odd was that the game is clearly designed to pick up on key words so what kept happening was that the patient would either not understand what I was saying even if it was relevant to the case or they would answer a different question as the parser had picked up on a key word in the sentence that I wasn’t focusing on. It’s a minor quibble as it’s not particularly important to the story as anything you ask manually doesn’t impact the direction of the narrative anyway, at most it results in an extra brief scene of exposition.

Some patients also turn up for a single day, explain their problems to you and then leave never to be seen again (even at the end of the game when it runs through the outcomes of each character) and so they end up just feeling like padding. I also noticed that at one point I was showing someone something in my inventory that I didn’t actually pick up until the next chapter, which was odd. The game occasionally referenced conversations with other characters that I hadn’t had which led to confusion on my behalf in some scenes.

I feel like I’m being quite negative in regards to The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker and I want to make it clear that, for a large majority of the game, I enjoyed it. The music is suitably ominous and mood-setting whilst the acting, visuals and sound design (as well as sub-title work) are all of a really high quality and make for a solid experience. I just felt that the game overreached somewhat in what it set out to achieve and made some design choices that detracted from the enjoyment. There are certain elements that I can’t mention without giving away spoilers that don’t really add up to anything and this, combined with how my limited interaction with the patients made me feel like the most uninterested therapist in the world made my interest ebb in the latter stage of the game which culminated in me being more impressed by The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker than satisfied by it. If you are a fan of FMV games, then don’t expect this to be a game-changer, but if you fancy a casual mystery with some interesting themes then you’ll have a decent time with the game, although you’ll probably furrow your eyebrows a few times along the way.

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