Available on: PS4, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Android, Microsoft Windows, iOS
Played on: PS4
In Distraint you play as Price, a man who has the job of foreclosing on properties with overdue debts, and evicting tenants. Price’s dream is to become partner of the firm he works for, but as the events of Distraint show, that comes at a price (heh). Our protagonist is visited by the ghosts of his parents who beg him to change his ways before it is too late, and throughout the game Price is subjected to hauntings and various disturbing imagery to persuade him to change.
Distraint is a 2D horror adventure game, where you progress by solving puzzles. Though relatively short at around the hour mark, Distraint tells a compelling story, and you get to witness Price change from ruthless to someone who feels remorse for their actions, and appears to genuinely change. The puzzles throughout are interesting and engaging, and though some can be hard to figure out, it’s not in a way that ever seems frustrating or like the game is trying to trip you up on purpose. There can be a lot of back and forth, however, as you need to take one item from one area to another, or trigger something in one part of a room and dash to another in a time limit. Sometimes this element gets a bit monotonous, but the game isn’t long enough to dwell on this issue for too long.
Distraint‘s sound design is pivotal to the whole game. Where its simplistic 2D art style don’t necessarily create a horror vibe on their own, paired with the game’s soundtrack you’re given something that feels eerie and creepy throughout. The music was what really got my heart racing, as at certain moments you’ll hear the screeching of violins or a high pitched noise, and it really creates tension and puts you on edge throughout.
The whole set-up of Distraint is one that makes you feel uncomfortable, from the walls dripping with blood, to the residents of a care home who are living in less than ideal conditions. Distraint makes you feel at one with Price’s moral dilemma and makes you live his pain, even if for the short time you’re playing it.
Distraint can be played as a commentary on capitalism; Price spends his days reclaiming properties from those his higher ups send him to, but it is only his employers who benefit from this. Price himself lives in a run down apartment every bit as dreary and dilapidated as the ones he is reclaiming, another cog in the system working only to benefit the bigwigs above him. It’s definitely a game to give you something to think about, and stays with you long after you’ve finished.
There didn’t seem to be enough to Distraint to get me fully on board. The puzzles are fun, and the development of the main character is interesting, but somehow it felt it lacked depth and perhaps would have benefitted from being a longer game to flex this. The price tag makes this almost a non-issue; I paid £1.99 for the game, and with that you can’t really go wrong.