The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker (PlayStation 4) Review

By Renan Fontes 17.07.2018 1

Review for The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker on PlayStation 4

There's a genuine thrill that comes with solving a murder mystery. Doubly so if said mystery is interactive. In placing the player directly into the role of the detective, with no context other than what they are given, a game that would otherwise be deemed a visual novel/interactive movie could very well be called a detective simulator. The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker feels more like a simulation than it does a visual novel, taking place entirely in first-person and even going so far as to allow players to type their own questions. While it's a charming premise, one that certainly elevates the overall experience, it doesn't help in masking Doctor Dekker's very real issues.

Given the obviously static nature of literature, a good murder mystery narrative will have one killer determined from conception with clues throughout the story hinting at their identity without being overt about it, even casting suspicion onto other characters. Re-readability comes not from a belief that the killer will somehow change in a second reading, but from the joy of seeing just how tightly woven together the mystery was in the first place.

Books aren't an interactive format in the same way videogames are, however. A murder mystery in a videogame is inherently different as it can put the player directly into the role of the detective. In a format with such an emphasis on interactivity, it can be tempting to also add in multiple killers per playthrough, adding in a heightened degree of replayability. While branching paths and multiple endings are par for the course for videogames, they don't exactly lend themselves to a mystery premise.

Mystery narratives need to be precisely crafted in order to work to their fullest abilities. It isn't impossible for a story with multiple killers to be good, but it does mean more effort has to be put into the progression of the plot. Clues need to shuffled around appropriately to minimise red herrings; themes need to be consistent, ensuring the story stays focused regardless of who the killer is; and the reveal simply needs to be satisfying with the idea that there was never a set killer in the first place.

Screenshot for The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker on PlayStation 4

It perhaps goes without saying that The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker takes this randomised approach in regards to its story. At the beginning of each playthrough, a killer is chosen at random and the onus is on the player to discover who murdered the titular Doctor Dekker, interrogating and conversing with his former patients until the pieces start to fit together.

Gameplay consists of asking Dekker's patients, played by real actors in FMV sequences, about his murder, along with simply taking on the role of their psychologist in the aftermath of Doctor Dekker's death. Conversing with the patients is easier said than done, however - at least conceptually.

In the PC release, the intention behind the gameplay was to make the player actually type out their questions to the patients. This would require a deep level of attention to every cut-scene in order to know how to respond. There's even a notebook feature where the protagonist jots down the most important information from each dialogue so that the player never gets lost. On a PC, typing out questions and answers isn't exactly a demanding process. On the PlayStation 4, though, it's a bit more demanding.

The game's built-in keyboard, the one the PS4 uses for just about everything, simply isn't fast or responsive enough to justify this style of gameplay. In turn, there are set questions the player can ask in order to circumvent typing time and time again. They work for the most part, and progress each patient's arc far enough for them to make sense, but typing is still necessary to consider their plots once all the premade questions have been exhausted.

Screenshot for The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker on PlayStation 4

There's a stoplight mechanic in place for each patient that increases the further the player progresses in their arc from act to act. The first is red, meaning the patients are relatively closed off; the second is yellow, meaning substantial progress can be, and is being, made; and the last is green, meaning they are ready to open up in earnest. To get to green, however, requires typing questions out as the premade questions effectively only work up until yellow.

It isn't a bad mechanic, by any means, and it's a nice workaround to ensure the gameplay is actually working as was originally designed, but it doesn't change the fact that the PS4's keyboard simply isn't all that great. To make matters worse, the premade questions effectively turn the interactivity off and make the experience feel more like a movie than a videogame.

It certainly doesn't help that interacting with patients can get fairly repetitive quickly. Few patients actually manage to stay interesting from start to finish. Others waiver in quality from act to act, often requiring the player to trudge through the same old plot points over and over again with only a few new details added into the mix.

Patient arcs feel bloated most of the time. There are over 1,000 unique FMVs within the base game, which is an impressive feat in and of itself but it is by no means a good thing. The storyline is simply too long for its own good, dragging out the mystery more times often than not. The length works for some patients, in particular Nathan who believes he lives in a time loop, but others suffer immensely from the lack of focus and drawn out length.

Screenshot for The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker on PlayStation 4

The main thread tying each patient together is not how they relate to Dekker's murder, but how they relate to Lovecraftian lore. There's an emphasis on the supernatural that slowly weaves its way into the narrative, and it's easily the best aspect of the entire story. Although patients hardly feel cohesive with one another, the central Lovecraftian theme does give some justification as to why these characters are Dekker's patients.

Of course, the success of said Lovecraftian elements varies from patient to patient. Some make great use of it, creating a legitimately tense and creepy atmosphere. Others fumble with the prospect, coming off rather silly in the grand scheme of things. The story is better off for its supernatural horror elements, as the grounded approach it takes early on doesn't land nearly as well as it should, but it's not enough to cover up the story's biggest flaw: the randomisation.

To put it bluntly, the decision to randomise the killer each playthrough is an unquestionably poor one. The story gains absolutely nothing from changing up the killer. Rather, it's hurt by it since there's no clear thread in the early game pointing to a patient being the killer. As a result, much of the first half feels inconsequential and incohesive. Perhaps this approach works on the PC where players actually get to interact with patients head on via the keyboard, but it fails in the PlayStation 4 release due to the necessity of the premade questions.

On PS4, The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker plays out more like a movie than it does a videogame, meaning that its narrative elements need to be all the more impressive. Since it doesn't abide to the traditional structure of the mystery genre, however, the mystery angle doesn't come into play until far later than it should, making the early game feel like a waste of time, doubly so in a repeat playthrough. This is simply not meant to be on consoles, and it shows.

Screenshot for The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Although The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker does a decent enough job at building intrigue from act to act, its repetitive nature and random approach to the murder mystery format ultimately serve to diminish what could have been a highly enjoyable detective simulator. Not only do interrogations begin to lose their lustre rather quickly, with only a few standout patients maintaining their quality until the end, the killer being chosen at random at the start of each playthrough makes for an incohesive narrative that relies more on its gimmick than a genuine attention to the nuances of the mystery genre to pull off its story. To its credit, The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker does work far better than it should given how much the randomness holds it back, but it could have been significantly better with a more focused storyline.

Developer

D'Avekki Studios

Publisher

D'Avekki Studios

Genre

Visual Novel

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

This game...seriously...it started off interesting, but then turned into such a drag, and then at the end I didn't even know who the killer was! I ended up accusing everyone, they all denied it, but the game still said I'd found the murderer Smilie I felt like I'd wasted SO much time, and there also seemed to be some inconsistencies in the dialogue...can't remember exactly what it was, but I'm sure there were answers that either didn't tie in with a previous day's conversation, or something that didn't marry up with what another patient said. It was all just confusing, and ultimately boring.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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