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DYING: Reborn
Score: 65%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Oasis Games
Developer: NEKCOM Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle/ Survival Horror

Graphics & Sound:
The opening line for DYING: Reborn is "Oh my head, what a headache." Really, you donít have to read much further, you can call this review done. But alright, fine, letís review this thing.

DYING: Reborn appears to be a rushed, or at least low budget horror/puzzle title. Screenshots donít do the cheese justice. It looks decent enough in a still shot. However, though there is some variation in each of the 6 levels, youíll quickly notice that many items are heavily reused. Briefcases are identical, paintings are frequently reused, etc. Itís not a terrible thing to reuse assets, but the way DYING does it seems more like a tech demo than a purposeful design aesthetic.

Itís hard to describe just what is off about this game in visuals. Itís more of a total package kind of deal, but this game seems very confused as to its intent. Thereís a bloody couch, for example. This is a horror game, so sure, thereís a couch covered in blood at some point. But the odd thing is, the main character mentions the shabby condition of the couch. Uh, hello, bloody couch, and weíre worried about tears in the upholstery?

Then thereís the voice acting. At a certain point, I felt this had to be a parody of the horror genre. At about the halfway mark, I have to concede that the intent was to create an actual horror game here. Itís one thing for a game in the 90ís to have cheesy voice acting. Itís quite another now, to have voice actors who sound like they have no idea what voice acting is. These folks seem to forget their characterís motivation halfway through a sentence. Itís hilarious, but does little to build the horror atmosphere.

The music, again, when everything is put together, sounds like itís trying too hard. Even the menu selection sound is a loud trill of piano keys; itís overly dramatic. Throughout the game, there are no ups or downs, no buildups, and no tension. Itís just a constant loop of creepy music.


Gameplay:
DYING: Reborn is one of those so-bad-itís-good games. I really spent so much time laughing at this game, I canít be mad. But still, DYING is (as far as I can tell) selling a serious, functional game here, so itís best to go in with open eyes.

DYING: Reborn is a puzzle game with a touch of survival horror. I say only a touch, because why else would someone keep throwing away useful survival tools like screwdrivers and knives? Matthew, come on man. Okay, letís fully describe DYING: Reborn as a puzzle survival horror game with single use items. Thereís no combat, only puzzles, so that might take off some of the horror edge for most folks. The rest of the edge will be taken off by the really meaningless jump scares like the nth mannequin falling from the ceiling, corner, or wherever else. Thereís a difference between, "Oh sh**, what hell was that noise?" and, "Ok, I donít understand in what world this makes sense."

In the opening of DYING: Reborn, you wake up in a hotel room. There are weird mannequins in a cage above the ceiling. The room is broken down and fitted with a camera, and the door and windows are covered in bars, preventing your escape. You play as Matthew, a character who - and this is my best distillation of whatever the hell is happening in this game - is searching for a woman named Shirley while a guy in a fish head keeps locking him in different rooms in the hotel. Something that will become apparent as you progress through the descriptions and other text in the game is that English is not the native language for the developers.

Poor translations might be responsible for some of the funnier quotes in the game such as "Great here is a door." This is not even the main problem with the dialogue and text, however. One of the bigger problems is inconsistency. For example, Matthew sees a briefcase and is pretty sure it belonged to an elegant lady. Believe me when I say there was nothing about the briefcase to back that up. Then later, he looks at an identical briefcase and feels he could not identify the owner? Then there's multiple times he'll say "I can't recognize anything" in a photo, but the photos will clearly show something like a violin or just a hand. When we can't even establish a basic, credible world, it's hard to connect with or care about it. Words just donít mean anything, so why bother caring about what you read or hear in the game?

Oh and this fits in nowhere, but one of my favorite lines in this game is, "This sofaís design is very strange, as if a ghost with only one leg has been sitting down." I cannot emphasize enough how bat crap crazy this statement is. I mean it was a regular couch and what does that even mean?

Thereís a feeling about this game I havenít been able to shake, itís so much like one of those live action puzzle rooms that are popular now. You know, the ones where a group of people are locked in a room and they have to find clues around the room in order to get out. The style of the puzzles and the way the game is set up in single rooms is so much like one of those experiences. And this is not to knock puzzle room experiences, but the disconnected feel of the puzzles also rings true in DYING: Reborn. I mean, one minute weíre counting numbers for alphabet letters, another minute weíre doing calculator math (I realize some folks are completely capable of doing this in their head, but I have short term memory issues that make this a pretty big challenge for me) to figure out a code. And itís all codes - just codes, codes, codes. You need a code for the safe, you need a code for the briefcase, you need a code for everything (another thing that is familiar to live puzzle rooms, which rely a lot on physical padlocks and other code-based locks). Sure, youíll occasionally combine an item with another one, but this is only to reveal another code.

One interesting, and perhaps positive aspect to this game is what Iíll call the side puzzles. There is a set of puzzles that can only be solved with items from the previous sectionís puzzles. These are optional; you can get through the sections without these items, but itís something that makes replaying the game somewhat worthwhile.


Difficulty:
Itís hard to say if DYING: Reborn will be difficult for most people. If your brain just eats puzzles all day long and spits out solutions, you might be fine. If you need the puzzle and the clues to be logical and to hold to a theme, you might be in trouble.

Another thing that might add to the difficulty is that short-term memory issue I mentioned earlier. Several puzzles in the game require you to remember long digits of numbers (one puzzle in particular requires you to remember at least 14 digits in your head) or to multiply and add several numbers. Now, Iím not one to criticize a challenge for being a challenge, but these kinds of challenges seem particularly strange for a game that can also be played in VR. If you need to write something down (I will admit that I did) in order to complete the puzzle, how are you supposed to do that with a headset on?

Hereís the really hard part - sometimes you end up solving the puzzle, but due to a glitch or a really small clickable hotspot, you are led to believe you failed. So you go around the room again, clicking everything, and you end up right back where you started.

DYING: Reborn is solvable as a puzzle game, itís just that it throws almost all the most frustrating aspects of puzzle games at you. For example, it will give you lots of clues to multiple puzzles at once. Youíll have to work out one puzzle at a time, but you wonít be told which clues are for which puzzle and it will never discourage you from chasing red herrings. This can make things more difficult than need be.


Game Mechanics:
DYING: Reborn has some technical issues. It might have some other issues too, but I donít have the required psychology degree to diagnose those.

Where are the auto-saves? I canít believe there are no auto-saves, at least after you beat a level. No, you have to go into the next level and deliberately save. And to recap those issues mentioned earlier, there are problems with the clickable hotspots. In fact, I found multiple spots that did not update after I interacted with them. So, say you took an umbrella off the wall. When you go back to click on the now empty area (you might do this because the cursor still lights up red), it will still mention the umbrella being on the wall.

DYING: Reborn might go down as a cult classic, but it will not go down as a horror classic. Like someone with a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome, I did start wanting to know what happened to poor Matthew, but that feeling was not due to the merits of the game, rather, a stubbornness on my part. There are too many problems and inconsistent mechanics, dialogue, and atmosphere. If youíre going in for the laughs, you might have a good time. And if you happen to have a PS VR, PS4 and a PS Vita, you can get the bundle for $24.99, whereas separately they are $9.99, $19.99 and $14.99 respectively.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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