Decay: The Mare - Episodes 1-3

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Decay: The Mare - Episodes 1-3 Game Poster Image
Disappointing horror game is bloody, unscary, and confusing.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

No positive messages -- the entire game revolves around dark revelations, drug-induced hallucinations.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is a young man trying to kick a drug habit; for that, he can be commended. But he spends the entire game without motives for his actions, hearing voices, and seeing frightening things that may or may not really exist.

Ease of Play

Point-and-click movement, item-use controls, but main problem is navigation. Too many rooms look the same, and thanks to an inconsistent backtracking system, it's very easy to get lost. Fortunately, the built-in hint system keeps you from getting totally stuck.

Violence

Disembodied hands, heads shown. People are hanged, shot, stabbed. Bloodstains often appear on doors, furnishings. Unclear whether hallucinations or real.

Sex

Suggestive talk from a gang member about a "hot Latina chick," but otherwise no reference to sex at all.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Hero is a recovering drug addict; game starts by taking a handful of pills. Though there's no explicit use of drugs or alcohol after that, nightmares brought on by medication mentioned.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Decay: The Mare is a dark downloadable adventure involving the damaged psyche of a recovering drug addict. Though the game is about exploration, there are many creepy and downright disturbing images of madness, as well as hallucinations, ghosts, blood, and disembodied limbs, all of which may or may not be real. Though the game starts out with the hero taking a handful of pills, no other drugs or alcohol are shown; it's implied that patient medication could be behind some of the nightmares and hallucinations suffered by the main character.

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What's it about?

DECAY: THE MARE tells the story of a recovering drug addict who wakes up in a rehab facility. Strangely, the hospital seems abandoned, even derelict, so he sets out to find the other patients as well as the owner of the voice in his head that keeps begging him for help.

Is it any good?

Decay: The Mare is an ill-conceived, clumsily executed, largely unscary horror adventure. It starts promisingly enough by making the hero a disturbed young man with a drug problem, which could have provided lots of interesting character motivation, but it falls back on a pile of predictable, uninteresting horror clichés. Players are forced into dark, dingy halls or rooms with grainy, hard-to-see graphics in an attempt to set a spooky atmosphere. You're given very limited interactivity with the environment, which makes exploration tedious and boring. The game also packs very confusing navigation, particularly when you're exiting rooms -- half the time the camera faces the direction you're headed, while the other half it automatically turns toward the door you just exited, which leads to lots of frustration and confusion. Add in wooden dialogue that feels like it was poorly translated and delivered (a sequence with a gang member is particularly embarrassing), and you get the sense that this game was flawed all around.

The Mare saves itself by providing you with an on-screen hint button that either makes a flashing indicator appear telling you which way to go or displays (variably useful) hint text. Few players could get through the game without it. The game also builds up to clever puzzles and a legitimate scare or two over the course of its three episodes, which is rewarding but ultimately feels unsatisfying. Overall,  Decay: The Mare feels like a rough prototype of a game rather than a finished product. Much more time should have been spent thinking about the main character's goals and motives as well as nailing down the underlying mystery.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact of violence in games such as Decay: The Mare. Are the images and violence more acceptable because they exist solely within the hallucinations of the main character, or are they going too far? Do you think players can discern the difference between real and imagined violence in the game?

  • Families can talk about why people might seek psychiatric treatment. Are there reasons why people wouldn't choose to get help for mental illness? What can help to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness?

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