Following on from their previous FMV (Full Motion Video) adventure titles The Bunker and Late Shift, Wales Interactive is back with D’Avekki Studios’ “Lovecraftian Murder Mystery” The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker. Can you find the killer or will you succumb to the madness yourself?
Psychiatrist Doctor Dekker is dead, believed to have been the victim of foul play, and you are the replacement employed to continue the care of his patients. This is all the information you have as you start your first day. The how, the why and, most importantly, the who are the questions you must find the answers to while treating the Doctor’s unusual clientele.
Firstly, Doctor Dekker is aiming to be a more interactive experience than the “choose your own adventure” game that Late Shift was. Here you are presented with talking with/treating each of the doctor’s five patients: Marianna, Bryce, Claire, Elin, Nathan. Each day you can ask them questions about the doctor, their relationship to him and his murder. More interesting though is discussing the reasons why they are seeing a psychiatrist in the first place as each of them has a very unique “condition” that they need your help with. Then there’s the dead doctors assistant, Jaya, who seems to have a few skeletons in the closet of her own.
The actual way you interact with the characters is by typing out a question to ask them. Once you have sufficient information, the patient’s icon turns amber or, if you get everything out of them, green. Get everybody to at least amber and you can move on to the next day’s secessions. While this is brilliant when it works, using the on-screen keyboard is cumbersome and time consuming and is made worse when the game’s “text input” system doesn’t recognise your question and responds with one of its many “I don’t know that, try again” style clips. You can just type keywords rather than sentences but then I felt the sense of genuine conversation the game is striving for becomes lost. Worse still is if you get into the habit of using the suggested questions. The ease of just clicking through them to set off the next clip becomes too tempting and can result in the game being more like watching a movie with lots of annoying interruptions. Plus the suggested question won’t necessarily be in contextual order, as in one case I had a long discussion about a patient’s relationship with her husband and the final suggested question was “And who is David?”… Well, that’s the husband you have been talking about for the last 15mins!
To be fair, if you have the benefit of owning a compatible keyboard, things are much quicker to type so can play the game as it is meant to be played.
Each of these filmed responses are logged for you to rewatch for further investigation. Luckily the game assists you here by marking the more important clips, those that contain information that should most definitely be followed up on, which helps when you are deciding on your next line of questioning. While it can be a bit of a slow burn to start, once you get to know more about these characters, the more intuitive the questioning will be as it will be information you genuinely want to know. There were a couple of times I found myself watching a clip, not quite listening, then suddenly “Woah, wait a minute did she say she stabbed him?!” or “Hang on, did she hook up with the dead Doctor?” and my interested was peaked.
There’s a lot to see all in all with over 1600 scripted video responses. Sounds like a lot to fit into one story, right? Well yes but then it’s not one story as each game starts with the murderer chosen at random, it could be any of them, so there are numerous paths and clues leading to a multitude of endings. Getting each patient’s icon to green every day is going to take a lot of thought (and most likely the hint button). Also, on top of the six main characters you’re investigating, there are several additional “side quests” to be played by talking to other clients that come in for a day.
Graphics and Sound
In a game like this the presentation of the FMV is paramount and luckily we have come a long way from the pixelated mess that was Night Trap on the Mega CD. What we are looking at is beautifully clear HD video. The directing works well as the view cuts to closer off centre angles during points of the conversation helping you analyse the patient’s expressions as they respond. Another thing to be mentioned here, as it relates to the presentation side of things is the acting. Everybody here is on form, with Jaya and Elin being highlights for me.
You genuinely start to bond with the characters and are intrigued to see where their particular tales go. You’ll find numerous times that you have not bothered with questions relating to Dr. Dekker’s murder with as your more interested in actually playing therapist. So well done to all involved, yes there’s the occasional hammy performance during the hours of footage but this is a video game, not an Oscar contender.
Outside of the FMV, all the menus and game hud are all very clear and unobtrusive which is exactly what you’d want in a game where immersion in the story is the key to the experience. Though some on screen effects, later on, are sub B Movie standard and can pull you out a bit.
My opinion of The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker is very much as mixed as the minds of his patients. While I found that without a keyboard, the Text Input response system wasn’t really worth the time, leading me to play the less interactive way of using suggested questions, the story and the characters had me hooked. I wanted to find out more about these people and see if I could help them and yeah, if I’m lucky, figure out which one of them murdered the last guy to sit in my chair. It’s definitely not for everybody but it’s worth a try for those who have enjoyed Wales Interactive’s previous FMV titles or really just anyone who likes a good yarn.
The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker
- Some Good Acting Performances
- Decent Replayability
- Intriguing Character Stories
- The Text Input system is not as clever as it thinks it is
- A keyboard, a keyboard, my kingdom for a keyboard
- "No, I dont know that. Ask me something else."