Distraint | PS4 Review
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Distraint is a 2D psycological horror story developed and created by Jesse Makkonen and Ratalaika Games and personally I really loved this one. For the purposes of this review, any references to gameplay will be based on my experience of the PlayStation 4 version with the game being kindly provided by Ratalaika Games.
If this was my first experience of a Jesse Makkonen game, I'd instantly be a fan of his style, however Heal was my first experience and it got me so curious that I absolutely had to experience Distraint, because I was so intrigued by Jesse's style and Distraint really did not disappoint at all.
In Distraint, you assume the role of a character called Price whose job is to evict people from their homes and reposses properties for one reason or another. I don't really want to say much more than that regarding the plot because I feel this could become too spoilery and I absolutely wouldn't want to detract from anyones experience of Distraint as it really is quite a special find. For a supposedly simple 2D side scroller, this game really packs a punch with a lot of deep symbolism and philosophy. In a very short space of time and despite limited dialogue, there is massive character development and the plot moves along really organically meaning that despite there being minimal story being physically TOLD, the game shows us what it needs to for us to understand what is being conveyed. What I appreciated the most is that a lot of things, rather than being confirmed, were simply inferred to the player and left to their own interpretation. My interpretation of Distraint is this: the majority of the game focuses around Price's day job of repossessing people's properties for various reasons. However there are also sections that can only be described as him realising the guilt within him and realising the cost of his success displayed through areas that might not make much sense compared to the evictions - but with how abstract the whole game is, I don't disbelieve this to be in the realms of possibility. Again, I'm being very cautious of providing spoilers however I thoroughly believe there is more than one interpretation of some of these themes which I believe is very special in such a seemingly short and simple game.
Whilst the game isn't massively scary, the scene, setting and sound effects really create a very creepy, eerie atmosphere that further develops the idea of the depravity that Price feels with his job. Along with this, there are some puzzles but overall I'd say the puzzles were very easy to figure out if you just explore the area and apply some common sense and logic. I found all of the puzzles made complete sense in my head and after examining the various items in an area, the puzzle's answer was clear to me. With that in mind I'd recommend it to most people gameplay wise because it isn't particularly challenging or frustrating and is a very pleasant game to sit and spend a few hours playing just to experience it. It will, however, absolutely not fail at making your brain tick and allows you to focus on the slightly abstract ideas being put forward.
My main criticism of Distraint is that it felt too short. I feel like with the depth of the ideas presented and the amount of thought clearly put into this I really would have appreciated it being a little longer just to develop the story and characters some more, but I suppose that's what sequels are for and I'm really looking forward to play Distraint 2. Distraint left me hungry for more but not as if it was lacking anything, just for my own selfish reasons and enjoyment.
Would I recommend this game? ABSOLUTELY! For a start, at the time of writing, Distraint and Distraint 2 are on offer on Steam for only a few pounds for both of them. If you're looking for a quirky, bizzare puzzler that plays more like a short story with some button pressing involved, I would 100% recommend this. I'm very excited to play Distraint 2 and see where the story goes next and of course, you can expect a review of the second installment too! All I would say is; don't let the art style of Distraint put you off from trying this game out. Games like this generally wouldn't be my preference and I'd likely read reviews and not bother, but this game really has a lot to offer especially if you're a critical thinker who really enjoys a kind of philosophical and abstract experience.
Lj's Rating: 5 out of 5.
Many thanks to Ratalaika Games for the Review Key.