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'Morningstar' and 'Decay: The Mare' are snack-sized games bursting with point-and-click nostalgia

Hayden Dingman | Feb. 24, 2015
This weekend I took a break from big-budget, explosion fare to dig through the backlog of indie games we've accumulated since the start of the year. I wanted something small and easily consumable, and two titles stood out--Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock and Decay: The Mare.

It's not helped by the production value. The game was clearly intended for phones and tablets, as far as I can tell. The textures and objects are rather low-resolution, and worse is a terrible grain and depth-of-field filter thrown over the top. Everything looks smudged and blurry, which is a huge pain in the ass when you're trying to figure out which objects in a scene are interactive.

Moving around is also clumsy. The game doesn't make good use of mouse/keyboard, instead featuring navigation straight out of an old HyperCard stack (i.e. Myst). Moving forward involves clicking on specific points in the scene, but you can also turn side-to-side or turn around completely through the use of arrows on the side of the screen. Or you can sort-of use the arrow keys to turn around, but moving forward still requires you to click which makes that method pretty pointless.

Location-based movement can actually be really useful for people who don't play a lot of first-person games, but in order for it to work you need it to be clear where the player is looking at all times. Decay: The Mare's environments are easy to get lost in, which can make moving around more of a chore than initially expected. The game also doesn't bother to orient you correctly when leaving rooms sometimes, meaning you might leave a room and find yourself outside staring at the door to go back in. This makes it even more difficult to figure out where you're going.

Oh, and there's a damn maze in the middle of the game. Again, I beg of you game developers: Stop putting mazes in your games. They're never appreciated! Especially when they're as tedious as the one in Decay: The Mare.

It's a shame because, as I said, I think Shining Gate could do something fantastic with an actual budget. The studio has the same sort of knack for atmosphere that I credit Frictional (Amnesia series) and Red Barrels (Outlast) with — the difference being that Frictional and Red Barrels are making much more extensive and impressive games.

Bottom line: If you're desperate for a short, atmospheric horror game — after all, we don't get a ton of those — you could consider checking Decay: The Mare out. I don't think you'll be satisfied though. There's not much to shock you here either in terms of scares or the game itself.

 

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