- Developed by Warp
- Published by Acclaim
- Released for:
- 3DO– 1995 (NA/JP)
- Saturn– 1995 (NA/JP)
- Playstation– 1995 (NA/JP)
- MS-DOS– 1996 (NA/JP)
Happy Halloween Lytherus readers! For this week’s retro review I chose one of the older horror games I have in my collection: D. D was made by Warp and the brainchild of the mad genius, Kenji Eno. First released in Japan for the 3DO in 1995, it was soon ported to other systems such as the Sega Saturn and the Playstation. D was pretty successful in Japan but failed to gain popularity in the United States. Today, D is a cult hit like the rest of Kenji Eno’s games and an experience worth trying.
Richter Harris is the Director of a Los Angeles hospital. He is a quiet and respectable man until one day he snaps and goes on a murderous rampage, barricading himself in the hospital shooting all of the staff and patients he comes across. The news soon spreads to Richter’s daughter , Laura, and she rushes to the hospital to see what is going on. The police at the scene decide to send her inside as an attempt to calm down her father and try to persuade him to surrender. Laura enters the hospital to find the bloodied path her father left, and just as she begins her search, a mysterious shadow approaches her and she is soon warped to a twisted castle with a impossible layout. She must find her way to her father in this castle that represents his mind and solve the riddles of his madness and secrets locked away in her mind.
D is a seek-and-solve type of game that plays a lot like the classic PC puzzler, Myst. While trapped in the twisted castle, you must explore and solve various puzzles to find your father and solve the mystery of why he went insane. You progress through this eerie realm by moving the protagonist Laura through a first person view. Tap the direction button and Laura will movie down a pre-determined path for a little bit until you reach intersections where you can choose a new direction you want to go. For example, at one end of a hall, tap forwards. Laura will move until she reaches a split in the hallway or an object/fixture of interest. Basically, you are moving through the castle on rails.
When you reach a point of interest you can pick up items and examine spaces/objects like dressers and desk drawers. The items you pick up are either things like keys that let you advance through the eerie castle or tools to solve puzzles. Typically when examining something, a little scene will pop up either giving you a scare, a hint of what you are supposed to do next, or initiate a puzzle.
Most of the puzzles aren’t too hard and with a little luck and intelligence most players shouldn’t have trouble solving them… except for one. There is one puzzle halfway through the game that is just plain annoying. It takes forever and feels unnecessary. A quick trip to GameFAQS when you reach it will save you a lot of grief. You can’t take too long to explore every little thing you please in D. You have two hours to beat the game and you can’t pause or save.
As you progress through the game you might find some glowing beetles. If Laura approaches one of the four beetles hidden through the game she will uncover hidden memories that hint at the meaning of her father’s madness. And if you feel like you are stuck, Laura has a magic compact in her inventory that can show you up to five hints of how to progress.
WARNING: If you really want to play this game, I advise not watching many long gameplay video clips other than the one below. It really ruins the suspense
D was the very first all CGI game, and while it must have looked good for the time period in which it was released, the visuals haven’t aged well. Video playback tends to be a little bit grainy, but not enough to be distracting or annoying. Laura tends to be unexpressive and moves about her surroundings awkwardly, and the “gory” or “graphic” scenes look really fake nowadays. The environments hold up considerably better. The level of detail for almost every room of the castle is respectable. Most of the rooms on the first disk have a lot in them like small statues, bookcases, and elaborate furniture. All the rooms you venture into do their part in making a tense, edge-of-your-seat uncomfortable atmosphere.
It’s not just one thing that keeps D’s game-world engaging to today’s gaming audience either, it’s several little things. For me it was the way that the rooms were lit so you never were sure of what was in there with you unless you approached it. Also, whenever you stopped anywhere in the castle, you never really got a good look or sense of your surroundings because of how the game movement is on rails.[cincopa AEEAJsKB8j-h]
The sounds in D is surprisingly well done for a game this old. It is very involved in setting up the creepy atmosphere. The soundtrack, is excellent, but minimalist. For most of the game, you are walking around in silence except for the sound of footsteps against hard stone or the creaking groan of a drawer or door. It is this lack of ambient sound that drives home the sense of isolation the director, Kenji Eno was trying to achieve. When you do hear music it is usually creepy piano tunes flowing through scenes as you investigate an area or approach a puzzle, or chaotic strings when Laura is in danger.
The only voiced character is Laura’s father, and his acting is pretty bad. At first I was going to knock off points for this, but then I started thinking. Most games with voice-over before 1998(ish) are terribly acted, so I decided to let it slide. At least it’s just one occasional voice that’s poorly done instead of a whole cast of horrible actors with crappy dialog. (Lookin’ at you Resident Evil.)
Replay/difficulty/how it’s aged
While D is an interesting, atmospheric, and creepy game, It really hasn’t aged too well. The controls are clunky. It’s hard sometimes to figure out to how to do simple things like control a puzzle or find out which railed pathway to take to get across a room. This can be frustrating at times. The overall difficulty of D isn’t that hard, except for the puzzle I mentioned earlier and the clunky controls that suck up time. Remember, you only have two hours to beat the game, so these little nuisances are a bigger deal than they would be in some other games. D has very little replay value. Once you play it once or twice, you’ve done and seen all there is to it. But, if you enjoyed it enough to play it a second time, chances are you will play it again for the tense atmosphere and feelings of isolation.