DEVELOPER: Oasis Games
REVIEW PLATFORM: PS4
It's always nice when an "M" rated game plops into my lap. Not so much the idea that I'm about to view a game with mature content, but more the idea of what made it mature. Did the game company go out of their way to make something that pissed off the ERSB crew, or are they simply looking at a game like a bunch of prudes and decided that it needed an extra hurdle to get into the market. You never quite know what kind of experience you're about to receive. This time around I received the latest from Oasis Games, the PSVR/PS4 title DYING: Reborn.
The game puts you in the role of a kidnapped victim who has been put in a Saw -like situation, where you're trapped inside what appears to be a torture room, but your life isn't in immediate threat. There's an ever-lurking foe with a demonic fish head mask on that has been setting up challenges for you in what appears to be the weirdest design of a hotel ever. Your job is simple: find what you need to solve the puzzles and get the hell out (while also locating a woman named Shirley) before this dude finds a way to kill you in the worst escape room you'll ever play.
DYING: Reborn itself is jump-scare central. Out of nowhere, you'll encounter things like cages dropping down through the ceiling and loud noises coming at you as if you're about to be attacked. Its all designed to throw you off your game, most of what happens doesn't really affect how you get out, it's more of how it affects you. I admit, some caught me way off guard and did the job, but a lot of them were just tacky and felt like they were trying too hard to get my attention. The puzzles in the game are your primary focus as you'll need to go through variations of classics to get through the maze that awaits.
Some of them are relatively easy. One is a piano with a weird piece of sheet music in front asking you to play 14 notes. When you stand back, you get a better picture of what you must do to crack the code. Others create a hassle for you trying to put together what they mean. One of these is a red box with a word puzzle attached that requires you to put in a very specific code, and not knowing what you're looking for can lead to a long amount of gameplay. I'm also confused as to why there's an "M" rating on this game, because aside from damp floors, rotting walls and some blood on the carpet, there's nothing in this game that would warrant that kind of rating. I feel cheated.
The things that really kill the game are the graphics and the execution. I realize that this is a AAA title and it could use a little bit of love no matter who put it out, but it's the little things that make me cringe. If I wipe away dirt off something, it just instantly vanishes like I'm playing an old-school CD-ROM game. Objects that appear in a flash simply come from areas without holes or access. Sometimes you'll encounter a TV with a silhouette of a person that you can clearly tell is on a 10-second repeat. There's just too many elements to the game's graphics and sound that make me want to ask a developer "Really? You couldn't take an extra two weeks on this?" I'm more horrified at the way it looks than how it plays.
DYING: Reborn is okay at best. The puzzles will give people who enjoy modern escape rooms a lot of joy, but it's layered in too much faulty gameplay and design to make it feel cool. The game has a lot of great intentions but it seems to fall short at a couple hurdles. Worse yet, I feel privileged to get a regular PS4 copy, as it apparently came to light on forums that the VR copy is missing parts of the story—which means they took elements out to give you a VR experience, and that just sucks for people looking to be immersed in the game. The game will find its audience, but there's no way you can recommend this to an average gamer and not expect them to gripe about how it looks and how it plays out.