Distraint is a psychological horror game by Jesse Makkonen, about a mid twenties guy called Price who works as a debt collector which is never explicitly stated, he just works at a firm which expropriates properties from people for redevelopment purposes and the game's all about the guilt that comes with having that kind of a job.
There's the greed for a bigger and better position and more money, then there's the guilt and disappointment of how low a person can get. Although as other reviewers have posted here, "the how low a person can get" does sound a little flawed, I mean, it's not his fault, he's doing nothing evil, he's just doing what his bosses tell him to do and that is collecting debt, he even tries to help out the people he's collecting the debt from. Morality is a bit confusing in this aspect I suppose, but then again that's what the developer was trying to go for.
At first, the art style was a bit weird and wonky for me, but then after like half an hour, I really liked it and felt that that kind of animation lent better quality to particular situations and works really well for a psychological horror movie.
The story's pretty basic, kinda like a movie even, it was really something new for someone like me who doesn't play a lot of indie games. Also, I'm not a big fan of horror, no movies, no games, no shows and the only experience is with Outlast for a couple of hours so it was like an entirely new thing for me.
I went in expecting dumb jump scares, and the game did, in fact, feature a couple of jump scares (not from an FPS perspective) but it was bearable because they were sparingly used. Overall, this kind of story can only be seen in the Indie scene, that's for sure. The story's a bit short so people might feel like they're not getting their money's worth. Also, people who are well acquainted with the psychological horror genre probably will not find it up to the mark. Works well enough for me though. All in all, even though the story was cliched and by cliched I mean predictable, it was entertaining because I haven't really seen this kind of a story in any of the very few horror movies I've watched and games I've played.
Onto the characters then, the characters are well... weird, this is a segment where even I can acknowledge that the characters are not that well made. At one moment, Price's moral compass is like I want to do this and the next moment it's like "Ah, f*** it, I'll just do this instead" and that'd be understandable if there were some valid motivation but Price just does it at random. Mrs. Goodwin is the best in-game character, in my opinion, at least she stays consistent and her motivations are understandable. The firm owners are just stereotyped as evil characters with nothing unique about them and that sets them apart, the other house owners are just not given enough "screen time". I'm really not sure how I feel about Price's Parents, they are OK I suppose, they provide Price with motivation to leave this life, which is all dandy and fine, but then again, they too suffer from inconsistency at times, not as much as Price himself though maybe it's hereditary or something.
The gameplay was alright, it's like a point-and-click game like The Walking Dead, except you're using the regular WASD controls and just randomly using items to solve arbitrary puzzles, hell, I think even the developer acknowledges it and that's why the Steam Achievements have some of these, "try to use arbitrary item X on Y" kind of theme. Some of the "puzzles" are fun when you can see the logic in them but some are just dumb and nonsensical and take too much time. Maybe it is just my lack of experience with puzzle and adventure games, however. I didn't refer to a guide but the game was annoying at a certain point, so that may lead to people just abandoning the game. Another thing, the game's got a number of spelling and grammatical mistakes which are forgivable in my opinion, but I just wanted to point that out.
Now, the soundtrack, any good horror themed media needs a good soundtrack and boy does this one deliver, I loved it. It was the best part of the game from a critical point of view. It does the highs and lows pretty well, although I do wonder if it counts as lazy design if the music is what makes the game "horror". The sound of silence is used to good effect too. All in all, the sounds were great enough for me.
This is like the sidenotes section of the review - I can't believe that this game was made in just 3 months, I mean that's just brilliant. Kudos to the developer. Also, the end credits scene where it's like a personal note from the developer to us, I thought that was cool. Despite only taking 3 months to build, the game's got a heart, you feel for Price and don't really care about all the character design at the moment. It's only on retrospection that one realizes that "Yeah, that part was weird, why did he do that?" and all that stuff.
I bought it on sale and it was worth every penny. The duration of the game and the sale price of the game kinda balance themselves out in that aspect I suppose. It's on sale frequent number of times, so do buy it. It isn't worth the top accolade but it is certainly out there. Distraint is a fine horror game which will keep you hooked with Price's adventures.