Deliriant Game Review

Deliriants are defined as a class of hallucinogen. The term was introduced by David F. Duncan and Robert S. Gold to distinguish these drugs from psychedelics and dissociatives, such as LSD and ketamine respectively, due to their primary effect of causing delirium, as opposed to the more lucid states produced by such other hallucinogens as are represented by psychedelics and dissociatives [1].

This would have been nice to know before delving into the world of Deliriant (PS4) although, to be fair, it still doesn’t explain much…

In any case, Deliriant falls into the walking simulator category. You wander around a house and inspect various items and attempt to discern what’s going on based on what you pick up. The game gives off Gone Home vibes, but with less charm and exposition.

Deliriant was developed and published by Manic Interactive LLC. Manic Interactive LLC is composed of a group of students and Deliriant was created as part of their thesis. The game was built from the ground up and strives to be abstract and have a somber tone. The game is a bit too abstract in my opinion, but I digress.

deliriant2

Story

Here’s my take at the story… There isn’t one. You play as a nameless protagonist and pick things up as you explore a house. Given the tchotchkes, decorations, and wallpaper, you realize that you’re either in a very outdated house or in the 1960’s/1970’s.

The walls will begin to flash different colors, and even move, as you examine the items throughout the house. After you’ve looked at enough things, a hole opens up where you begin the game. Once you go into the hole you walk down some makeshift stairs to find a bunch of doors. You enter a door and you’re back at the title screen.

The PSN store page offers a bit more on the confusing narrative:

Deliriant is a brief narrative experience that takes a subtle approach to the exploration of serious topics like abuse, coping mechanisms, and familial relationships. Play as the mother of a family of four, discovering the spaces you’ve carved out for yourselves, the belongings that you cherish, and what that says about each of you [2].”

While that may have been what the developers were going for, I did not have that experience at all. Also, I would not have even known I was playing as a mother while playing through this game. There’s no exposition to tell us one way or the other.

deliriant3.jpg

Gameplay

As I mentioned previously, the game is a walking simulator. Gameplay is very similar to games like Gone Home and Ether One. You walk around the house and pick up items with the X button. You can rotate the items by using the analog stick. In terms of gameplay, it’s actually really hard to turn the items while holding them. Typically, you can’t move while holding certain items, but there are a few you can carry around. As far as I know, there’s no reason to carry an item around.

Critique

The store page states that the more you pay attention to this game the more you will understand but I’m not sure where it begins to become clearer to the player. Nothing is explained in the game and there’s no dialogue.

In a better walking simulator, Gone Home for example, the story unravels as the player searches the house. A lot of the items that the player picks up adds something to the backstory. With Deliriant, you pick up an item and look at it then put it down. There’s no dialogue that says, “This is what this item means to your character.”

Referring back to the synopsis on the store page:

Environmental Storytelling – The environment evolves as a character and drives the story through player interaction. As you explore, the home will place its own significance, reacting to your presence in lieu of its residents [2].”

I’m not entirely sure what the developers meant by this, but the only thing the environment does is change colors as you look at things. I believe this is supposed to indicate that the protagonist is delirious but, again, without dialogue it’s hard to infer.

deliriant4

I neglected to mention this in the story section, but you begin the game in a completely white environment. I don’t know who decided to start the player in a completely white environment, but it made for a frustrating first couple of minutes of my trying to reorient my character and find my way out.

All the player has to do is turn right to escape the white room, but why not start the player facing the door? This scene seems unnecessary; unless there’s some meaning behind it that I’m not understanding. Once the player turns right, they can approach a door and enter the house. The transition from the white room to the house is flawless as well. It is literally a jump cut from white to wallpaper.

The game is fairly nonlinear, given that there isn’t much of a story to begin with. You don’t even have to explore the entire house to complete the game. There are probably specific items that you have to look at but it wasn’t well called out.

The ending sequence is pretty surreal. You walk through a hole in the wall and enter a dark void where broken objects form steps. Once at the bottom, you’re presented with a bunch of doors you can go through. Take any door at the end to finish the game. There’s no ending dialogue or cutscene… It just takes you back to the title screen.

One thing I’ll say is that the graphics don’t disappoint. The house décor is definitely spot on for the time period it’s supposed to be set in.

deliriant5.jpg

Verdict

While I believe walking simulators are typically fun, they can still be poorly made. Case and point, this game. If this was truly an “experimental narrative” game, then I’m sorry to say that the experiment was not a success. I’m all for trying something different, but dialogue would have really been helpful before the game started and when picking up items.

I give Deliriant 1 hard to rotate object out of 5.

References
[1] Duncan, D. F., and Gold, R. S. (1982). Drugs and the Whole Person. New York: John Wiley & Sons

[2] PSN Store page: https://store.playstation.com/en-us/product/UP3295-CUSA07687_00-DELIRIANTPS4FULL

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: