As an indie horror film director myself, I’ve been weaned on a lifelong diet of horror films, all the way from the 50s on up to around the early 90s, when the vast majority of them started becoming crappy. Even though there was the original version of The Thing back in the 50s, it was the 80s version (starring Kurt Russell) that really blew me away. Forget about the most recent, third film, which of course had to have a female protagonist replace Mr. Russell as the lead, and everyone had to endure watching her shamble around with a surprised look (mouth perpetually agape) on her face throughout the entire disaster of a film.
In fact, I’d count the 80s version of The Thing among my top five all-time favorite horror films. So it should come as no surprise that when I first learned of an indie game developer which was making a survival horror game “inspired” by that film, I was really looking forward to it. I began following its progress, but was careful not to watch much video of it, since I wanted my experience playing it to be as raw as possible. Well lo and behold, that game—titled Distrust—is upon us.
I fired the Distrust up as soon as I got my grubby little mitts on it, and was immediately impressed with its art-style. It also featured a handy tutorial that I dove straight into in order to learn its basic mechanics. I liked the fact that they weren’t too hand-holdy like many other games these days. For instance, although they do hint at ways that you can fix certain pieces of equipment, you have to actually play the game in order to figure out how to use tools in order to perform repairs. But the real test of a game—especially a survival horror title—is in its first play-through.
The backstory of Distrust details a remote arctic research base that has suddenly gone dark. In order to find out what’s going on with the place, a search and rescue team is dispatched via helicopter. The chopper, of course, goes down. Luckily however, it doesn’t crash-land too far from the research base.
The beginning of the game seemed promising enough. You guide the two people who survived the helicopter crash up to the base, and start searching through each of the buildings on its premises—in my game’s case about nine in all. I remember entering my very first building and wondering if there was some sort of slimy alien creature waiting for my survivors. I could imagined that it could have been hiding in one of the building’s rooms, just waiting to spring upon them. All that was actually in the building was a tool and a candy bar.
I entered the next building, and found a little more food as well as some notes about some sort of mysterious anomaly that the research team had discovered. It looked like a floating basketball. I thought to myself—that’s probably just some minor type of enemy creature, the developers must be saving the real scary ones for later in the game.
By the fifth or so building, I noticed that my survivors were growing a little tired. So, I backtracked to one of the buildings which contained a broken bed and quickly fixed it. After repairing the bed, I promptly plopped my most exhausted survivor down on the bed and waited for something bad to happen. What little I knew about the game included something about having to watch your more weary survivors when they sleep, since something could infiltrate them as they lie there snoring away.
I noticed that a bunch of floating lights buzzed around in the room while my survivor slept, and wondered what was going to happen. Suddenly, a large, glowing orb appeared outside of the building. Some earlier notes stated that these things were sensitive to light, and so made sure the building’s generator was fueled up sufficiently enough to keep the lights on.
Since the lights were on, the orb merely buzzed around the building for a little bit, and then shot back off into the snowy darkness. Again, I imagined that some sort of grotesque, shambling entity would appear at some point, and scare the bejesus out of me. So, I plodded on through the game, careful to keep a beady eye on my survivor’s hunger, cold resistance, and tiredness ratings.
Nothing of the sort ever came.
When I’d finally realized that the one and only types of antagonists were a bunch of floating light balls, I felt a big letdown. Not only were they not scary or frightening in the least, but they quickly became a nuisance more than anything else. Now you may thing that this was a game-breaking deal, but it really wasn’t. I still think that Distrust can be fun as a survivor-management experience, but it’s surely not survival horror one, at least in my opinion. That is, of course, unless some folks out there are frightened by glowing basketballs.
What I do appreciate about Distrust is its novel sleep deprivation mechanic, and wish that we’d see more of this sort of thing in survival games, in general. Becoming tired and worn out is one of the greatest enemies that a survivor can face in real life, because their reaction time becomes slower, their hand to eye coordination gets sluggish, and so on.
While I appreciate Distrust’s interesting concept, i.e. an isolated base and a small group of survivors controlled from an isometric, top-down perspective, I really wished that it had delivered a much more horrific antagonist/entity. Perhaps they still will in a future patch.
Distrust features great graphics that make its survival theme come alive. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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