Downfall [Review]

A Look at Downfall and It’s remastered Steam edition.

“Ever feel like heading to a random place to find a relaxing vacation? Then you have come to the right place, come and rent the room at Quiet Haven”, said the commercial announcer on the television screen which gets smashed by an unknown assailant who rampages through Quiet Haven with an axe, screaming like a madman and disappearing within the deserted halls of the hotel.

On June the 16th 2009, Downfall was created by Remigiusz Michalski by using the developer tool Adventure Game Studio. The premise of Downfall is a surreal and psychological horror in which the player takes control of protagonist Joe Davis, who is trying to save his wife with some kind illness and has to solve horrific puzzles that effect his sanity. His mission is to find out what happened to him and his wife whilst exploring the demented and horrific hallways of Quiet Haven. Joe encounters a variety of crazed and demonic characters on his journey, who each did something horrific within the halls of Quiet Haven.

In terms of appearance, the game has basic graphics which are simply hand drawn while the colors are water painted scenes. All the rooms were nicely designed with different colors expressing the mood of each room portrays. Mechanically, all the action in the game is point and click, following the style of the atmosphere and also what the main character was expressing while he came to the room. Almost all the dialog was text with different colors that pretty much revealed who was talking, further demonstrating colors as a tool for emphasis. The music of the game was extremely effective for changes which revealed how much your mind fluctuates from sanity to insanity, serving as a counterpoint to the uncertainty of reality visually.

One of the puzzles had you going using multiple items in a crazy manner. Like one of them where you need to catch a cat and the way of doing that you had to lure it with food and then quickly click on it to capture it but sometimes if you missed it at the first then you have to repeat the progress by using another item bait to lure it in capture it. Puzzles in Downfall were rather unorthodox. For example, tricking an animal to stay still to steal something out of it.

Eventually, Remigiusz Michalski discovered Steam and decided to import it, but realized it couldn’t be done because most of all the original source code was corrupted. Consequently, it was then decided to visually remake the game whilst expanding the depth to the lore itself and balancing the difficulty to puzzles/bosses. With the source code corrupted, it motivated him to take his time on the project, polishing the game more and having Downfall linking to ‘The Cat Lady’ along with others stories he made.

Downfall’s remastered steam edition:

On February the 14th 2016, Remigiusz finally released the redux version of Downfall whereas everything was improved whilst intact to be ported onto Steam.  All the graphics follow the water paintings style higher than heavy hand drawn version of the 2009 version, refining visuals to be less amateur. The main characters were enhanced as extremely detailed and could become covered in gore within certain points of the game: they could finally be affected graphically from their environment.  All the dialog, too, was redone with voice acting as evidence of the nicer production values. Additionally, the unorthodox puzzle solving was redone in a way that it was easier to solve these compared to the previous version, the old puzzles kinda hard to solve because you had pixel hunt for the items and then figure out what are their usage for and sometimes the details of the items were off and many times that the inventory would be hidden and you can’t have access to them. They removed the tense, action orientated boss fights, transforming these into a boss puzzle system whereas the player was required to have certain items to defeat a boss to continue the story, more scripted instead of purely reactive.  Furthermore, the music was revised and remastered by the same person who provided the voice of the main character, Jessie Gunn.

 

Overall: The older version of Downfall had a bunch of backtracking and pixel hunting just to find the items required to solve the puzzles and continue the story. Also, the boss fight/chase scenes were more of a hit and miss. Even though with all these pacing issues from convoluted gameplay, the story was excellent and had a twist at the end. However, the remake had all the improvements to pacing and visuals needed for a better experience: it removed some disturbing puzzles and evolved the boss fight/chase scenes into more a puzzle that required players to think how to approach these. The boss puzzles were superb and disgusting in a way that makes everyone think they were doing it the right way. Do you need to get this game as a remastered edition? I would say yes.