๐ŸŽญ๐ŸŽŽ Dollhouse - PS4 - REVIEW - "A Dollhouse that needs more than a lick of paint" ๐ŸŽŽ๐ŸŽญ #GameDev #IndieGame

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Game Title: Dollhouse
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Rating: Melted

I first came across Dollhouse a couple of weeks ago when Faye and I watched the trailer on YouTube, it was atmospheric, intriguing, mysterious and completely drew me. 
In short, it was everything that the actual game isn’t.
The premise puts you in the shoes of 1940’s detective/femme fatale Marie. Following an introduction sequence that sets a film noir tone not really carried through to the gameplay itself, you begin in a workroom where the gameplay and controls are explained to you through a tutorial that covers the basics before you are thrown into the full game itself.

Marie has lost her memories and needs to traverse series a labyrinthine maze looking for memory canisters in order to unlock the exit to the next section all the while avoiding not only environmental traps and mannequins but ‘It’, the large, doll-like main pursuer and antagonist of the game.

Dollhouse appears to take its cues from several titles, the main premise of wandering around an area, picking up items in order to proceed whilst being pursued by an unrelenting enemy, especially in the way this is presented in-game is reminiscent of Slender Man: The Lost pages. The ability to see through your attacker’s eyes (when the upgrade is unlocked) reminded me of the Siren series (this is probably the most effective and unsettling part of the game)and the use of a camera flash to stun and defeat enemies is straight out of Project Zero. Not to mention there is a surprising amount of seemingly in-depth item, event, memory and collectable screens in the in-game menus which log your progress.

The main problem with all of the above is that all the gameplay features and inventory screens feel like they give the illusion of depth. The game boils down to walking around repetitive, procedurally-generated mazes looking for fragments of your memory to piece together in order to open the door to the next section. 

The heavy Noir atmosphere of the trailers and introduction sequence isn’t really present in the game itself with the music being replaced by ambient sounds as you walk around the mazes (which feel like corridors that open up into square rooms, there’s no  sense of design or relationship in the locations, they ‘feel’ randomly generated, if that makes sense) picking up charges for your camera flash, health kits and the memories themselves.

The horror element is there, that sense of being constantly pursued by a predator that could be anywhere at any time but when you get caught, escape is almost impossible and you need to retrace your footsteps back to your corpse to regain your items. The abilities that you can unlock almost feel like sprinklings on the cake as opposed to intrinsic requirements to aid you on your quest. 

The mannequins that make up the main bulk of the enemies only move when you aren’t looking at them which is initially creepy but quickly turns silly when you look over your shoulder or turn around to see a load of them piled up behind you in strange poses. There’s also a weird glitch where they DO occasionally move as you walk past them, but it doesn’t feel creepy, it just feels unfinished.
Dollhouse is a hard game to recommend to anyone, especially at the full price it’s being sold at. The lack of polish in the way that, when I pressed ‘O’ to get out of the menu screens, it turned on my flashlight when I return to the game and how poorly the mechanics and story are explained combined with the basic nature of gameplay itself feels like a Steam early access title, not a full-price PS4 game, this isn’t helped by the mixture of browns and greys that make up the main palette of the game, it’s not a visually inviting title.

If you are a horror enthusiast and still fancy a crack at Dollhouse, please ensure that you watch actual gameplay footage as opposed to the trailers as they really don’t reflect what you are getting. 
I was looking forward to Dollhouse but, unfortunately, it’s a tough one to recommend and as the issues are the main mechanics, it’s not something that can be patched up.

Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

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