I just had the pleasure of playing Distraint 2 on the Switch and having stayed up last night to finish it, I felt it was appropriate to put out a review piece.
The ‘2’ in the title suggests that it’s a sequel, and embrace yourself for the shock: it is.
However, I’d never heard of it before, and it was a typical eShop encounter of playing through trailers, looking at prices – that sort of thing, that I picked it up and glad I did.
Distraint 2 Switch Review
We’ll skip over the previous title for the obvious reason that I haven’t seen it, but more importantly, you don’t need to have played it before playing this. I will be seeking it out, though.
The story begins with ‘The Death Of A Salesman’. You play Price, a man who has seemingly sold out for material gains, in the process selling others out too – mostly out of their homes.
He makes countless people homeless through doing his job, but in that crowd of faceless numbers, an elderly lady is a catalyst for his downfall. Price has a tremendous amount of guilt and can’t handle it anymore, so attempts to take his own life by sticking a shotgun in his mouth.
And this is the prologue.
Cue a limbo-like realm which could have been taken from a Neil Gaiman novel, with characters such as Reason, Greed and Comfort who all play an important part for Price’s self-discovery.
What would be the perfect vehicle for being preachy and teaching morales, instead is quite an unsettling, but a hard-hitting story that is both poignant and edifying.
I’d like to add something pithy, but Distraint 2 was brilliant. Hold on, I’ve got a few more words to add!
The visual choice is excellent. It features a grain-like filter (that is adjustable) but is almost entirely in a letterbox ratio. Don’t ask me the numbers, but it isn’t 16:9.
I wasn’t entirely convinced of the character design at first as they did have the appearance of potatoes in wigs. Still, the expressions on their faces capture moments of anguish and joy, that I soon forgot about the comparison.
While I’m getting this all out of my system, the dialogue irritated me for the first two minutes. Not because of the way it was written (in fear of sounding like Wayne Campbell from Wayne’s World, it was also excellent), but the voiceover is gibberish – much like Lydia.
Considering the mood of the narrative, this was offputting, but again, my attention promptly shifted and instead, I was listening to the fantastic score.
I always struggle to describe music without jabbering on over-enthusiastically, but it’s a very eerie ambience that I get a troublesome kick out of. Similar to the soundtrack in Creepy Tale. There’s this ever-looming feeling of fear and uncertainty, and I love it. If my imagination got too overwhelming, I could switch the game off, unlike real life.
The cast of characters, locations from Price’s past and the ominous soundtrack create a hellish environment that encourages further exploration.
Life Off The Rails, Game On Them
The level of difficulty in Distraint 2 is relatively minimal as puzzles are intuitive, and backtracking comes naturally.
Each setting is contained by the empowering shadows to the sides of the screen: if you stray off too far, it’s absolute darkness and a peculiar sound fills your earholes until you head back.
Anything that can be fiddled with or looked at will show up on the screen, so it’s practically impossible to miss anything in the game, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t die or struggle with the odd puzzle.
Some of the puzzles were really enjoyable, such as the classic tile sliders and rotating and resizing images to make a bigger picture. There will be times when you need to input a code here and there, but it’s not the type of game you need to be taking notes.
Fortunately, the focus is on the story, and I finished it in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed it. Without any spoilers, there were a few borderline corny moments, but when I thought about it afterwards, there were no ways of avoiding it, and in retrospect, they were handled really well.
Like any decent book or film, it’s the aftertaste that sometimes matters. With respect, Distraint 2 isn’t layered with unanswered questions, but it does encourage thoughts about our own lives. Or maybe that’s just me?
I always listened in school assemblies to the morals that were immediately ignored by the rest of the pupils, but they’re there to make us think and be aware of our surroundings.
Guilt and self-doubt are two of the most horrible things you can endure that are inflicted by you and you only. Without going down that rabbit hole as this site isn’t trying to be clever, Distraint 2 explores these states beautifully, and it’s an apt time for me to admire the talents of Jesse Makkonen.
I’m always in awe of individuals or small teams dedicated to getting their creations out into the wild as there’s bound to be at least one like-minded individual that shares the sentiment. Fortunately, this series already has justified support and I, for sure, will be wearing my membership badge from now on.