Note: I’m reviewing the recently released iPhone version.
Dying: Sinner Escape could be far more interesting than it actually is. Nekom Entertainment’s game has the perfect premise for a point-and-click horror adventure game: players must use their wits to escape five demented rooms in episodic chunks. But the game lacks terrifying moments, and that means being stuck in a room is as boring as it sounds.
Dying: Sinner Escape has a cool premise that definitely seems appropriate for the creator of Saw. It’s an episodic story divided into the perspectives of five separate characters, each of whom are stuck in a room. The story serves as the carrot on the stick, but I found myself looking forward to it for the wrong reasons. The voice actors are hilariously unconvincing—some screams are literally just “errrrrrs!” For better or worse, it’s not fully voiced. All of the descriptions are done in text, and they usually contain corny jokes that make me cringe–none of it peaked my curiosity. Other noticeable oddities are the mismatched subtitles and dialogue. The subtitles even contain a few noticeable faults; however, it didn’t prevent me from understanding the story. Fair enough that the characters are trying to make light of their dire situation; however, I never felt any tension from their supposedly desperate plights. Rather, I only felt boredom as I remained a moment too long in isolation.
Players can explore the 3D environments to their hearts intent, which in itself is technically impressive. That said, the graphical standards of mobile gaming are constantly on the rise, and Dying: Sinner Escape’s are ultimately generic and muddy. The graphics reflect a strange mixture of Silent Hill and Saw. In some cases I had trouble reading certain letters on the walls or for a couple of crucial room-escaping puzzles (Note: This seems to be exclusive to the iPhone version. The iPad version, as seen on You Tube videos, appears to be brighter). The sound doesn’t provide the tension found in horror games. While it has the standard industrial sounds, Dying: Sinner Escape is on a short loop throughout the entire experience. The noise is more like the background music of a broken record than the beating heart of a nightmare; this is especially true considering how long players will spend time in each of the five rooms. Many will also get tired of being in the same room; however, those who enjoy the room-escape sub-genre may feel at home. At least there are five separate rooms in total.
All characters are stuck in a room, and the characters are only armed with their wits and their environment. There’s no immediate threat, so players can spend all the time in the world trying to claw their way out. Underneath the cheesy lines are key hints that players can use to solve puzzles. Players will also be busy solving things the traditional adventure game way: click on everything until something happens; when that no longer works, take an item and touch everything again. I mean this quite literally as Dying: Sinner Escape only highlights the area you can explore—not the items you can interact with. I thought the puzzles in each of the rooms contrasted between after-thought easy and patience-testing difficult—there was very little middle ground.
Dying: Sinner’s Escape tries to make puzzle-solving interesting by using the iPhone’s capabilities with mixed results. Navigation is accurate but slightly cumbersome. Players will have to use two fingers to look around and one to interact. Players will have to click the move icon with one finger every time they want to go to key areas within the room. While it works, it also feels awkward—I wish they had found a way to do it all with one finger. The other problem is that sometimes tapping will cause your character to observe unintended objects, even in the middle of a puzzle.
Otherwise, Dying will have you shaking your device to get items out of bottles or dragging your fingers to imitate real life actions. At best this leads to some interesting uses of the device such as shaking a bottle in order to get the item inside; at worst it can simply be swiping to turn a chair around; however, it overall adds a somewhat interesting dynamic to the point-and-click formula.
Chances are players will find themselves stuck in the first room for some considerable time before they figure out what to do, unless they make use of the hint system. The trouble is that hints cost money—you’re not going to find any comprehensive guides on the internet, by the way—and players only start with one hint. I used my hint in the first room, and the game told me that I should turn the device to view angles differently. This is a crucial part of the game that should have been part of the standard tutorial—it should not have been a hint. I had assumed that turning the device would only reorient the screen as usual.
Dying: Sinner Escape is missing many of the design choices that today’s point-and-click adventure games use, such as unlimited hints. It also doesn’t have the interesting characters or dialogue that drives motivation, or in this case the tension found in horror games. In the end, only the most hardcore of point-and-click adventure games will enjoy Dying: Sinner Escape.
This review of Dying: Sinner Escape was played on the iPhone.