Decarnation, developed by Atelier QDB and published by Shiro Unlimited, takes players to the vibrant setting of Paris in 1990. The game follows Gloria, a cabaret dancer who finds herself at a turning point in her life, grappling with deteriorating relationships, a struggling career, and dwindling self-esteem. However, her fortunes change when she receives an intriguing offer from a mysterious benefactor. Is this proposal her long-awaited lucky break, or something far more sinister?
This game invites players to explore both real and mental environments as you uncover details that shed light on the intricate web of Gloria’s life. The game weaves some heavy themes such as depression, aging, and self-worth into the narrative to create a compelling mosaic of how complex life can be when faced with significant changes.
As you journey through Gloria’s story, Decarnation consistently blurs the line between reality and the subconscious, sometimes leaving the player uncertain about what is truly happening and what is occurring within Gloria’s mind. It evokes a dreamlike quality, reminiscent of waking from a seemingly logical and rational dream only to realise how truly nonsensical it really was upon waking.
The presentation is fantastic! Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame composed the music, injecting both personality and unease into the game. The soundtrack also includes tunes with actual lyrics, performed by Fleur et Bleue in French, adding a unique and memorable touch to the game.
Gameplay is carried out from a top-down RPG style reminiscent of classic 2D titles like Final Fantasy and Pokémon, and the excellent pixel art is reminiscent of late 90s PC gaming. The colourful visuals, juxtaposed with the game’s unsettling themes, create a pervasive sense of unease and dread.
However, while the game offers occasional QuickTime minigames and fairly easy puzzles to solve, the experience is largely linear. Players spend most of their time watching cutscenes and exploring the current area in search of interactive items in order to trigger the next part of the story. It could have been presented in a non-interactive form without losing much.
Those seeking a psychologically haunting experience should look into Decarnation. Its thought-provoking narrative, mesmerising music, and atmospheric pixel art contribute to a captivating journey through Gloria’s troubled world.
3 Stars out of 5
- Fantastic musical score
- Great sprite-art visuals
- Imaginative imagery
- Extremely linear
- Interactive objects can be difficult to trigger