by Robert Fenner
Get it on Steam
From Silent Hill, to Corpse Party, to WhiteDay, horror games set within schools--whether exclusively or partially--are fairly well represented. If one were to simply look at Red Candle Games' debut Detention, one may think, unique art style notwithstanding, that the game would fit easily into this category, in which an everyday space is transmuted into a nightmare. And they could not be more wrong.
What puts Detention head and shoulders above its contemporaries is its setting, and by extension, its message. Set in 1960s Taiwan in the midst of the White Terror, Detention tells the story of Wei and Fang, two students who've found themselves trapped within Greenwood High School following a typhoon warning. The player is tasked with helping these two find a way out, but as the situation progresses, the solutions to progress require crueler and crueler actions. Although fairly linear, Detention asks just how far its characters will go to achieve their goals.
I admit I did not know much about Taiwan's history nor the White Terror before I had played Detention, but the story presented an informative and easy to follow portrait of a country under extreme nationalism; a place in which those who do not tow the party line--even if this means something as innocuous as reading the "wrong" literature--are punished severely. While you may think I am suggesting that the horror of Detention comes from the nightmare of life under a repressive regime, this is only partially true: the real horror of Detention comes from the observation of how ordinary citizens behave within such environments, and how easy it is to twist an already-twisted situation to achieve one's desires at the expense of others.
Detention is quick, sad, and one of the best horror games of 2017.