A GEARVR NEWS GAME REVIEW
Keeping a secret is easy … if you’re dead. And while dead men tell no tales, it should be no secret that game developers Robot Invader know how to tell a good story right up to the end.
The sense of wonder, right from the beginning of this game, rarely leaves you from start to finish. It’s like a good book that way, it’s really hard to put down.
Only, a good book never overheats or runs out of juice like a Smartphone does here in these early days of VR, powered by mobile. A dead battery, not a dead secret, is the only reasons you would stop playing this game once you begin.
It’s fun, but not overly scary, so I don’t imagine many people screaming “no no no!” and throwing off their headset like so many have for Dreadhalls. This is meant to be entertaining, not send you to the hospital for goodness sake!
I really enjoyed being in this creepy house, touching everything, looking around, snooping and getting the skinny on all the people involved. The situation centers around a dead scientist whose brilliant invention could advance all of psychology and give humanity a unique ability.
But someone wants that invention, and you, as the story’s new protagonist, are a journalist who’s come there on your own behalf looking for the story of your career. And you’re going to get it, too, IF you can survive 10-15 hours alone in the victim’s house!
Yet … it’s hard to survive this game without reaching some sort of ending along the way. There are at least 4 multiple endings I’ve discovered already, if not more.
IF … when you die, just load up the game and figure out how to avoid what you did wrong before, and you should be able to progress. I just finished the game (a spooky adventure that took me about 12 hours to complete) and I must say I found its style and atmosphere most refreshing. I’ve not played anything like it before.
It’s not fast paced, there’s no combat mechanic of any kind, so be prepared if that’s not your kind of thing. It’s a “Holmesian” adventure, a regular “who-dunnit” but with a real-world twist: it’s the first mystery-style game for VR using Oculus & Samsung’s shared-mobile GearVR platform.
It gives you the opportunity to just be in a space and experience Presence, to feel the 3D atmosphere in a variety of ways. It does not skimp, either, the 3D aspects are some of the best in the industry to date (for mobile let me be clear, ha). The game is truly 3D, which titles oddly seem all too rare on the so-called VR platform to date, with titles like Gunjack,
Anshar Wars 2, Mortal Blitz, and Bandit 6: Salvo only having limited 3D portions over 2D game play. But Dead Secret is ALL stereoscopic.
Most of the game is centered around solving the over-arching mystery by moving through a dilapidated house (set in the 1960’s) unraveling the puzzles each room is there to challenge you with.
The idea is that you get to be in a unique 3D environment prying around for clues and other hidden surprises; so, in that sense, it’s like a game of “Where’s Waldo” but with the addition of stereoscopic visuals and the ability to interact in many ways with the environment. Now, let’s talk about the fear level of this title….
The game is very creepy at times … but not overly so; for example, it’s nothing like the infamous game Dread Halls. You don’t live on the edge of sheer terror the whole game long, but there are some good scares which are well spaced out so you don’t forget to be wary and learn to tiptoe when you can (a joke).
The scares seem to oscillate back and forth between jump scares and psychological ones. And some of the horror flavor comes directly from the notes, books, journals, newspapers, and monologues your own character gives. In other words, you read the fear into your mind like a good Stephen King novel.
There was a moment where I should’ve been a lot more afraid when I suddenly saw the killer who had come to finally confront me after a lot of empty threats. It wasn’t until the screen turned blood red and I saw the words shaking in front of my eyes “RUN!! RUN!!” that I suddenly realized my mortal danger! Those parts were very thrilling.
The dynamic is that you have to pick a place to hide, because you are a woman with a broken arm and you can’t really defend yourself at this time. In hindsight, one could say you are quite foolish to go poking around a murder scene alone at night with a crippling injury, wholly unable to protect yourself. I guess you really are a hungry kind of snoop who does stupid things. But if you didn’t, there would be no game.
Under these conditions, the game’s premise is not to engage in combat, but to solve a mystery as a real person, a normal person who is frail yet courageous in the face of adversity. You should really be proud of yourself (wink)!
The graphics were detailed in every room, not as rich as a PC obviously, but certainly very well done for a mobile platform. Special care was taken to make each and every block of text you read in the game not only readable, but to place those blocks text at various locations and stylized angles on the walls or along a bookshelf so that everything is highly visible and clear.
An actual effort was made here by the developers to keep the reading parts fresh and not make them feel over used.
All of the words inside your actual inventory screen are readable and crisp. I never had any trouble reading the text in any of the newspapers or books. Occasionally though, without me touching anything, a page would turn on its own, argh! I didn’t like that. Made me nervous, like someone had just turned it for me. Was that some kind of bug, or was it done on purpose to spook you?
On one hand, the GearVR knows where you’re looking, so they could have made it turn the page for you if you looked down at the last word. But did they actually implement something like that? It’s hard to imagine they’d spend time on something that high tech without it being more noticeable throughout the game’s entire process.
I tested my hypothesis and the book did not turn its page when I saw the last word, so it must have just been a glitch. (Queue the creepy music). A g-g-glitch … right?
The feeling of Presence was very high due to the scale of the house and your perspective in it. This really is the best part about the game, the chance to really experience Presence! There are times when you’ll hide in a closet and the scale is so fantastic, you will just marvel at the feeling of being in a cramped space like that.
Or you hide under the bed, you feel the 3D (more accurately: stereoscopic visuals) protruding out at you, covering you, surrounding you. It makes the jump-scares that much more visceral, as you feel the killer is right there, reaching toward you … AaaaaAaahhh!
There were outdoor areas and indoor areas, consistent with each other, and consistent with the geometric spaces of the indoor/outdoor scenes. It felt well mapped out and carefully constructed. The house felt like a real place. It was a place worth visiting, what I mean is it was interesting enough of a place to want to be there.
There are spooky things and there are sciency-things for the geek in all of us, but do keep in mind it was the 1960’s when this story took place. In other words, these are retro-sciency things haha!
I would list all of the cool locations you get to explore, but I feel that the surprise factor of seeing the rooms should be left for you to discover on your own. But … umm… just don’t go into that ONE place … oh my god … hahahaha, just kidding! …. OR AM I?
In Dead Secret, there are a lot of stimulating puzzles, but they aren’t overly hard. A modicum of trial and error solves any one of them if you are persistent. Hint: remember the device you put together in the first room whenever you get stuck in future rooms. Clues are hidden that only this device can uncover.
Plus, all of the documents, tools, and items that you’ve found and/or read are there in your inventory for you to re-read or examine at any time. The puzzles are pretty fair, and if you’re stuck, the game helps you.
The game won’t let you off that easy, though, after each area the Devs want to see if you were paying attention, so the journalist (you) will review her notes. You are asked some questions to answer (like a test), so do pay attention to what you read as you’re going along. It’s more fun to get the answers right because you actually took the time to read the story and enjoy it (you smelled the roses).
Reading the story is a big part of this style of game so if you don’t want to read anything, then this game is not for you. Don’t spoil the fun of the adventure by blowing past the letters and notes that tell the story and help you understand what may have happened there.
!! WARNING !! !! BELOW THIS LINE ARE SOME SPOILERS YOU MAY NOT WANT TO SPOIL!!! !!CAUTION!!
There is one big flaw in this title, however, a secret bad enough that the game designers would want to keep … a dead secret! Without spoiling anything detail-wise about the actual ending of this game, it seems that there are multiple possible endings, at least four, denoted by which mask the killer from your game chooses to take off the wall to chase you around with. And there multiple suspects with equally strong motives.
So, with everyone a suspect, anyone could be the killer.
And every time you play it from the start, you could potentially be in for a different game. (Devs confirmed this was not true, there’s only one actual killer.)
You will never know who the killer really is until you arrive at the game’s conclusion and choose for yourself from four masks. You don’t have to support your answer, but if you’re wrong, you die. But… you can just reload and try another mask until you find the killer. So who do you think it was that killed the scientist?
It ultimately doesn’t matter, because it can be anyone depending on what random killer the game assigns. You aren’t there to actually solve a murder, it seems, but just solve its well-thought-out puzzles so you can finish the game.
I would’ve really liked to have seen that classic “summing-up of the crime” to definitely know what really happened. In this game, we never get to know what really happened, we can only guess after we choose who the killer is. And we’re never going to be the one who actually solved the murder, because you don’t get to think about it or solve it. You just arrive and make your choice.
This has some serious disadvantages, in that it doesn’t require any thinking to solve the mystery. (Or maybe, um … maybe that’s a good thing?) If you are wrong, you can just reload and go and take another Final Path. You’ll get to see meet the killer as long as you reload.
And since there is no actual re-capping of the murder (the hallmark of every good mystery show) to explain to you what happened, you are left feeling dazed by the outcome. You never feel you genuinely Sherlocked the true motivations for yourself, never pieced together the clues, or solved any mystery at all.
The ending was not explained or explored. This game’s not really about the end, unlike most mysteries. It’s important you know that going in, I think. “But … why did they do things this way,” you ask? Maybe the developers didn’t have time to formulate a true solution. Maybe they were afraid someone would spoil the game by giving away the murderer? Or maybe they were trying to give the game re-play value, by making it open-ended in this way?
Why do you think they did things this way? But by not making you personally think out who the true killer is, there was no “aha” moment. The end felt hollow and pointless. It falls on its face. You don’t feel you actually solved a mystery, all you can claim is that you solved all of the game’s puzzles or you wouldn’t have reached the end.
But … because this comes at the end of the game, a game I had so much fun playing the whole way, oddly, I can’t think of a reason to include this bad-ending situation into the scoring process. It wouldn’t be fair to all the fun I had along the way.
I often feel that too many people are in a hurry to get to the end of things these days, to feel they accomplished something, to tick off the dots on their endless lists, that they rarely smell the roses along the way. Life is meant to be lived, and this game is a fun example of that ideal in condensed form. The ending can’t detract from the overall power of this title, and you don’t have to actually die to learn such an important lesson. It certainly didn’t ruin the game at all. The fun was all in the getting there.
So, in essence, this is not really a mystery game, but a puzzle game. When you solve all of the puzzles, you simultaneously solve the murder and find out who did it (for your randomized game).
But you never find out exactly how it all went down. That mystery is preserved, maybe for when you play through it the second time, who knows?
All I know is I liked the game well enough to have another crack at in half a year when its secrets are once again … dead ones.
I’m curious as to who ends up being the killer next time I do!
DEAD SECRET IS THE MUST-BUY GAME OF 2015 !
UPDATE!: I was just contacted by Robot Invader, the game’s developers, who stated:
“There is only one killer that can be discovered from piecing together the game’s clues. If you study the clues, you can pick out the killer the first time. There is no random-game randomized-killer aspect as your article suggests.” — ROBOT INVADER January 20th, 2016.
Well, there you have it, folks! You can solve the murder by reading things carefully, so take your time, study the clues, read all the journals and notes and see if you can guess who it is.
I chose the character who I liked the least as a person and I ended up being right the first time! I thought the game designers just tricked me by letting me think I’d solved it by just agreeing that the first one I clicked will be the right one.
I really didn’t think I knew who it was, but it turns out I had. I guess my subconscious was picking up on everything I read and on some of the strange things this … particular person had done which let me know it was …. them.
(Ha! You thought I’d mess up, use a pronoun and give it all away, didn’t you?) (WINK)