Distraint. Noun. Defined as “the seizure of someone’s property in order to obtain payment of money owed, especially rent,” according to Oxford Dictionary.
For Mr. Price, the business of distraint becomes all too immoral.
Developed independently by 29-year-old Jesse Makkonen of Finland and published for PC by Winterveil Studios Oy, Distraint is a 2-D psychological horror point-and-click adventure. It was released by Ratalaika Games for consoles earlier this year.
Follow the story of a man named Mr. Price as he looks back on his career with a greedy and infamous repossession company. In the hopes of gaining a partnership with the big bosses at the firm, Price will do anything, even if it means seizing the home of an elderly, poor widow. Little does the man know that this decision will cost him a lifetime of being haunted by his regrets.
You will enter Distraint as Price about to seize Mrs. Goodwin’s home, ultimately robbing you of what sense of humanity you have left. Cope with your guilt by traveling through each eerie, repossessed location, solving puzzles and offering help to characters along the way in an attempt to realign your moral compass. The line between what is real and what is not will blur as you encounter gory and twisted hallucinations.
Out of fear of giving too much away, I have just one word for Distraint — Trippy. Actually, here’s one more — creepy. Just the settings alone are enough to make you feel uneasy, with torn and tattered walls and barely-lit rooms. Muted color schemes really cement in those feelings of melancholy, with some dashes of bright red (spoiler: blood) to startle you.
I recommend not playing at a high volume unless you want to end up with your controller or keyboard smashed through the screen. The noir-esque music remains mostly quiet and calm throughout Distraint, except for a few loud screeches that seem to arrive at completely random times. There are no musical cues when you’re about to encounter a jump scare, so the jump scares actually work.
Although there is no voice acting in Distraint, the subtitles when characters speak provide plenty of personality. Just from reading a few words on the screen, I can tell you that Price is a serious man with somewhat of a sarcastic edge and a bit of a soft heart. You don’t need to hear him to know that he truly feels sorry for the pain he causes through his work.
Distraint‘s gameplay is as simple as moving left and right and hitting a button a few times. However, a bit of brain power and attention to detail is necessary to know what to do next. What might this empty hanger from the closet be good for? How can you get the power to turn on? How does your perspective change when you’re under the influence of mushrooms? (Yeah, that happens.) Examine everything, because everything is useful — you just don’t know how yet. Think outside of the box.
My only wish would be for more equal time distribution between locations. I found that the middle of Distraint dragged a bit with tedious small tasks before getting to the next major plot point, while the finale of our story raced on through.
Every great psychological horror game needs twists, and there are plenty to go around in Distraint. In just a two hour window of run time, Distraint keeps you on your toes and pulls itself away from any sense of predictability using bizarre hallucinations. Nothing is as it seems. And, as all great stories do, this one comes full circle.
However, for those who are not entirely satisfied with the end of the first installment, Makkonen released a follow-up in 2018. It is available now for Android and PC users via Steam. There is no word yet on if Distraint 2 will become available for consoles.