Many games have played with the idea of sanity. In the dark too long? Lose sanity. Frightened too often? Go insane. Generally, a sanity meter acts as an additional health bar and has little impact other than an eventual loss of life. The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker deals with sanity in a new way. Now, it’s infectious. The phrases you type into the game impact your own sanity and that of your patients. As you become more mad, you start to see visions. You might see someone who isn’t really there, or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll find the safe options. It’s up to you.
The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker is a Full Motion Video game by UK-based developer, D’Avekki Studios. D’Avekki has perfected the art of the murder mystery game. They’ve created an abundance of party games over the years, but this is their first murder mystery FMV. This style of game uses live-action videos clips to tell its story instead of, or in addition to, computer graphics. It’s a genre that was once almost considered obsolete, but it’s recently been making a comeback.
The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker opens in the office of Doctor Dekker, a former psychiatrist who was found murdered. You jump right into discussions with Doctor Dekker’s patients after a quick introduction by your receptionist, Jaya. Your goal is to figure out who murdered him, but through your interactions with the patients, you may also help to cure them of their afflictions. That is, if you decide to cure them. You can also make them worse, but you wouldn’t do that, would you?
The game mechanics are simple. You click on a patient’s name in the left-hand menu and begin typing questions into the dialogue box at the top of the screen. Opening with a question like, “who are you?” and “how are you feeling today?” will lead to one of more than 1,600 video clips that continue the conversation. The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker features free text input, meaning you can ask your patients anything you’d like. Because of this, it’s essential to pay attention to what your patient says. I found conversations went smoothly when I’d repeat key words back to them in the form of a question. Did your patient mention a husband? Ask her to tell you about her husband, and a new video clip is likely to play.
I found the free text input system to be intuitive and engaging. Yes, I would get stumped sometimes, but often it was because I’d need to talk to a different patient to unlock the next discussion topic. A few times I found myself caught up on the wording of a particular question, but the developer has been releasing patches that add variations to the spelling and wording the game will accept. An in-game notepad is automatically updated with important pieces of information to remember. Sometimes, the receptionist will leave notes for you. When I found myself completely stuck and unable to move the discussion forward, I could simply type “hint” into the dialogue box. The game would tell me what to ask to get a response from the specific patient I was talking to at the moment.
Classically, FMV games are often filled with unprofessional, goofy acting. Ask a fan of the genre, and they’ll tell you it’s part of the allure. The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker, however, features a solid cast full of sincere, believable actors. Within a few minutes of talking with the first character, I was willing to follow her to the end of the world. I never felt like I was watching actors.
The most noteworthy parts of the game were the video clips that played as my patient was waiting for me to ask a question. Each character had its own personality. If I was talking with Marianna, she’d constantly move and shift around the room. The game would fade to her pacing the floor, flirtatiously playing with the hem of her skirt as I was typing my next question. Then she’d sit back on the couch and touch her hair. Sometimes, she’d hang her head over the edge of the couch and watch me. I was never stuck looking at a blank or motionless screen.
You learn more about the issues facing each of Doctor Dekker’s patients as the game progresses. Their problems have the power to influence your own sanity, depending on the way you react. Combined with a solemn, mysterious score, I left the game with goosebumps. You have the power to influence the way the game ends and how your patients ultimately deal with their afflictions. There are multiple endings for each character, including yourself, which adds to the replayability of the game. However, there’s no clear path to sanity or insanity, and you must play through the game multiple times in order to fully understand how your questions influence the overall outcome. Without save points to refer back to, finding all possible outcomes can turn into quite the endeavor.
The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker is a powerful, chilling game sure to engage you until the very end. Will you decide to cure your patients or drive them all into madness? With over 1,600 video responses and multiple endings, their fates are up to you.
A PC review copy of The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker was provided by D’Avekki Studios Ltd. for the purpose of this review