Dead and Buried
Dying: Reborn has had a somewhat confusing launch on the Playstation Store. The Playstation 4 version, which is the complete version of the game, can be purchased for $19.99 alongside the not-so-complete Playstation Vita version for $14.99. Both versions are identical when it comes to story but the Vita version is missing several puzzles and a few props that can be collected throughout the PS4’s playthrough. These props and extra puzzles have little to do with the gameplay but they do add a smidge more to the overall story and lore of Dying: Reborn. Now the PSVR version on the other hand can be purchased for $9.99 and is missing half of the rooms that the PS4 and Vita games have, and also is without a conclusion to the story. When I reviewed the PSVR version (review here) I felt like I had been kicked in the gut when the game just decided to end when it was just beginning. I wasted three hours on what ultimately was a demo for the full version. Needless to say I was severely disappointed.
So now that all three versions are available on the Playstation Store it’s only fitting that they’d be bundled together for an Ultimate edition. And here we are just a few weeks after Dying: Reborn’s initial launch with just that. The Ultimate Bundle includes the PS4, Vita, and PSVR versions of Dying: Reborn all in a convenient package for $24.99. I became excited when I saw this because even though the PSVR version of Dying: Reborn was an overall disappointment, I still wanted to find out what the hell happens at the end of the game. Maybe the sour taste of not having an ending could be washed away with a conclusion! Well, after playing it from beginning (again) to end, I can say I’m even more disappointed.
For those who haven’t read my PSVR review of Dying: Reborn the story can be summed up rather quickly. You play the character Mathew who finds himself in the once bustling tourist area of Harbour Town. Mathew isn’t visiting Harbour Town on vacation though. Actually, Harbour town hasn’t seen much in the way of vacationers in quite some time and is basically a ghost town. Mathew is here because he received a letter from his Sister Shirley – begging him to come to Last Harbour where she “doesn’t know how much longer she can survive”. On his quest to save his sister, Mathew manages to get lost, and while glancing down at his map he blacks out and awakens in an abandoned hotel. With all the doors locked and windows barred up, Mathew must find a way out of this dilapidated hotel and locate his sister.
Dying: Reborn plays out like an escape room, but in first-person video game form. If you don’t know what an escape room is let me explain. In an escape room a team of people get locked in a room. Several clues located throughout the room can be pieced together to figure out codes or combinations to open locked cabinets and/or lockers. Inside these lockers are more clues to new combinations to open more lockers in the room. After all the clues and puzzle pieces fit together a final key to open the main door is discovered to and used to “escape” the room. Escape rooms are quickly gaining popularity around the United States and usually offer customers several different themes such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, and horror. I myself have tried my hand at a few escape rooms and really enjoy the frantic pace and teamwork it takes to conquer a room. Most escape rooms need to be completed in an hour so there is always a feeling of panic, but Dying: Reborn gives you all the time you need to solve all of its puzzles. I think this is a detriment to the game since there isn’t really a feeling of dread or panic and makes the game somewhat relaxing in a way. Relaxed isn’t a feeling anyone should have in a horror-themed escape room.
Once you escape your first room in Dying: Reborn the plot starts to open up a little and story behind Shirley starts to shed some layers. The voice acting starts to show is ugly head and you’ll probably chuckle at how bad it is, but with each line Mathew gives it just gets worse and worse. By the end of the 2nd room I dreaded whenever I heard Matthew speak because the voice work really is god-awful. This is hands down the worst voice acting I’ve ever heard in a video game. At first I thought it was intentionally bad, but the more and more I heard it, I honestly think they were trying to be serious and didn’t know how awful it really was. The most cringe-worthy moments are when Mathew is thinking out loud and delivering lines like “Damn it, Shirley is probably trapped in this house. And that lunatic might be torturing her, too!” Or “Why did I just walk out of the ladies room?”
Dying: Reborn controls the same on the PS4 and Vita. Gone are the quarter-turns the VR version included and in its place is full movement with the right stick. The inventory system works the same and can be pulled up with a press of the L1 button. Inventory items can be combined and placed in a hand icon in the inventory screen which then can be used on the environment. The slow walking pace of the VR version is thankfully gone but I’d prefer the VR’s simplistic crosshair to interact with items over the Vita’s sensitive camera movement. The Vita’s crosshair is extremely small and placing it exactly on a tiny clue became quite the chore. Out of the three control schemes I prefer the PSVR’s.
I do have some nice things to say about Dying: Reborn. The majority of the puzzles were thought-provoking and had me jotting down a few notes to figure them out. A few puzzles needed some basic math to complete and a handful of others needed to be pieced together by visiting several different locations in the hotel. One puzzle in particular that completely baffled me that had to do with the reflection of letters in water and how those letters corresponded with numbers that were found in different locations in a room. After dozens of attempts and a few more gray hairs I finally had to search out a solution on YouTube. Even after I knew the solution I still have no idea how it was supposed to be figured out, and I’m not the only one because all the comments on the video were asking the same thing. Other than the one puzzle all the others can be figured out with a small amount of time patience. Figuring out the games more intricate puzzles did give me a nice feeling of accomplishment similar to defeating a boss after a long battle. Now let me clarify. The puzzles although good, are only a small part of the complete package.
Graphically, Dying: Reborn doesn’t have much to show but the old hotel does offer a nice amount of detail. Several liquor bottles are strewn throughout each room and the amount of decay did make the hotel feel, well, old. The Vita version on the other hand looks pretty bad. I had several issues locating key items that were just too dark to see, even with my Vita’s brightness turned up to the max setting. This leads to an issue where clues flush against the hotel wall were too difficult to see due to the wall being the same color as the clue. Often I’d just move my cursor around while tapping away at the X button hoping to locate an item that I couldn’t see, and sometimes it would work. Also, the Vita version introduced a glitch where all the objects in a room would vanish if I moved to a certain area, oftentimes behind a piece of furniture or other prop. Additionally, framerate drops plague the Vita version, but the PS4 version also had the same issues, just not as often. The VR version of Dying: Reborn is my favorite despite its visual downgrade, but since the VR game isn’t complete the PS4 version comes out on top visually.
On the audio side of things there isn’t really much to say. The aforementioned voice acting is atrocious but I’ve already covered that. The game remains mostly quiet other than the menu and loading screen music. There is a steady noise while roaming around but it’s mostly unnoticeable. Mathew mutters his sister’s name about a thousand times throughout the story so be prepared to hate anyone named Shirley after the completion of this game.
I wanted to touch on the Playstation VR version of Dying: Reborn again. I honestly think that’s the best version of this game and it’s really a shame that it’s only half of the experience. They smartly decided against using most of Mathew’s dialogue and it makes for a whole different feel. Additionally, using the headset put me in the mindset that I was actually standing in a room and I was able to take it all in. Searching for clues by moving my head felt natural. If Nekcom decided to patch the remaining 3 rooms into the VR version I’d think they’d have something really special on their hands.
It’s hard to give Dying: Reborn a favorable review because it doesn’t feel like a finished product. With horrid voice acting, several graphical issues, and a story with no real conclusion, Dying: Reborn feels like a game that was rushed to the Playstation Store way too soon. While it does offer some real thought-provoking puzzles, the overall package should be locked in an escape room that’s impossible to get out of.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Available on: Playstation 4 (reviewed) ; Publisher: Oasis Games ; Developer: Nekcom; Players: 1 ; Released: February 28, 2017 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $24.99
Full Disclosure: This review was based on a review copy given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher