Inside the Dollhouse Psyche starts off with an intriguing film noir concept, but the game suffers from repetitive gameplay and clunky controls.
Dollhouse Game Review: Interesting Concept, Poor Execution
It’s always fascinating when a video game can delve inside the psyche of its main character and create an engaging story and exciting gameplay. Unfortunately, Dollhouse is not that game, although its film noir setting, and story give it a unique take on traditional psychological horror.
In Dollhouse, players take on the role of Mary, a detective who suffers from amnesia. His goal is to walk through the labyrinths of his mind (played entirely in first person) to recover his lost memories as well as uncover the truth about his daughter’s death. Her search uncovers not only memories, though: a mysterious creature is also hunting her, as well as creepy mannequins that follow her through the corridors of her brain’s synapses. These mannequins are like the weeping angels of Doctor Who: they only move when Mary isn’t looking at them. As if that wasn’t enough, some of the walls in his mind occasionally move, and traps are hidden in each level.
Dollhouse gameplay consists of manoeuvring through these areas, each contained by a separate chapter. The goal is to collect the film canisters, which are Mary’s memories. These memories give Mary clips to use in a movie she makes at the end of each level. That film then goes to the mysterious critics who will award experience points.
Mary is helped to find memories through an ability that allows her to see through the creature’s eyes, but she can be captured if she uses this skill for too long. Scattered throughout each level are various accessories: charges that can be used to stop mannequins and traps, as well as repair kits for his special cybernetic-like eye, which seems to break at random.
It may sound like a lot of fun, but except for its surroundings, each level/chapter is the same. As Mary progresses through the game, she must recover memories, avoid being captured, and make a movie. This, unfortunately, leads to some repetitive gameplay, which makes each chapter feel exactly like the last one.
The controls on the PS4 are also clunky, meaning it’s often difficult to pick up objects and react appropriately to hazards. Sprinting also seems buggy: it doesn’t work well. Mary dies frequently, with each death rebooting the current chapter, which can get frustrating. The game has a “voyeur” mode that prevents Mary from ever dying, but where’s the fun in that?
Graphically, the game looks a bit grainy, although this is probably intentional, given the film noir setting. However, the Dollhouse is also really dark visually, even with the brightness settings turned on, meaning it’s often hard to spot objects in the environment. With that said, though, the voice acting is good, as is the music: both give the proper 1959 Hollywood theme feel.
Dollhouse Game starts off with a lot of potential, but after a few levels of repetitive gameplay, the scary elements start to lose their impact. What begins as a journey through a troubled mind quickly turns dreary, and Mary’s story suffers as a result.