Obscure horror games: D
Although I have been taking a break from the series for the past few weeks, I decided to, once again, broaden your obscure horror game knowledge with a very strange series. Yes, over the next three weeks, I will be taking a look at Kenji Eno's survival horror trilogy, D, Enemy Zero, and D2. This week, we're starting with our first entry, the survival horror puzzler, D!
D (3-DO, PC, PlayStation, & Saturn), WARP
Released in 1995, D is a 3D CGI full-motion survival horror puzzle game created by Japanese game designer, Kenji Eno, and his studio, WARP. For its time, the game's subject matter, including violent themes and cannibalism (more on this later), was considered taboo. In an effort to thwart censorship, Eno omitted the storyline from the game, even going as far to keep it secret from his staff. He submitted the clean copy for approval, then while on a plane trip to the United States, switched the clean copies of the game with the discs containing the violent subject matter.
D was also the start of Eno's idea of digital actors. Beginning with D, Laura was Eno's digital actress who would end up starring in the trilogy. Laura plays a different role in each game as the stories do continue from one another. As we will see next week with Enemy Zero, Eno adds more digital actors to his ensemble.
[Warning: This article contains spoilers!]
Laura and her perm.
The game starts with our protagonist, Laura Harris, being contacted by the Los Angeles police, about her father, Dr. Richard Harris, having gone mad, murdering the staff and patients of a local hospital. Dr. Harris barricades himself inside the hospital and Laura heads inside to find out the truth behind her father's crazed actions.
After shortly stepping inside the hospital, Laura is mortified by the carnage caused by her father around her. She covers her eyes in fear, but when she removes her hands, she's no longer in the hospital. Instead, Laura is standing at the entryway of a dark, medieval castle as if tonight wasn't already weird enough for poor Laura.
Quiet is not the word I would use to describe Laura's dad
Despite Eno's desperate attempt to keep the game's story under wraps, the story is not too present in the game. Occasionally, the head of Laura's dead will manifest itself in front of Laura, yelling at her to continue her quest. In the beginning, he doesn't offer any insight as to what's going on, just warning Laura not to find him as he might kill her. *sigh* Parents.
The story is mostly told through Laura locating these small, beetle ornaments located throughout the game. If you collect all of the, a cutscene plays showing Laura brutally stabbing her mother. Once this is revealed, Laura's dad's head shows up, once again, to inform Laura that he and Laura share a bloodline with Dracula. That's cool, right? Well, not for Laura, as her father reveals she actually killed and ate her own mother.
Wow, Laura, so not cool.
You would probably look the same if you found out you had eaten your mom.
At the end of the game, Laura must make a decision. Should she kill her father or keep him alive? With the gun aimed at him, the player must make the choice. Of course, this allows for the game to have multiple endings. In fact, there 4 altogether.
If Laura chooses to shoot her father, the player will be awarded with the best or good ending, depending on if you found all of the beetles. Laura cradles her dying father as he thanks her for ending his life. If the best ending is achieved, the sound of a crying baby can be heard over the end credits. This was a reference to D2's original plot involving Laura's child before the entire plot was redesigned by Eno.
The bad ending occurs if Laura does not shoot her father. The player is then treated to a black credits screen accompanied with odd munching noises to signify Richard was eating Laura. Oh no!
The last ending is a time based ending. If the player cannot solve the mystery of D in under 2 hours, they are given a 'game over' screen. Yes, the entire game is in real-time meaning that you cannot pause or save.
Although it is labeled as a survival horror game, D is much more of a puzzle game. There is no combat present in the game. Laura does not brandish any weapon until the very end. Instead, the player must solve various puzzles and QTE encounters to solve the mystery of D.
Laura can only get a few more uses out of this bad boy before it shatters.
Like Eno's other titles, it's difficult to figure out how to go about solving certain puzzles. The player can use Laura's compact to view a hint to aid in puzzle solving, but you only get a limited number of uses before it shatters. Also, with the impending two-hour time limit looming and no option to save, the game can be frustrating if you do not know what to do.
Also, when I played this game, I had a hard time with the QTEs. I never had trouble with QTEs in other games, but could not get past the damn knight! Hell, I don't even remember having trouble with the other QTE sections in this game, just the flippin' knight!
Poor guy. He just can't mash buttons.
In addition to several QTE events (by the way, the earliest game I've seen with QTEs), Laura will have to figure her way around various traps. Some of the traps, such as the spike trap, cannot harm Laura, but are rather just in her way. Whenever, I missed the QTE with the knight, he just knocked Laura down, so I'm not sure if you can get a 'game over' from missing the traps. If anything, they just seems like annoying obstacles to burn through the time limit.
I do like D. I am all for weird games and D certainly delivers on this aspect. The gameplay can be frustrating especially with the addition of a time limit. The graphics, as I'm sure you can tell, have not aged well at all. Despite the flaws, Eno created an interesting and unnerving horror classic.
Next week, I'll be covering Enemy Zero, which is a lot like D in space!