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DeLight’s Emotional Narrative Doesn’t Make Its Gameplay Less Frustrating

Platform: PS4, Android, iOS
Genre: Narrative Adventure, Indie

I played a bit of Malaysian indie developer DreamTree Studio’s DeLight: The Journey Home at Level Up KL 2019. It turned out to be one of the event’s highlights for me, leaving with a memorable experience, and I was excited to see more of the game.

Fast-forward a turbulent year later, and the studio finally launched the game’s first two Chapters on PC via Steam. Was the game worth the wait? I was impressed by the game’s first chapter, but how did Chapter Two fare? Read on to find out.

Bring Your Tissues

If I could sum up my entire experience with DeLight: The Journey Home‘s two Chapters so far, it’s that the narrative is much more ambitious and better than the actual gameplay. It’s not exactly complex or subversive in any way, but the game’s plot is its strong point.

Players assume the role of a blind girl named Sammy who embarks on a journey to reunite with her parents in a time of war. Her only companion is a stray dog named Deli.

The catch is that Sammy doesn’t actually start her journey blind. The game’s first Chapter is a clever tutorial in disguise, as I started the game with Sammy on a seemingly normal day, playing a game of hide and seek with her friends. During the hide and seek game, Sammy wears a blindfold, foreshadowing the fact that she will later lose her sight.

While playing in this harmless game of hide and seek, I like that there’s apparently something ominous brewing in the background. People in the park seem anxious and are talking about preparing for something bad.

It’s only later that the game drops a bombshell on Sammy and the player; war has just erupted in their country. In an effort to escape the conflict, Sammy and her grandfather attempts to run to Sammy’s parents, who are living in another place where it’s safe.

I won’t spoil what happens, but the ending of Chapter One will leave you emotionally-devastated. The atmosphere and music contribute to the immersion and emotions conveyed by the characters. Unfortunately, the game does suffer from not featuring any voice acting whatsoever.

The first Chapter took me around 45 minutes to complete, while it took me almost two hours to finish Chapter Two. Despite that, the first Chapter was definitely superior in terms of tone and atmosphere, as Chapter Two just feels padded and stretched out.

The frustrating gameplay also didn’t help (more on that below).

A Blind Simulator

In DeLight: The Journey Home, the core gameplay mechanic is that you have to control Sammy through the levels guided by her dog. As Sammy is blind, the player’s vision is impaired, which means that the player’s line of sight is limited to a small area around her. That’s where her dog comes in, to guide the players to where they have to go.

Imagine a perpetual fog all around you, and that you can basically only see what’s in close proximity at all times. It works well in Chapter One. Due to how the levels are designed, I didn’t have much of a problem navigating a self-contained park and subway station.

However, this becomes an annoying issue in Chapter Two, where players are simply confined to the interior of a school. Since the game wants players to commit to the sensation of being blind, Delight The Journey Home doesn’t feature any HUD to help players, and that also means no mini-map or markers to assist you.

Unlike Chapter One where you had clear objectives in self-contained levels, Chapter Two has Sammy going around the school interacting with a bunch of people and basically becoming a delivery person. I say that because all you do in Chapter Two is going from NPC to NPC in inane and boring fetch quests.

These activities wouldn’t have become so much of a hassle and chore if I could easily find my way through the school. However, the game wants you to feel like a blind person, and you’ll have to somehow remember the layout of the school every single time an NPC wants you to go somewhere.

Case in point: I began Chapter Two in a room in the aforementioned school. I then went around to several NPCs located in different rooms inside the school, which took me a lot of effort, because it’s hard to remember the layout of a location when you can only see what’s right in front of you at all times.

What frustrated me is that, due to the lack of markers or indicators of any kind, I couldn’t remember where my original room (from which I began Chapter Two) was when the game just told me that I had to return to my room and end the day by sleeping.

I wasted a lot of time going into each room just to find that original room. I essentially spent almost the entirety of the two hours in Chapter Two just trying to find the right room and the right NPC to talk to.

Blind Spot

There was only one stealth section in Chapter Two, where I actually had to use Deli to sneak past an NPC. In comparison, Chapter One has me doing more of those stealth sections by sneaking past several soldiers, despite being shorter than Chapter Two.

Chapter Two also features one section that involved a poorly-designed minigame. It was a frustrating experience, to say the least. Not only was it annoying to play through, this rhythm game suddenly appears without warning. I almost couldn’t get through this section due to how unpolished it seems to be. It’s like the developer just threw this new mechanic into the game at a whim.

It disappointed me how much of a chore the gameplay in Chapter Two feels like, and I was hoping for more of the tightly-designed gameplay content from Chapter One. I’d prefer a shorter but more polished experienced than one that’s padded with tedious gameplay.

In addition, DeLight: The Journey Home also features dialogue choices and actions with consequences. However, there’s too few of these, and they’re not the main crux of the gameplay like they are in other narrative-driven games like Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead.

Blindsided

I would like nothing more than to recommend a Malaysian-made game like DeLight The Journey Home. Only two out of five planned Chapters are currently available, and unfortunately, they’re not equal in quality.

Gamers should definitely try out Chapter One of the game. Not only is it free for everyone to play, it’s better than Chapter Two, which you have to pay for to access. Here’s hoping that future Chapters of the game are more like the first Chapter and less like the second.

Pros

  • Emotional and thought-provoking narrative.
  • Atmospheric music (which you can also purchase separately from the game on Steam).

Cons

  • Frustratingly-tedious gameplay in Chapter Two.
  • Half-baked gameplay mechanics like a shoehorned rhythm game.

Final Score: 50/100

DeLight: The Journey Home is now available on Steam, Google Play Store, and iOS App Store.

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