Every once in a while, a game comes along that shatters your perceptions. It may start subtly, bubbling away quietly in the back of your mind, before slowly building up to its at times harrowing conclusion. The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker is a text adventure with FMV throughout that made me question everything.
FMV games live and die by the performance of the actors and the performances in The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker are stellar and show real emotion while contemplating a character’s inner most feelings. Each one also has distinct personalities. Marianna is generally seductive and suggestive while at the same time aloof, while Bryce seems arrogant and proud at first, but is terrified of something sinister to the point that it’s eating away at his sanity.
Sure, a few lines are hammed up, but these more often than not made me appreciate the performances given. I generally liked everyone, but Aislinn De’Ath in particular as Marianna captivated me with her performance in a very intentional way, slowly drawing me in to her charms as I typed. Powerful acting is one thing, but psychologically implanting suggestions while I play the game is no small feat, taking brilliant script writing and expert execution.
In each act you are given several of Doctor Dekker’s patients to question, using the sessions to not only find out more about what ails them, but also solve the mystery behind Doctor Dekker’s murder. For the sake of preventing spoilers, the culprit is randomly chosen at the beginning of the game. It’s a neat idea that does wonders for replay value.
You have a list of responses in the log that will sometimes have asterisks beside them. One asterisk means there’s still a question to ask, but two means you should definitely follow up with this character. Questions can take plenty of forms, but you are generally free to type what you please. Hints are available, but have a cooldown before you can use them again.
At the time of writing, the developers are consulting with people regarding some of the issues surrounding sentence structure. I did run into this problem a couple of times, most notably when Jaya asked me what I think happened to a character named Tom. It’s perhaps my biggest criticism, but at the very least it is one that is being addressed.
You’ll also occasionally pull ahead of yourself by typing the correct word accidentally, which throws investigations off kilter. While this is something you can always recover from, having the characters fess up to something you said but didn’t mean is still a tiny bit jarring.
If there’s one tip I absolutely must insist on, is that writing your own notes is vital. The game comes complete with an in-game notepad where you can store vital information from previous acts, which are occasionally vital to progress the plot. It’s perturbing when notes appear here randomly, but that’s part of the madness.
You’ll also notice that there are colours behind each person’s name. Red means that you have to ask more questions, amber means you can move to the next person, and green means you’ve asked everything. There’s other connotations as to what this means, but that’s best experienced for yourself. Once you have at least amber on every person in the list, you can move onto the next section of the game.
During my time, I found my perceptions to be somewhat warped, unsure of where things were leading. There’s definitely a psychological horror element to the case, something you should probably be aware of, but with multiple endings depending on how well you answered questions from the clients, how much you questioned them, and indeed who is selected to be the murderer and if you got it right.
The first play through takes normally at least 8 hours to complete, with occasional usage of the hint system that prompts you with questions to ask the patients. Subsequent playthroughs can take longer if you try to ensure every light turns a different colour and the consequences of this are… interesting.
The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker is an extremely polished text adventure that you absolutely must experience. Its characters can invoke a deep curiosity that only tunnelling down that rabbit hole will ever satisfy, and the multiple endings and randomly selected elements help flesh a game in a genre that’s usually a “one and done” affair. At only £6.99 or your regional equivalent and having very low hardware requirements, there is little excuse not to dive into the madness.