Dollhouse is the latest entry in the horror genre of games, but with many interesting twists from your typical horror games. While some horror games have been great over the years, many have been failing to interest as they all feel the same. Most horror games that I have played had me running around and looking for items, while some monster or killer is hunting me. Dollhouse also follows the same steps but inspired by a film noir setting. The game got me really excited to try it as soon as I could get my hands on it. The story of the game seemed interesting, where you had to look for clues and piece them all together to solve puzzles and making the right decisions.
The first thing you get to admire about the game is the visuals and the noir setting that it has. In addition to the jazzy music that plays on from time to time, the eerie silence that takes over during your exploration has its own charm. Every new setting in a new chapter puts you in dark maze filled with creepy mannequins staring deep in your soul. A little scare that I got pretty early in the gameplay was realizing that I was being followed by a mannequin. As soon as I turned around, it was right at my neck, doing nothing but staring with its hollow and empty eyes.
In Dollhouse, you find yourself playing as Marie, who needs to find clues to unravel her past. The game puts you straight into the action as you begin your journey to look for Memory Reels to progress through the chapters of the game. All the while, you are being chased by a pursuer wielding a knife. This pursuer looks like a doll or mannequin itself and you have to avoid her while you navigate through the corridors. The game also allows you to see from the eyes of this pursuer by using your Eye Piece at any given time. This will then allow you to track Memory Reels as it pings their location. However, the marked locations are only visible for a short period of time, and the pursuer can easily track your location. I avoided this by tracking and getting as far away as possible from my position of tracking.
As mentioned before, the corridors and hallways of each chapter are also filled with mannequins. They follow you around behind your back and can slash you when you are not looking. You can counter this by flashing at them which will make them disappear. This flashing also stalls the pursuer that is following you, stunning it for a few seconds, and allowing you some time to evade well out of its way. The flashes are limited, and can only be used if you have enough Charge. This item can be found all throughout the area and are green in color.
Other than the Charges, there are other items like Stock, Chalk, and Keys to unlock doors that allow you to use your abilities. The Stock allows you to use your abilities, while the Chalk could be used to write markings on walls. I used Chalks near Memory Stations, as their mark stays visible no matter where you are in the area, making it easy to track. I had two abilities that I unlocked from the start, Fleet and Passage. Fleet allowed me a short burst of stamina for a few seconds, and Passage revealed all the doors in the area for a few seconds. As I progressed in the chapters, more and more abilities kept unlocking. Though some seemed pretty useless, the one that decreased the cooldown times of my abilities helps me a lot.
The gameplay of Dollhouse is pretty straightforward. However, before the update which brought many fixes, it lacked in giving me information about what I was supposed to do, or the items that would aid me. At times, I was playing a guessing game until it all made sense to me. Once the patch was released, I got the hang of it pretty quickly and was breezing past the pursuer by flashing them, collecting everything I could find and placing the memory reels in the memory collector machines to complete the chapters. The game also gives the player some Skills that aid in the gameplay. These abilities are quite decent and come in very handy. In the early stages of the game, I heavily relied on the Fleet skill that gave me an extra boost of stamina to evade the pursuer.
Now let’s look at the cons of Dollhouse, starting with how repetitive the gameplay was between the chapters. While each new chapter was in a new setting, the objective completing it was all the same. For me, this is where it gradually lost its appeal very quickly. Every new chapter you progress will have different scenery, with a new pursuer enemy that would be introduced. Other than that, you are just doing the exact same thing you did in the previous level. The game became less of a challenge and was more about collecting the memory reels to get on with it. In addition, I tried to play Multiplayer many times, but it never really connected me to any game. Granted that it is still in beta, I at least expected some gameplay online.
Another gameplay feature that seemed to have lost its plot is the movie clip mechanic. This is a feature that allows you to create a movie clip with the memory reels you have collected after the end of a chapter. You can then edit these clips and then submit to the critics who will review it and then reward you with experience points if it meets the standards they are looking for. However, there is no real reason to play around with this as you would get the same experience points if you just spent the time building the coherent movie, rather then trying to edit it as per the critic’s likings.
The last problem that I experienced were the bugs that the gameplay was filled with. Halfway into Chapter 2, when I collected all the memory reels in from the whole area, it still kept asking for more memory reels, where there were no more to be found. I had to restart the whole chapter again to progress any further. While this bug may be a little issue that may be fixed in a future patch, another bug involved around the last location of my death. In Chapter 2, I couldn’t find my last location of death anywhere, which meant that I could not recover any item that I had collected over the course of the chapter. This had me restarting Chapter 2 yet again.
In the end, Dollhouse is very unique but quickly turns into a very average horror game with its repetitive gameplay. It features a good story, with very unique ideas but lacks the weight to impress. The investigative mechanic, finding clues and editing movie reel clips together is very unique and something that I have not seen in other games. Moreover, things like seeing from the eyes of your killer is a fantastic idea. But the fact that it is so easy to rely on the mechanic and breeze past the chapters in finding clues made the gameplay dull and unexciting.