There are many things that influence our lives, from undertaking a specific journey or adventure to creating something that is based on those very influences. It’s something that is prevalent within video gaming, whereby some developers may try to create something unique, others will create a subject matter that is based on something else in order to lure an audience who may relate or recognise the influences on which it is based. One such game, comes in the form Alawar Entertainment’s and Cheerleaders’ Distrust, a survival/horror title that is based upon John Carpenter’s classic story of The Thing.
The influences here, are clear to see and even the developers themselves market the game as such. For starters, the settings, plots and themes all contain many similarities which shall be covered within this review. However, it can often be difficult to replicate the premise that you may be following and in this case, there is a lot that the game does right. Unfortunately, though, it also gets a lot of things wrong and this isn’t necessarily the game’s fault. It’s just the story upon which is influenced by contains a level of depth that hasn’t transitioned so well. So, where it can make an entertaining game, I also fear that the developers couldn’t just get that feeling of distrust and fear that carpenter managed so well.
Much like the story it is influenced by, Distrust revolves around you, a rescue party, who are en-route to respond to a series of strange occurrences within the remote setting of an arctic/antarctic research station. As you approach the site, a strange glowing light brings your helicopter down, and it’s up to you and your crew to battle the elements, as well as your physical being to ascertain what has happened here. As you’d expect, there’s also something sinister revolving around alien beings and technology; producing a third factor in your quest for answers and survival.
You build your team of two, or three, from a roster of various characters; each of which have their own abilities that can alter the state of play. These can range from being more adept within cold conditions to a being able to withstand hunger for longer periods. There’s only a limited selection at first, but a whole host of other characters can be unlocked through prolonged play. Your task is find your way from your crashed chopper and explore the regions of the research station, with each section being separated by a locked gate that requires certain items or tasks to be found or fulfilled before you can venture through to the next section.
This breaks the game up into levels, five in total, that comprise of a variety of buildings within each compound that need to be searched in order to fulfil the requirements of opening the end-level gates, as well as procure a series of items that are needed for survival. Each character comes with three bars that determines fatigue, hunger and cold; as well as an overall health bar. Each of these elements need to be maintained by finding food, fuel for burners and generators and places where you rest or sleep. However, there are also further elements that need to be considered, with unfortunate accidents that may need medical supplies and, most importantly, how to deal with the strange alien occurrences that reveal themselves whenever you rest to sleep.
Should you let any of the three vital life gauges fall dangerously low, you begin to take on traits that can severely hamper your progress. These can come in forms of hallucinations or a lack of ability to make out colour or the onset of madness that creates the air of distrust amongst colleagues. Each of the compounds is divided into a series of buildings and depending on your level of difficulty, are labelled as what each of the buildings house; at least on the easier settings which is recommended for your first few runs. Play on the recommended settings, and these labels no longer appear; forcing an urgency within your exploration. If you maintain a level of warmth, hunger and rest, you can easily find the requirements for opening each end-level gate and proceed into the next compound where the mysteries of the base begin to unravel.
However, it isn’t simply a case of finding food or lighting fires and even resting. Many food items need to heated or cooked on a stove, boilers, burners and generators need refuelling and sleeping brings out the alien force that resides within the base. It adds a layer to the proceedings, forcing you to be very mindful of your surroundings and the need for survival, as well as figuring out the strange beings that come during sleep and how best to deal with them. This often leads to a level of gameplay that becomes a race against time as you switch between characters to monitor their levels and distribute items between them.
Viewed from an isometric viewpoint, the game does a good job of conveying the desperation of cold and hunger in its survival elements. You feel isolated and helpless. However, where it subsequently fails is in its ability to scare or create a sense of distrust amongst your party. In this sense, I’d label this more a survival game than it is a horror. It’s real ace up its sleeve though, comes in its randomly-generated nature that changes the layout of the research station, its rooms, items and quests with each play through; creating a game that changes its elements every time you play. However, it fails to capitalise on any form of investment, with characters that hold no background to their being, thus creating a sense of caring less for their outcomes and a lack of any meaningful story to create an air of tension.
Overall, Distrust is an interesting game that can entertain in some of what it does. However, there are also a number of elements that make it less interesting than it should be. Its elements of survival and exploration are conveyed well, but a lack of horror or meaning amongst the relationships of your team produces a very a run-of-the-mill experience that can feel like a chore after a while. However, if like me, you loved everything about John Carpenter’s The Thing, then this game that produces a nice setting and background upon which to play. Just don’t expect the same level of isolation or fear from Carpenter’s classic though; as the only level of distrust you’ll find, is actually from the game itself.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 7/10
User Review( votes)
Influenced by John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’, Distrust holds a distinct chill, but its levels of horror turn cold with nowhere warm to hide.