I’ll be honest, I went into Decarnation expecting just another horror experience that looks deceptively cute with its visual style, but it didn’t take long for me to realise it was going to be… different. And believe me, I mean that in a GOOD way.

Check out some screenshots down below:

For the most part, I find it easy to review a game, especially when I’ve enjoyed it and it has lots of cool things that I want to talk about. However, in Decarnation’s case, I’ve found myself a bit stumped – not only because it explores lots of dark themes that are hard to put into words, but also because I don’t really want to spoil any of it for players. It’s one of those games that’s best to be experienced first-hand, and whilst its mature themes may not be for everyone, those that appreciate them will be kept in awe. With that in mind, I’ll keep detail pretty minimal here, but if you don’t want to keep reading, know this: Decarnation is DEFINITELY worth your attention if you like horror games that do something a bit different (or are a fan of the works of David Lynch).

Decarnation is set in Paris in 1990, with players taking on the role of cabaret dancer Gloria as she begins to deal with the hardships of life. Losing her job and girlfriend are tough enough, but with Gloria’s sense of denial that things *aren’t* as bad as they may seem, things soon take a darker turn when a seemingly golden opportunity turns deadly. It’s up to you to help Gloria survive through the ghastly yet surreal trials that follow.

“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have its moments that made me feel uncomfortable, but at the same time, that sense of unease is what helped make the experience so damn good.”

A lot of unsettling themes are explored throughout Decarnation, not only directly through the narrative but also visually through the world design, so it’s certainly not for the fainthearted. It’s the way it tackles these themes that makes it so engrossing though, with Gloria facing them head-on as she slowly begins to comprehend the dire situation that she faces. It’s captivating to see unfold, and, as a fan of psychological horror, I found myself fully invested until the very end. And sure, it did have moments where it was a bit TOO on the nose with what it was trying to do, but Decarnation’s unnerving atmosphere ensured it never got dull. It always felt like there may be a light at the end of the tunnel though, so it never feels like it’s thematically dark for the sake of it. It’s very clever and makes the whole experience all the more thrilling.

Whilst the narrative-driven elements of the game are at the forefront, Decarnation is more than just another walking-simulator. In an unusual but befitting manner given Gloria’s job as a cabaret dancer, some of the gameplay is tied to rhythm-based action, with players mashing buttons as they scroll across the screen. It was the last thing I expected when I first started playing the game, but it worked. You’ll also encounter a variety of cryptic puzzles and set pieces as you progress, with each demanding something a little different from the player. And, of course, it couldn’t be a horror game without a threatening entity out to get you, so there’ll be moments where you have to fight for your survival too. I wouldn’t call Decarnation a gameplay-heavy experience by any means, but it does enough to show that it’s not ALL about seeing the story unfold (even IF some gameplay sequences were more entertaining than others).

Check out some screenshots down below:

It’s all complemented by some absolutely beautiful visuals that really help bring the morbid world to life. Whilst there are plenty of impressive sights to be seen in the game’s more ‘normal’ moments, the colour and creativity seen in the pixel art of the unsettling sights always kept me in awe. It’s so striking and unique in design, with the game mixing graceful beauty with disturbing horror in a fascinating manner. It looks fantastic, whilst the hauntingly soothing soundtrack perfectly fits the solemn tone.

There are some flaws to be found though, such as some story sequences dragging out a little longer than they needed and some puzzles not quite hitting the mark, but I was completely floored by Decarnation. Don’t get me wrong, it played right into my tastes with its surreal psychological horror, but the fact that the narrative is captivating, the world design is beautiful, and the gameplay is intriguing, is what has ensured it will always stand out to me.

Decarnation Review

Decarnation is a unique and enthralling psychological horror experience that explores dark themes in an unsettling yet captivating manner. I was completely hooked in from the moment I started playing, whilst the constant surprises and portrayal of dark horrors ensured that interest never waned. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have its moments that made me feel uncomfortable, but at the same time, that sense of unease is what helped make the experience so damn good.

It won’t be for everyone and the puzzling mechanics could be a little hit-and-miss, but I absolutely loved my time with the game. I had no idea what to expect when I started playing Decarnation, but I certainly won’t be forgetting it any time soon.

Developer: Atelier QDB
Publisher: Shiro Unlimited
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed)
Website: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1672310/Decarnation/