Personally, I have loved the small flurry of FMV adventures that have graced our PC’s and consoles in the last few years and one of the best and unique examples is The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker. The game begins with the titular character killed and you are his replacement. Your psychiatrists’ couch is full of clients, all of which have problems one way or another. You could question them about the murder of Dekker, since they all have connections to him – or you could help them with their mental issues. The two goals conflict with each other though and therein lay the beauty of the game. How far do you push people for an answer?
Across five acts you’ll meet several patients and have the option to question them in two ways. Originally when the first released on PC, you could type in words or sentences and see if the game understood and the character would talk about that topic. It was superb, but of course, the game isn’t going to cover every single scenario that you type in. You’d often think you’d be asking a specific question but the phrasing would cause an “I don’t know what you mean?” response. For console (and updated for PC) you now have dialogue options to get you started. The game won’t progress until you’ve got through a certain section of story related conversations, but the rest is fair game – and that’s probably over half the game. How you then dive off the deep end into helping their mental state or indulging them in their problems is up to you. Each action will have a reaction though. Hints are available if you really want to dive as far as possible and each character has a red, amber, green system. Red means story-related questions are remaining, amber means you can progress if you want and green is when you’ve mined every single answer out of them, which is well over a thousand.
The story itself is fascinating as everyone is damaged in their own way and its clear Dekker himself was probably more nuts than his patients. The acting throughout has a stilted quality that initially makes you think “HA! What a load of weirdos!” but no sooner are you asking questions and considering answers, that initial jar comes down because you become so immersed in the experience. As everyone is operating on the same campy but engrossing level, it carries itself perfectly. Add to that the fact almost the entire game takes place facing a couch and various close-up shots of our cast looking unsettled and unhinged – the entire game has a slowly creeping sense of dread and strangeness about it. Is it overtly scary? Not really – but psychologically it chips away at you if you stay with it in a continued sitting so that you feel a bit unsettled as you see your recommendations having negative effects on patients and they come back feeling more lost and disturbed than before.
Whilst there’s the occasional shoehorning of scripted replies to keep you moving on which may push against some of your actual thoughts of what you may want to say, it is minimal and nothing any other story-based game has cracked yet. This leads you to two excellent bonuses because of this. Firstly, you have reactions and feelings to these characters. You’ll want them to be well, or you may feel so bitter about them you might want to send them off to madness. Secondly, how you act changes each ending greatly. I have no idea how many endings there are bt answering differently, or missing bits out changes not just the state of the characters themselves, but also the overarching mystery of who killed Dr Dekker. That in itself is a technical accomplishment. In a game that I simply can’t find fault in, the only downside I’ve had is an unfortunate game crash on the PS4 version which corrupted my save in the final act – so I’d advise heavily to back up your saves and don’t do what I did – lose hours of progress.