Dying: Sinner Escape

History has shown that there is a market for video games that fall under the category of "so bad its good." Deadly Premonition and 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand come immediately to mind. Be it budget constraints, bad direction, a laughable script and/or bad voice-over delivery, there’s much pleasure and profit to be made in schadenfreude. On the other hand, there are games so bad that no amount of irony or sarcasm can save it. Dying: Sinner Escape is one of those games.

The core concept involves the imprisonment of characters within a room and it is the player’s goal to guide that person to freedom by completing a series of puzzles. What’s really interesting about the game is just how emphatic Nekcom feels about it. Taking pride in your product is one thing but there’s something to be said about giving it too much praise, especially if unwarranted. Rather than go into length about how Dying: Sinner Escape isn’t very good, I have instead chosen to address the lofty statements they made about the game.

The text printed below is copied directly from the iTunes App Store.

********************** GAME FEATURES *********************

ICONIC VISUAL STYLE The immersive 3D art created using the Unity 3D engine presents a highly mysterious atmosphere with a dark and gloomy feel.

DEEP & COMPELLING STORY Created by top Hollywood movie and game development talent, the story is separated into several episodes. You will experience the different parts of the story from different characters’ perspectives. Each part of the story in each episode has its own climax.

FANTASTIC VOICES Feel the characters come alive in their world through fantastic voice acting.

SEAMLESS CINEMATICS Seamless, rich cinematics will put you deep in the middle of the storyline and help you unravel the secrets within.

INNOVATIVE CONTROLS Utilizes innovative finger gesture controls that take advantage of multi-touch for an easy to use and intuitive player experience.

UNIQUE PUZZLES & GAMEPLAY Utilizes the advanced hardware and software of different mobile devices, such as the Three-axis gyro, Accelerometer and Voice Recognition to enhance gameplay..

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Let’s break it down, shall we?

ICONIC VISUAL STYLE The immersive 3D art created using the Unity 3D engine presents a highly mysterious atmosphere with a dark and gloomy feel.

The game is broken up into five different episodes, each set in their own one room prisons. Each episode has the main player stuck within a dilapidated room where the windows have been boarded up and the doors barred. I wouldn’t go as far as to call the room designs “iconic” as the graphics and detail of each location would fit just fine in a PlayStation 2 era Silent Hill-style game. Because the game is being played on an iPad, it’s rather difficult to feel immersed as background activity and push notices easily break any semblance of mood.

DEEP & COMPELLING STORY Created by top Hollywood movie and game development talent, the story is separated into several episodes. You will experience the different parts of the story from different characters’ perspectives. Each part of the story in each episode has its own climax.

When starting the game, you’re presented with a movie-style title card that lists everyone who worked on the project. I did a Google search for those who held prominent roles in the game’s development and couldn’t find information on them. The only name that carried weight was Troy Dunniway (Executive Producer and “Screen Writer”) who served as Lead Director for several PlayStation 3 games including Ratchet & Clank and Resistance: Fall of Man, Creative Director for Rainbow Six: Vegas and has his name attached to other notable games such as Age of Empires, Fable, Command & Conquer and so much more. The point is, Dunniway is the only person on hand who has serious game development background. The rest of the crew were harder to track down. Either they haven’t worked on a game before (or film/tv for that matter) or they previously held positions on the low end of their respective fields.

As for the game’s story, it largely shows itself during the inner monologues of the characters, hastily written text on scraps of paper and after someone is freed from each room. The story is easy to ignore because of the issues I had with Dying’s gameplay (more on that soon).

FANTASTIC VOICES Feel the characters come alive in their world through fantastic voice acting.

This statement, ladies and gentlemen, is an outrageous and baldfaced lie. The voice acting is terrible. Nekcom employed two individuals, a man and a woman, to fill the roles of the those trapped in various rooms. Their delivery is the type you’d find in C-grade horror movies or really bad community theater as they fail to speak with any real emotion or inflections. There’s no stress in their voice to match the situations they find themselves in and come off as two people reading lines on paper for a paycheck. Perhaps the game was localized for an English speaking audience? This might explain the bad voice work along with the numerous spelling errors.

SEAMLESS CINEMATICS Seamless, rich cinematics will put you deep in the middle of the storyline and help you unravel the secrets within.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this statement, but I suppose it references moments when the camera shifts to comic book-style paneling to show the end result of completing a puzzle. In episode two, for example, turning on an electrical switch will cut to a shot above a ceiling fan as it spins slowly, allowing a scrap of paper situated atop a fan blade to fall to the table below before shifting the camera back to the character’s perspective. It is a seamless transition, sure, but not worth getting excited about.

INNOVATIVE CONTROLS Utilizes innovative finger gesture controls that take advantage of multi-touch for an easy to use and intuitive player experience.

I wouldn’t necessarily call Dying’s touch/tap based controls innovative considering it is the primary control method for any iOS game. Getting around in each room is accomplished by tapping the “Stand” button in the top right corner of the screen which readies the character for movement. By tapping on a glowing white hotspot, the character will move to that area with no stops in between. The feeling of exploration is significantly reduced while gliding along these predetermined paths. Once movement stops, you’ll look around the area for any objects or puzzle pieces by swiping two fingers across the screen and using one finger to examine objects and advance on screen dialog. It was pretty easy for me to want to do the opposite, leaving me initially confused as to why the game wasn’t responding until I realized what I was doing wrong. To me, the controls are more awkward than innovative. Furthermore, the one and two finger controls are not as responsive as they should be at times, taking more taps and swipes necessary to advance.

UNIQUE PUZZLES & GAMEPLAY Utilizes the advanced hardware and software of different mobile devices, such as the Three-axis gyro, Accelerometer and Voice Recognition to enhance gameplay..

Dying: Sinner Escape uses time tested point-and-click gameplay that doesn't really push the envelope. Most puzzles are rather convoluted and tough (for me, at least), made all the more difficult due to a reprehensible hint system. The game does a lackluster job of helping the player to know what needs to be done. The elements needed to complete a puzzle are there but are often difficult to interpret, resulting in a fair amount of stumbling around. Early in the game, I wanted to use a hint and was surprised to see that I only had one available. To my annoyance, the hint I received wasn’t very helpful. Wanting another, I got pretty upset after spotting a button labeled “Buy More!” The ugly side of microtransactions rears its head once again.

Why on earth would you force players to purchase hints for a puzzle game they’ll likely never play more than once (if that)? With this method of monetization, I can’t help but wonder if the game was deliberately designed to be obtuse so that people had to fork over money to get more hints. Why not charge a few dollars more and give people a proper hint system? If you want to make the game challenging, why not limit hints to three per episode?

Long story short, Dying: Sinner Escape is not the bright and shining adventure its publisher makes it out to be. Semi-awkward controls, so-so graphics, bad microtransactions, poor voice work, and the questionable quality of writing makes me wonder if the marketing boys at Nekcom were playing something entirely different from what they published to the App Store. I struggled greatly to try and find fun but it just wasn’t there. Trying to muster the desire to play ended up being a struggle. You’re better off spending your money elsewhere.

Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.