Playing The Infectious Madness of Dr. Dekker (which I will be abbreviating IMDD from now on) is about as exciting as taking a couple Ambien and listening to Ben Stein read Goodnight Moon. IMDD is a FMV game that puts you in the role of a psychiatrist taking over for the defunct, titular character, Dr. Dekker. One of the biggest factors that can make or break an FMV game is the acting ability of its actors and actresses. IMDD sports some genuinely good performances, even if some some of those come with a dash of overacting and awkward line delivery. To be fair, IMDD’s script leaves something to be desired. While it is impressive in scope, with well over 1,000 different questions and responses, a decent amount of it is just extraneous and frankly, dull.
What you actually do in IMDD is limited to selecting a question from a list and probing each of your patients for potential insights into the death of Dr. Dekker. And no, Dr. Dekker’s demise is not a spoiler, as it happens before the game even begins. One of my issues with the game is that Dr. Dekker’s death is merely a plot device and I had no personal attachment to his character in the slightest. It’s kind of like how every Law and Order episode starts. We see a murder victim with no clue as to who they are and we discover what happened throughout the episode. IMDD adopts a similar approach with its narrative. As Dr. Dekker’s successor and part-time sleuth, you’re tasked with both interrogating and treating your patients. One of them may be the killer and it’s your job to find out exactly what’s going on.
There are some interesting character threads being woven into this somewhat bloated tapestry. One patient has the delusion that he’s living the same day over and over again, á la Groundhog Day (which the game makes a direct reference to). Another person claims to have an access to an extra hour each day; one which no one else is conscious of. Some of the other patients' dilemmas are a bit less interesting but it's impressive to see the sheer amount of questions you can ask each patient, even if a lot of them only exacerbate an already tedious and meandering game.
The majority of the questions can be asked without repercussions, meaning, there isn’t a penalty to pursuing one line of questions and then coming back later in the conversation to carry on with another line. I suppose there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but it feels disjointed and awkward. Also, there are a few occasions where you can essentially select both the “yes” and “no” options for a question just to see the different responses, which feels especially bizarre. There's also a log book where your character will jot down responses he/she will find interesting or imperative to the investigation. Other than that, there are a few small articles for you to read, but the gameplay really is 95% selecting a question and waiting for a response. Sure, I guess that is what a psychiatrist would be doing, but nothing about it is particularly… fun.
I commend the writers on IMDD for making each patient feel like a genuine suspect. None of the characters escape suspicion, which makes narrowing down suspects a decent challenge. Also, each of the characters have distinct personalities and fascinating psychoses. As mentioned previously, there are some good actors/actresses, and some of side stories you get from the actors can be rather compelling. However, despite these bright spots, there’s really no motivation to find out who the murderer is. The game takes place over a series of days but the problem is, it has barriers that prevent the player from moving on to the next day. You must ask a set amount of questions before the option to progress even shows up. I naturally like to explore all my options in games anyways, but when there are heaps of questions you have to cycle through, it ends up feeling like checking items off of a grocery list.
There is certainly an audience this game will appeal to, but for me personally, I was left tired and listless after each of my half hour sessions (I’d probably make a terrible psychiatrist). Also, 95% of the game takes place in the same room with the same backing ambient track that slowly worms its way into your brain after hours on repeat. As I slipped into a semi-comatose state during one of my sessions, one of the characters approached the camera and clapped loudly. Even though it was impeccable timing, that clap snapped me back to reality and brought me to the realization that this game is actually a fantastic sleep aid.