The year is 1997 and the seemingly sane Richter Harris, Director of LA’s largest hospital, has committed a hideous crime. killing several patients and taking others hostage. The LAPD is powerless to act, only Richter’s daughter, Laura, can enter the institution without fear of provoking a massacre. Alone she enters the building and is witness to the carnage. Encountering a strange distortion in one of the corridors, Laura’s surroundings are transformed from the familiar walls and ceilings of a hospital into an eldritch old mansion. At this point you take on the role of Laura and start to unravel the mystery that surrounds her father for yourself.
It must be said that the intro sequence is an incredible piece of tension building, with a brooding menace unlike any other videogame. As the scene is set, the letter D is flashed repeatedly at players. What is the significance of this letter and why does it send a chill up your spine?
Laura’s first task is to explore her immediate surroundings and here we get a taster for the real thrills that await brave explorers. At one point Laura cautiously approaches a mirror only to see, warping out of the glass, a threatening hand. Something is wrong here, very wrong. Laura’s father appears to give subtle hints as to the state of this reality but to say any more of this would ruin the thrill of trying to piece together the fragments for yourself.
Unfortunately, after only a few minutes of play, you soon realise the restrictions that are placed upon your actions. Rooms can only be navigated by set routes and Laura herself can be rotated and made to move forward, but only if she can interact with what is in front of her. This factor alone means that the game is played in a linear manner one room, or puzzle, after another.
The puzzles themselves are of varying quality. The simple key-lock ones are there, of course, but try the tumbler switch puzzle and the air around you will almost certainly turn blue!
After moving there’s only one button to select to interact with your environment, so complex operations are out. If you get really stuck however, Laura carries a mirror which can be used to glean clues. Upon opening, the face of the mirror transforms into a hazy representation of the next location that should be visited. However, after each use it cracks and finally shatters.
Having just explained about the limited gameplay you may well be wondering what this game actually has to offer. Its the visual aspect that really impresses the most. The screen display is in the PlayStation’s high-res mode with stunning rendered locations, oozing dark moods. The CD access times are noticeable but the speed of the game seems fitting.
As it’s impossible to die, D, is a game that won’t take that long to finish. After playing for only a short period of time I found myself accessing the third and final disk! However, while it lasts the atmosphere of this truly movie-like title will thrill, shock and frustrate in equal measures.