E-Home Entertainment, a joint venture between Microsoft and Oriental Pearl Group, is responsible for publishing Xbox One games in China and then releasing those games abroad. One such game is Dying: Reborn, a first-person horror adventure game with a pleasantly bizarre and creepy atmosphere. Where else will you encounter a man with the head of a fish?
A killer headache is only the beginning
As Dying: Reborn begins, our protagonist Mathew awakens in a strange room surrounded by locked doors. Above him, a cage holds the dismembered body parts of a nude woman. Mathew appears to have been the unwilling recipient of some strange medical procedure, though severe headaches and amnesia are his only initial symptoms.
Before long, our hapless hero recalls that he came to this place in search of his childhood friend Shirley (boy are those names uninspiring). Unfortunately for him, Mathew has fallen into a trap at the hands of a cruel and powerful man who calls himself The Guide. This Jigsaw-like maniac has trapped our hero in a decrepit hotel over which he has complete control.
Mathew will have to solve numerous puzzles, brave untold dangers (including a weird fish guy!), and perhaps trust a mysterious lady if he is to rescue Shirley and make it out alive. And don't call him Shirley!
This narrative comes to life through slightly awkward writing and equally awkward fully voiced dialog. While the script and voices veer into goofiness often enough, I'd still say they're a cut above similar first-person horror adventure Layers of Fear. The game has an atmosphere that's equally creepy and silly, not unlike numerous classic Dreamcast and PlayStation horror games. It's the right combination of spooky and fun.
A puzzle-filled adventure
Dying: Reborn resembles Layers of Fear in that both are first-person adventure games without any danger from enemies – the atmosphere is the scary part, not the challenge of fighting and/or escaping deadly foes. That said, this one has a much larger focus on puzzle solving than narrative. It's chock full of puzzles of all shapes and sizes.
Many of the game's puzzles involve finding and using items from throughout the many cluttered and disturbing environments that Mathew encounters. Sometimes you'll need to combine items, such as assembling the parts of a screwdriver.
Using the items from your inventory is clunkier than necessary. You have to press Left Bumper to open the inventory (why not a face button?), select the item, back out of your inventory, and then click the object on which you wish to use the item. The step of having to back out of the inventory is just unnecessary, but you get used to it.
Several other puzzles involve the entry of codes into a suitcase lock, safe, or other device. These are the most challenging brain-stumpers you'll face. Most of the time, the necessary codes will be found scrawled on a paper somewhere or otherwise hidden throughout the environment.
Achievements and length
Dying: Reborn is a short game consisting of six chapters. Each of these should last about half an hour if you don't get stuck anywhere. There are video guides out there you can consult if you find yourself at a loss.
The Xbox One version of Dying: Reborn includes 19 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. Those Achievements are mostly progress-based, though some involve finding collectibles called fragments (text-based story documents). Again, you can use a video guide to make things easier.
Should you just care about getting all the Achievements, following a guide will make the whole thing last about two hours or less. That makes Dying: Reborn a pretty strong buy for Achievement hunters.
Dying: Reborn isn't a particularly scary game, especially since you can't die. But it does possess a delightfully odd atmosphere and lots of fun puzzles to solve. This style of game, with all its indie seams and quirks, won't be for everybody. But if you can attune yourself to its quirky presentation (or just want those easy Achievements), Dying: Reborn won't kill your good time.
- A first-person horror adventure that doesn't overstay its welcome.
- Puzzles are often challenging but rarely frustrating.
- The atmosphere is serious but weird, complete with oddities like a fish-headed man.
- The protagonist moves too slowly, and of course there's no run button.
- Inventory use is clunky and unintuitive.
- Copious screen tearing on Xbox One
- Untranslated Chinese text slipped through onto the save file confirmation screen.
Dying: Reborn costs $19.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Vita. Buy the Xbox version during the month of November week for a 25-percent discount, making the price $14.99.
Xbox One review copy provided by the publisher.