DYING: Reborn is first person room escape horror game that is available on the PS4, Vita, and a special half-length and half-price version is on the PSVR. I do not have a PSVR, but I have played DYING: Reborn on the PS4, which is what this review is based upon. From what I have read of the PSVR version, by the way, it takes three of the six total scenarios in the ‘full’ version and splices them together. Anyway, from my experience at least, it seems that no matter how you play DYING: Reborn, it leaves a lot to be desired, although being priced at $20 ($10 on PSVR) is a point of consideration.
The experience begins with your character, Mathew, waking up in a room, without any idea of how he got there. It’s some kind of multi-tenant building, a hotel as it turns out, and you’re trying to figure out what’s happened to your sister, Shirley. There’s a constant thunderstorm outside as you arise from a dilapidated bed to figure out what is going on. From the first person perspective, the player is tasked with looking at their surroundings and finding objects, some of which will go into your inventory. Combining items within inventory or with something in the world is your main form of interaction as you try to solve a variety of different puzzles in order to get from room to room and floor to floor.
Gameplay is reminiscent of 9-9-9 or Zero Escape, but not nearly as compelling. You’ll put together bits of paper with a note on them, cross-reference drawings on walls, do some math to figure out combination locks, and so forth, in order to get from one area to the next as you try to survive, save your sister, and figure out what that weird dude with the fish, er, helmet is up to.
Perhaps the experience is much better in VR, but playing without VR, I didn’t feel really any sense of fear or thrill. The player cannot die, you can just get stuck on a puzzle. Puzzle design is therefore paramount to the success of the game, but here it’s a so-so offering. Most puzzles make sense and the sense of accomplishment when you things (literally) go together and you reach a solution is satisfying. Other times I wondered around a room or small area for tens of minutes, trying to figure out if I had scrolled or hovered over every object in the room with the crosshair so as to not miss anything. Some kind of visual cue or a way of knowing that “yes, player, you have done everything you need except put the pieces together” would have been helpful.
Getting stuck in room-escape or point and click adventure games is par for the course sometimes, but what DYING: Reborn does not have going for it is other strong qualities to keep things interesting and “worth the effort.” It wasn’t long before I resorted to a walkthrough once, and then again as needed. I wasn’t compelled by the story, the characters, or the atmosphere. I didn’t feel any sense of tension or immersion with Mathew and his plight. The presentation of the game from graphics to on-screen font to voice-acting was very generic and lackluster too, making the whole experience a struggle and not very enjoyable. Without a walkthrough, I probably would not have pressed on because I just was not finding the experience worth my time and effort.
If you really enjoy room escape games and puzzles, DYING: Reborn at $20 or less might be worth a look, but it’s hard to recommend otherwise.