Set in the seemingly dark, grainy, and grimy Reaching Dreams rehabilitation center, Decay – The Mare puts players in the shoes of a recovering drug addict by the name of Sam. It’s a pretty predictable setting for a horror game, honestly, but it’s fitting for the tale being told. Because of the nature of his surroundings, Sam has limited access to most areas of the center, but with some ingenuity and puzzle solving players can help guide him as he seeks to make sense of the nightmares that are plaguing him.
Originally released as an episodic game on Steam, Decay – The Mare on Xbox One offers up all 3 episodes as one complete experience. However, the game is still broken down into its episodic segments, with a precarious “To Be Continued…” screen following up horrifying moments that were intended to be cliffhangers in the original release.
Decay – The Mare plays as a 2D point and click adventure. Sam explores the the recovery center room by room, which leaves players to navigate a labyrinth of grainy and dark corridors littered with doors that look overwhelmingly similar. Pressing back on the D pad will turn Sam 180 degrees, with left, right and forward serving to send Sam in their respective directions. Moving the on screen cursor to an area and pressing A allows the player to interact with the world, for better or worse. There are a few small jump scares hidden in the world, most often in the form of uncomfortable figures seemingly lurking in shadows.
Episode one of Decay – The Mare is overwhelmingly erratic, and it can feel initially as if there’s no rhyme or reason to the insanity that you are experiencing. This can make solving the puzzles a little more difficult, as you’re not quite sure why you’re trying to reach any one destination. Each solution seemingly opens up a new pandora’s box of crazy. This eases up in episode 2, in a way, as the details of an unusual murder mystery – the beheading of a pianist – are uncovered by Sam. For all of its randomness and inexplicable confusion, these tiny details lead to an impressive plot twist. There are two possible endings for Decay – The Mare, the first of which is fairly predictable and expected but the second or “good ending” – which is entirely determined by player choice – is incredibly satisfying.
Decay – The Mare doesn’t break any of the horror genre stereotypes, and its low graphical quality can make navigating the dark corridors full of similar looking doorways difficult and confusing. But the occasional jump scare, constant sense of dread, and shocking twist ending make all the fumbling around for the puzzles worth its while.