Taiwan Indie Game Detention (返校): Horror @ Supernature and Real Life

Introduction

The new Taiwanese Indie Game Detention (返校) is a 2D point-and-click horror game depicting 1960s Taiwan's White Terror and folk beliefs.

Taiwan indie horror game Detention
A White Terror poster asking student to rat out communists and receive huge rewards.

Unlike many Chinese culture-theme games depicting ancient -- typically 1000 years ago -- events and praising how great Chinese culture is, Detention took on the dark side of Taiwan's history and folk beliefs often despised by scholars and authorities.

Taiwan indie horror game Detention
One of Taiwanese's folk belief: offering a ghost a rice bowl to escape its harassment.

In this review we will focus on the cultural/visual elements of Detention.

Taiwan indie horror game Detention
Creepy household temple with traditional red lighting.

Game Plot Overview -- Spoiler Alert!

The game's plot centers around an ordinary girl, Fang Ray Shin (方芮欣, Ray for short) a student at Greenwood High School (翠華中學).

Taiwan indie horror game Detention
Ray, the main character, wearing a traditional high school uniform.

Of the game's four chapters, the first two are of the traditional survival-horror game type, with Ray going around the school solving puzzles and avoiding ghosts by using clues.

Taiwan indie horror game Detention
Clues to face the Lantern Specter.
Taiwan indie horror game Detention
Facing a Lantern Specter in the game

As the story progresses, the last two chapters slowly reveal Ray's story, and how the White Terror, forbidden love, and folk beliefs mingled together. The ending depends on how the player characterizes Ray's life.

Taiwan indie horror game Detention
Ray's family
Taiwan indie horror game Detention
An honor suicide? Find out in the game.

Detention's Cultural Elements

One of Detention's unique elements is its display of Taiwan's cultural elements during the 1960s, and how it seamlessly fuses all elements together.

1960s Authoritative Government Environment

Using mimicked historical documents, sketched scenes, and symbolic representation; the game portrays the suffocating, fearful environment ordinary Taiwanese people lived under, as well as people's silent rebellion for freedom of thought.

Taiwan indie horror game Detention
Sketch of people taken away by the military during the White Terror.
Taiwan indie horror game Detention
During the White Terror, even reading forbidden books was enough for people to be executed, hence the symbolic gun representation.
Taiwan indie horror game Detention
The barred and wired classrooms represents no academic freedom during the White Terror. The six words say "Forming parties and organizations are strictly forbidden."

Traditional Taiwanese Folk Beliefs

As a horror game, Detention takes many horror/mystery elements from traditional Taiwanese folk beliefs.

Taiwan indie horror game Detention
HeiBai WuChang (黑白無常), a pair of white and black ghosts who appear and lead the newly dead.
Taiwan indie horror game Detention
Taiwan indie horror game Detention
Poe divination (擲筊), a way to ask deity questions. Hold the wooden piece together, ask the question, and throw them to the floor. One up one down means approval. Two ups means indetermination ("answered with a smile"). Two down means disapproval.
Taiwan indie horror game Detention
Joss Paper burning furnace. Traditionally people burn joss paper for the dead to use in the afterlife.
Taiwan indie horror game Detention
Chenghuang (城隍), the afterlife judge.
Taiwan indie horror game Detention
The BaGua numbers used extensively for many aspects of Chinese culture.

1960s Taiwan Social Cultures

As Detention is set in 1960s Taiwan, it contains many era-specific social elements. Many of them can still be seen in rural parts of Taiwan to this day.

Taiwan indie horror game Detention
Old school health center.
Taiwan indie horror game Detention
Fantasized old Taiwan shop elements, with lanterns, signs, round dinner tables, goldfishes and a shaved-ice machine.
Taiwan indie horror game Detention
Taiwan indie horror game Detention
A private investigator is called a "monkey catcher" in Taiwanese.
Taiwan indie horror game Detention
High-rise theater stage.
DSC04541
Similar theater stage in rural Taiwan.

Verdict

Detention is a great Taiwan indie game mixing the fearful White Terror-era with Taiwanese supernatural folk beliefs. The detailed artwork and clever lighting make Detention a great artistic horror game.

For those who have had enough heroic Chinese culture games and movies, I highly recommend Detention to take a glimpse of the shadows behind the glamour, the scars hidden behind Taiwan's high economic growth past.

For more on Taiwan's Bars and Cycling, check out Alan Luo's blog, Modern Black Hand!

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