Some years ago, I saw screenshots of a point and click game that caught my attention. Its name was Downfall, it had a grim atmosphere and it looked scary. So I played it and I found what was one of the most fucked up games I had ever played. Sure, it had its flaws, a couple of segments that were a bit of a chore and also some battles that could make the game un-winnable if you messed up enough times.
The original Downfall was published in 2009 and in 2012 Rem Michalski from Harvester Games followed suit with The Cat Lady. The Cat Lady proved to be such a huge success to him, to the point that it allowed him to move back to Poland with his family (after having lived in England for 12 years) and work on his games full time. The Cat Lady also showed some degree of connection with Downfall and a bit later it was confirmed to be part of a trilogy (possibly called Devil Came Through Here, a recurring phrase in both games) announcing also that the last game would be called Lorelai and that he had the immediate plan of remaking Downfall before releasing Lorelai.
Remaking a game that’s not so old feels a bit weird, but he had his reasons. Mostly, as he points out in this interview, he thought the original game was shit. There were some uneven parts in that game and over the years he improved a lot as a game designer (and he’s self-taught so that’s even better) so he brought it closer in style, interface and control to what The Cat Lady was, and it was a great decision. This new style fits better to the game as everything is mostly black and white, with certain exceptions, like the colours of the sky on certain moments and the colour red, and trust me when I say you will be seeing a lot of that.
The game starts when Joe Davies and his wife Ivy arrive at the Quiet Haven hotel for a romantic getaway because they’re going through a rough patch. After an argument between them, Ivy goes missing and Joe starts looking for her. It’s the beginning of a nightmare that will make him go through hell to try to get her back. The story remains more or less the same, although the aspects that didn’t work out well in the original have been removed (the original could be a bit cheesy at times), some things have been expanded upon and others are brand new but they fit like a glove, and there’s also an element of choice, depending on things we do or say we will get three different endings.
The removal of the cheesiest aspects also makes the game a bit more threatening, there was a moment in the original game where one of the characters had a conversation with what was a thinly-veiled version of Ville Valo from HIM, or you had more locations to visit apart from the hotel, like a film studio or those battles I mentioned in the beginning. Those things made the game chafe a bit, but this version of Downfall is a well-oiled nightmare engine that will haunt you for days to come.
There’s another thing to consider, while The Cat Lady was a game that deep down had an optimistic message don’t really expect anything like that here. The Cat Lady meant to make you thing about depression, loss and friendship. Downfall only aims to shock you, to take you out of your comfort zone and then take you even further once you’re in discomfort, and it’s pretty successful at that.
It’s obvious that this is not a game for everyone, but I still felt like I should say it anyway. It’s not only because of the amount of gore you might see in this game, but just because of the topics this game deals with. I mentioned at the start how the original Downfall was one of the most fucked up games I’ve encountered but this game takes it several notches up. If you liked The Cat Lady or enjoy this kind of games, then go for it.