Distraint 2 is a game that does not pull its punches, dropping you immediately into its dark themes and the intensity of the emotions that come with them. It opens on the protagonist, Price, as he contemplates suicide.
The game is designed to reflect Price’s mental state, with a gloomy setting haunted by old memories and creepy shadows. He is, both psychologically and physically, in a dark place. It is up to you to lead him through it in pursuit of Hope.
On your journey, you’ll encounter Reason, Trauma, Greed and other personified sentiments that you have to face in order to find Hope. You explore a variety of settings that connect to Price’s memories and dreams, meeting ghosts of his parents and a mysterious family that might be waiting for him somewhere in the future.
The gameplay consists of puzzles. As you move through the 2D side-scroller, you’ll pick up items that can be used to help you progress. The puzzles are fairly simple. You fix broken things, you speak to the mysterious characters lurking around, you engage wherever you can with the world around you. If you interact with everything you can, the solutions become clear fairly quickly. The focus is very much on the narrative and the growth that Price needs to go through.
If you’ve played the prequel, you’ll likely have a better appreciation for the journey that Price goes through in Distraint 2. But this game is sprinkled with enough glimpses into his life up until now that you get a decent impression of the circumstances that plunged him into such a bleak state of mind. Even if it didn’t offer those throwbacks, the story itself is still worthwhile, as the themes it explores are universal to anyone who has experienced that kind of pain.
The story as a whole is one of reflection and finding a sense of purpose. The art style and soundtrack create a wonderfully melancholic atmosphere that perfectly captures the feelings of desperation and despondence. Distraint 2 is a dark game, but if you persist in your quest for Hope, you do eventually find it.
There are times when the glimpses you get of Price’s possible happy endings feel somewhat simplistic, but in a game that tells its story so concisely that’s easily forgiven. It still makes its point in a way that has a genuine emotional impact on anyone engaged with it. It’s an effective metaphor for the work Price has to put into his mental health to get to a better place and to embrace a new way of living.