Dollhouse begins with an interesting film noir concept inside the psyche, but the game suffers from repetitive gameplay and clunky controls.
It's always fascinating when a video game can take a walk inside the psyche of its main character and create an engaging story and exciting gameplay. Unfortunately, Dollhouse is not that game, although its film noir setting and story gives it a unique take on traditional psychological horror.
In Dollhouse, players take on the role of Marie, a detective who suffers from amnesia. Her goal is to walk through the labyrinths of her mind (played entirely in first-person) to recover her lost memories as well as uncover the truth about the death of her daughter. Her search doesn't just uncover memories, though: there is also a mysterious creature hunting her, as well as spooky mannequins who stalk her through the corridors of her brain's synapses. These mannequins are like the weeping angels from Doctor Who: they only move when Marie isn't looking at them. As if that weren't enough, some of the walls in her mind occasionally move, and there are traps hidden throughout each level.
Dollhouse gameplay involves maneuvering through these areas, each contained by a separate chapter. The goal is to collect film canisters, which are Marie's memories. These memories give Marie clips to use in a movie that she creates at the end of each level. That movie then goes to the mysterious critics who will award experience points. Marie gets help in finding memories through an ability that allows her to see through the eyes of the creature, but if she uses this skill for too long, she can get caught. Each level also has various helpful items scattered about: charges that can be used to stop mannequins and traps, as well as repair kits for her special cybernetic-like eye, which seems to break randomly.
That might sound like a lot of fun, but each level/chapter is the same, save for its surroundings. As Marie progresses through the game, she must recover memories, avoid getting caught and make a movie. This, unfortunately, leads to some repetitive gameplay, which each chapter feeling exactly like the previous one. The controls on the PS4 are also clunky, meaning that it's often tricky to pick up objects and react to threats appropriately. Sprinting also seems buggy: it just doesn't work well. Marie often dies, with each death rebooting the current chapter, which can get frustrating. The game does feature a "Voyeur" mode that prevents Marie from ever dying, but where's the fun in that?
Graphically, the game seems a little grainy, although this is possibly intentional, given the film noir setting. However, Dollhouse is also really visually dark, even with the brightness settings turned up, meaning that it's often hard to spot items in the environment. With that said, though, the voice acting is good, as is the music: both lend the proper feel to the 1959 Hollywood theme.
Dollhouse begins with a lot of potential, but after a few levels of repetitive gameplay, the horror elements start to lose their impact. What starts as a trip through a disturbed mind quickly becomes monotonous, and Marie's story suffers as a result.
Dollhouse is available for PC and PlayStation 4. A digital code for the PlayStation 4 version of the game was provided to Screen Rant for this review.