Devotion is Red Candle Games’ harrowing yet meticulously detailed story of an imploding Taiwanese family set in the Upside Down years from 1980 to 1987. However, the game is more than just a “horror” title. , it’s a gorgeous 1:1 facsimile of a booming Taiwan at the height of a booming economy and fashionable 80s glitz, resonating strongly with those who were there and appealing to those who weren’t. weren’t there. No matter who you are, a journey through the world of Devotion is worth the journey and best experienced with a pair of open, albeit watery, eyes.
If the mention of devotion does not stir up memories of backlash, controversy, or disaster, then consider yourself lucky. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. 2019 was not a great year for Red Candle Games. We don’t need to get into it too much, but the takeaway is that the Chinese government wasn’t happy with how it was portrayed in the game and pulled it from digital shelves. It was enough to completely derail any chance of Devotion’s monetary success through popular gaming channels like Steam and Polish digital distribution platform, GoG.
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But you can’t keep a good developer, it seems. The brave RCG team has decided to release Devotion on their own terms and through their own Red Candle Games website in 2021. As of this writing, their site is the only place on planet Earth to purchase the game.
So now, let’s say a prayer, and step into the tragic world of the Du family: Feng Yu Du (dad), Gong Li Fang (mom), and Mei Shin Du (daughter), and point and click at the breadcrumbs strewn all over their apartment cramped in Taipei. Screenwriter Feng Yu spends his days struggling to write another hit play, while his retired singer-turned-housewife Li Fang continually worries about money, but especially about their daughter. Mei Shin has been gifted with her mother’s singing abilities, but something seems to be hurting her. To find the cure, Feng Yu trusts a cult leader and a Buddhist deity. But at what cost will his prayers be answered?
The game’s powerful non-linear story is cobbled together from the first-person perspective of father/child murderer Feng Yu, as his flawed memories shuttle us back to the 80s. it’s best to complete in one sitting, but a second sitting is your chance to explore the game’s historical easter eggs.
Domestically, the 1980s in Taiwan marked the formal end of the 1947 martial law edict, which quickly paved the way for sweeping democratic reforms. Due to the increase in labor productivity, a new era of entertainment, excess and growth was soon born, along with a general improvement in the quality of life. (See also: the miracle of Taiwan). Internationally, Taiwan began trading with the United States and later found itself on the world stage. In an incredibly short period of time, life has gone from below average to amazing. So let’s focus on the game’s meaningful nods to ’80s Taiwanese culture.
In the opening scene, the first thing we see is television. It’s appropriate, of course. By the mid-1980s, commercials, historical dramas, and talent shows abounded, and television was the most ubiquitous medium. The first seconds of the game show us a bad weather warning news program that is actually accurate on time, as 1985 was the year of an extended Pacific typhoon season, bringing with it a flurry of systems tropical low pressures that play a part in the story.
Throughout the game, the TV acts as Feng Yu’s window to the outside world. Her daughter’s performance and judgment go on and on. There are even times in-game where the TV just throws out a garbled hiss. It may be a metaphor for Feng Yu’s mental state, or the result of storm damage. Either way, it’s impossible to disable or escape the ubiquitous gray square. The nostalgic trailer shows this very clearly.
There’s no better indicator of where you are in time than the music pumped through your chosen output. The minds behind Devotion were obviously aware of this as Li Fang, the “heroine” of the game, happens to be a renowned pop star. Li Fang’s entire aesthetic is inspired by famous singers of the 1980s, especially Teresa Teng: the pioneering Taiwanese “pop queen”.
“Lady of the Pier” was Li Fang’s biggest hit during the days leading up to Mei Shin’s death, and it kept him alive in the Du household. During Mei Shin’s singing competition, her version of “Lady of Pier” airs on Rainbow Stage, a program that not only captures the tone and style of the era, but would likely count as quality programming. 35 years ago. In an interview with Red Candle Games, the team goes into detail. “The children’s talent show Rainbow Stage in the game was heavily inspired by the famous Taiwanese television show Five Lights Award, which aired from 1965 to 1998. For many Taiwanese of our generation, it is part of our memories of ‘childhood.”
This same song can also be heard at the end of the game, now sung in full by Mei Shin in the afterlife.
Red Candle Games’ base for Devotion’s apartment complex comes from a popular location in Old Taipei known as Nanjichang Apartments. Built in 1963, it has since become a kind of abandoned housing area inhabited mainly by elderly people. In fact, due to its connection to the latter days, it’s the number one location to shoot 80s-themed TV shows.
The Du’s building reflects that same neglected look of a “T”: from the moldy, contaminated hallways to the faded paper advertisements covering the billboards and even the Chinese zodiac symbols decorating the red iron bars. Some Taiwanese gamers have gone so far as to associate the gaming experience with a visit to their grandparents as children.
Red Candle Games’ completely original offering allows us to peek into an unknown world. The experience is almost tangible: the filth of the room, the smell of snake wine brewing in the kitchen, even the roar of the needle of the record player. Everyone loves the 80s, but this gold coin comes from a specific time and place we never knew we needed.
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