As I launched The Kindeman Remedy for the first time and started playing, I’d be forgiven for thinking I was playing an expansion for Ravenous Devils. Not only does it have a similar visual style and violent finesse, but it also has a familiar way of playing. The Kindeman Remedy also nestles within the time management clicker genre and it would be easy to mistake this title as being a direct sequel.
Sean’s review of Ravenous Devils highlighted how this kind of game can be enjoyable, yet it was a flawed experience. I found it to be a hidden gem, a fun way to spend an afternoon harvesting blood and organs. While The Kindeman Remedy is clearly inspired by Devils, it doesn’t seem to have learnt from the mistakes it made.
A gluttony of gory imagery and Hostel-esque torture wish-fulfilment carries the game so far. Yet, it once again falls victim to relying on its attempt at shock value to make up for the gameplay and presentational flaws. Much like how The Human Centipede 3 thought that just having a 100-person-long train would make for a good movie (spoiler alert: it didn’t). The autopsy awaits, practically begging you to venture in and carve up the remains.
A Most Sawful Ailment
On a basic level, The Kindeman Remedy is a tycoon clicker game. You assume the role of Dr. Kindeman and Sister Anna, a rather nefarious duo. Kindeman is obsessed with creating a remedy for pain and progressing the human condition, while Anna is a religious zealot. Neither really goes beyond their trope, but Kindeman especially does have some satirical moments.
A murderous doctor who tortures, maims and butchers dozens of people calling a corrupt policeman a psychopath? Comedy gold. Sister Anna is largely resigned to a side story and she’s relegated to the role of a misused plot device. Need to hate the warden of the prison you’re carving people up in? Have him make an advance on Anna.
Ravenous Devils certainly wasn’t a barnstormer in the narrative stakes, but it had a cohesive story that meshed well with its themes and gameplay. The Kindeman Remedy feels in conflict with itself, causing the kind of self-inflicted wounds a drunk surgeon wielding a rusted, infected scalpel would cause. Dialogue wants to be funny, but the imagery and game want to be serious, and it never quite coagulates.
The setting of an island prison is actually sold quite well. It’s sadistically enjoyable to play God with the inmates, determining who lives to die another day and who’ll be unceremoniously poisoned. It works for the set-up of the torture chamber mechanics too, as you simply avert executions from being successful. There are some decent bones here, but they’re stained with the blood of a lack of focus.
Popping Pills, And Bones
Focus is an important term too, as you’ll need quite a lot of it initially when playing The Kindeman Remedy. This is a time-sensitive clicker, meaning you’re simultaneously guiding both characters to perform various actions. Kindeman manages the mixing of medications, surgeries and injecting soon-to-be executed prisoners.
Sister Anna, meanwhile, is in charge of distributing the pills and setting up drips for inmates. Actions are ordered in consecutive fashion and you can queue up to three per character at a time. At its best, the pressured nature of it can feel intensive as you mix different varieties of medications and have to remember to sterilize tools after a surgery, for example.
There are two main issues I have with the mechanics. One is that being limited to only three actions is severely limiting and oftentimes frustrating. You can’t cancel an action once selected, so pick up the wrong meds or select the bin instead of the poison cart and you’ll be cursing more than the money-hungry guards.
The second issue is how bloody slow the camera movement is. You can’t glide across the 2D map of rooms using your mouse, oh no. Instead, you can select the room a character is in and then use WSAD to move across. The issue? Using said WSAD takes an age. Which is infuriating when you’re rushing to attach multiple drips, attending an injection and trying to conduct two surgeries at once.
Shock! It’s Hammer Time
The aforementioned mixing of pills and conducting medical procedures is only the daytime face of The Kindeman Remedy. That’s right, there’s a seedier night-time part of the prison dedicated solely to your favourite Saw scenes and snuff movies. If that line alone makes you internally cringe, this game won’t be for you.
During the day, you can have Sister Anna poison both the pills being distributed and the drips being attached. Poisoning inmates provides a lovely abundance of corpses, while treating them increases your reputation, which you use to purchase upgrades for rooms. You’ll need to balance both needs, yet you’ll never struggle to do so – poison 4 or 5 at the start and then treat everyone else for the day. There you go.
Once the sun goes down, every second night (provided you followed the execution steps and didn’t forget to call Ronnie…) you’ll be treated to the shock value of The Kindeman Remedy. In the doctor’s underground chamber, you can rig people up to a table, chair or rack. You select from say, a hammer or a saw, and then choose your designated body part for mangling.
Sounds grotesque, vile, horrifying, stomach-churning… right? Well, not really. Every action is boiled down to a simple timed button press and the visuals and sound design are repeated, making them rather bland. There’s a lack of flair here which is disappointing. I felt the game was building up this horror-torture simulator, only to wimp out at the final push. It tries to have the balls to go all in, as you simultaneously cut off the inmates’ limbs with a saw. But it never really commits, which is a shame, I think.
What do you do with the rest of the darkness hours? Load up bodies onto tables in a morgue, where you’re subjected to a boring, laborious procedure of watching your character (and eventually an assistant) pick up, examine and dispose of corpses. The idea is you’re completing minor and major research to complete your remedy. But, that doesn’t make it any more interesting.
Completing examinations also provides more of the remedy to use for preventing executions and you can talk to Percy. Percy is the best part of this game. Percy is a limbless head with a body attached to the wall. He spews out nonsense and philosophical nothingness. However, it’s done in a highly amusing tongue-in-cheek way, making them funny exchanges.
What’s Sister Anna doing during this time you may ask? Good question. You’d suspect she’d have tasks to do too, right? You’d be wrong. Sister Anna, once again, is relegated to feeding a mouse (when you’ve unlocked it) and… that’s it. If you’ve sent up some resources before the day ends, she can prepare the dispensers. Otherwise, she has as much physical use or motion as the sack of corpses piling up in the morgue.
The most disappointing thing is that the game can be fun when you’re actually given things to manage. During the day when you’re combining three different forms of drips and meds on limited tables, actively selecting which to send up before the supplies run dry, is engaging. Unfortunately, there’s no real punishment for failure nor stakes, aside from the fact it’ll just take you longer to reach the end, that’s it.
An Upgrade A Day Keeps The Doctor Kindeman Away
Much like Ravenous Devils before it, The Kindeman Remedy does at least have a solid upgrade system. Accruing a reputation from treating patients provides you points to spend between days. Upgrades include more tables for mixing or in the morgue, speeding up processing times for sterilizing tools or adding new components to make new varieties of medications.
Later in the story, you can even unlock a couple of helpers that will, for instance, give your inmates extra time to be dripped. The system isn’t perfect, however, as there’s a clear hierarchy of useful vs non-useful improvements. More tables, faster processing and additional components are clearly very valuable. Having more than two sterilization kits is not, as there are only two operating tables.
Moreover, why do drips have four potential required variations but only three storage units? Towards the end, you’re virtually guaranteed to miss some patients. It’d be akin to a prison having 300 inmates and only 200 cells, which, is probably quite apt for the UK at the moment. There are some strange decisions in here and they undermine the cohesion of the gameplay, which otherwise works relatively fluidly.
Now, as I mentioned at the very beginning, The Kindeman Remedy is gunning Tarantino-style for the shock and awe approach to gore. You’re in a dilapidated, corrupt prison, poisoning inmates, mutilating their corpses and rigging executions to torture them just that little bit more. From Manhunt to Hatred, games like this have been trying this approach for decades, to mixed results.
The Kindeman Remedy nails the atmosphere of the prison itself. The light touches like the guards despondently smoking and reluctantly hoisting up corpses sells the bleak nature of this world. Blood gets all over the fair doctor’s clothes as he’s man-handling bodies and at first, I was masochistically impressed with the “special treatment” animations.
However, the shock value wears off quickly. Even despite one of the most intense content warning screens I’ve ever seen, it never truly sells the callous disregard for violent norms. I asked for a gluttony of intestines to rip out, only to be met with a melon and a fingertip. For those of the more squeamish character, this will absolutely make you uncomfortable.
But, if you’ve played any handful of violent video games before, this won’t even touch the sides. It’s not helped by The Kindeman Remedy having a weird blurring effect on all the textures which dulls its visual style. I had a couple of performance issues too. The first was a crash to desktop when transitioning from day to night and the second was a glitch which meant I couldn’t remove a body from a table in the morgue.
Poisoning The Well
I was pretty hyped going into The Kindeman Remedy. I lapped up Ravenous Devils over a year ago, gorging in its Sweeney Todd-inspired world and creative gameplay. This was supposed to be another violent, debased scratching of that same itch. The world it presents is bleak, the gore ratcheted up to 11 and clicker time management mechanics satisfying.
Sadly, it fails to really live up to any of those elements. It’s a chamber of torture lacking in any instruments with which to achieve its perverted pleasures. An autopsy of an already hollowed body, removed of the fleshy excitement. It aims to unnerve and unsettle, yet only really manages to uninspire. There are parts to like, but when 50% of your playtime is watching bodies be walked to and from a cart, it’s hard to get excited.
If I were to recommend one or the other, I’d suggest playing Ravenous Devils. Perhaps if you’re a real Saw or Hostel connoisseur, there’ll be more here for you. Unfortunately, The Kindeman Remedy is mutilated into disjointed parts that sometimes elicits a fiendish sense of fun, but more often descends into a heartless husk.
Pursuing shock value is always a gamble and The Kindeman Remedy sadly throws all of its livers into this one basket unsuccessfully. While the management systems can infrequently be enjoyable, it’s as hollow an experience as the mutilated corpses you’re experimenting on. There’s some wicked value in its bleak atmosphere, but it’s a blunted instrument of primal carnage, failing to incite even the most barbarous of hearts.
The Kindeman Remedy is available November 16th on PC (review platform).
Developer: Troglobytes Games
Publisher: 3D Realms
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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