ALONE IN THE DARK DESIGNER PROVES HE CAN STILL BRING THE TERROR WITH 2Dark!
In this day and age gamers are looking for new and exciting ways to be wowed, overwhelmed and scared out their minds and with this demand comes pressure for game developers to constantly evolve and adapt their creative minds in order to cater to their loyal fan base. Be it cutting edge graphics, innovative gameplay or more immersive software to the humble nerd wanting to give themselves a fear induced heart attack the world is their oyster! The horror genre as of late has become in my opinion a fantastic spectacle of cinematic and atmospheric splendour with recent releases like Alien Isolation and Resident Evil 7 leaving me trembling in my vans. But you know what impresses me more? When a game takes an old school approach to presentation and still manages to send shivers up my spine which gleefully brings me to 2Dark from developers Gloomywood and directed by French video game designer Frederick Raynal who is responsible for 1992’s Alone in the Dark a game I loved in my early gaming years on MS-DOS. With it’s pixelated and macabre style which, to be honest, left me sceptical at first and it’s versatile gameplay, this may very well be one of the sleeper hits of 2017.
2Dark puts you in the shoes of a former detective known simply as Mr Smith, who while on a camping trip with his wife and two children has his life completely turned upside down when he finds his wife mysteriously murdered and his children being taken away on a school bus by an unknown kidnapper. 7 years later Smith lives in squalor, obsessively trying to piece together the puzzle of his children’s disappearance all while investigating a string of other child abductions in the process. To me this is impressive storytelling; 2Dark creates a fantastic contrast between a simple premise with a risky subject of child abduction I personal love how the developers weren’t afraid to go there to give a little more impact to the story and a lot more tension to the gameplay.
As I said earlier I was a little sceptical with 2Dark’s presentation at first, it doesn’t look as polished as other sprite-based character models you find in games these days and your surroundings can at times look a little lifeless and dull but with with this comes gloomy, gritty feel which in hindsight is the true essence of the game. The buildings, the forests, the theme parks they all reflect the attitude and the situation of our main character. The enemies he comes across could be perceived as the inner demons of his failure to protect his children that he wishes to exorcise and the children Smith rescues throughout the game are perhaps his way of feeling some kind of redemption until he can finally bring his own children to safety. The games aesthetic is extremely reminiscent of a traditional film noir style with the dialogue you hear between levels and on loading screens brings classic film noir actor Robert Mitchum to mind in a strong fashion. For gaming veterans as well 2Dark sets itself into a top down perspective which will remind you all of such old-school dungeon classics such as Link to the Past and Zombies Ate My Neighbours a small touch, but one that speaks volume and gives the game more playability, but the real hero in this game (and most horror games if I’m honest) are the people that created the audio. They crafted a well-rounded soundtrack and effects that make this game magnificently bone chilling, the simple sounds of wind blowing, rats and spiders scurrying across the floor and a child’s fearful cry combined together still strikes fear into the player’s heart, combined with the gritty visuals I mentioned earlier this makes for a surprisingly thrilling experience. The game also lacks voice-over work most of the time with a lot of the characters being reduced to grunts and other passive aggressive noises with written text and speech bubbles being your form of dialogue but as I’ve mentioned in previous articles this can be a blessing as you can create your own voices (USING THE POWER OF IMAGINATIOOOOOOOOON!) playing vicariously through these characters can give you more goosebumps which make for fantastic gaming. Parts of your surrounding are cloaked in shadows which can be used to hide yourself from those looking to harm you.
Gameplay in 2Dark is in most part an absolute joy, it combines Nintendo style item collecting and combination work, along with stealth full of tension and precision. Times, where you must fight things, can become clumsy and lacks grace when it becomes simple button mashing as you bludgeon sprites with your stick and long range weapons must be used sparingly as noise can attract others which is good because it gets your brain working as you consider other options, the games combat system blends well with its fondness of stealth as there are many ways in which to dispatch of your foe. Levels consist of rescuing a number of abducted children which provides a satisfying challenge, once they are following you when you offer them candies (weird right?) they begin to follow you and you must provide them with commands such as follow, stop, be quiet etc in order to not be discovered as you make your way to the goal giving you a number of ways to accomplish what needs to be done denying you of linearity (and who the hell likes linearity?). 2Dark also requires you to search for certain items in order to progress through the story such as keys to open doors, crowbars to open boxes, books to open hidden pathways as well as items to light your path as you search through the shadows for useful nic nacks, this is awesome craftsmanship as it spurs you to check the nerve-racking environments with a fine tooth comb. Tutorials in 2Dark can be numerous and try to feed you a lot of information in one go, this can be a pro or a con as there is a lot of information to absorb but it stops you dead in your tracks when you’ve got yourself into a flow of gaming.
2Dark is available now for the Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC
Review code provided by the publisher.