Before I even start, I think it’s important to state that 2Dark is a game that’s full of gore, foul language and as children die, one that deals with certain themes that may upset some people. If you happen to be one of these people then this probably won’t be a game for you. That being said are we all still here? Great! On with the review.
Gloomywood’s 2Dark is centered around the character of Smith, a retired police detective whose wife was murdered and children kidnapped on a camping trip. You follow his adventure through a bunch of dark, creepy locations as he saves missing children from a series of psychopathic serial killers and attempts to uncover the truth of what happened to his own kids. What is lovely to see is that although this is a very dark game, in more ways than one, 2Dark isn’t a survival horror.
This is a game that isn’t trying to scare the player, though unsettling them is something it does very nicely. This is a game of stealth and challenging puzzles, a game that puts you and your young wards in very real danger and wants you to think rather than shoot your way out. Don’t get me wrong, violence is always an option and you are armed but bullets are rare and the sound of a gun going off can bring more harm down on you.
The game has a point-and-click adventure element to it, requiring you to find and combine certain items to solve the various puzzles in a level. Some of these items are utility items; you will constantly be wanting to replenish depleted stocks of flashlight batteries or find candles. Being stuck in the dark when something is hunting you or when you are surrounded by traps is a very quick way to a game over screen.This is a stealth game. Controlling light via various methods is really important if you don’t want to be seen by heavily armed bad guys and memorizing level layout is important because sometimes you will have to go for a walk in the dark. The darkness can also be used to solve some of the game’s puzzles and is very useful when you want to lure an enemy into a trap.
This is actually something I like a lot. If a room is dark and littered with lethal instruments that can kill you immediately you’d think the guards would stumble into the odd one as well. In most games out there your opposition seems to be immune to everything but you. The fact that you can use the levels to your own ends is a brilliant way to play.
The whole game is a bit of a tightrope. A lot of the things that you can use against your enemies are just as likely to turn around and kill you as well, or any children you may have in tow and be trying to protect. As an example of this, the first level is set in an abandoned theme park and circus. A lion is a very useful weapon when unleashed against your enemies, but how are you going to get it back in its cage so it doesn’t eat you? This makes all of your choices seem that much more important and full of consequence.
2Dark isn’t an easy game. If you want to save all of the children, it’s down right tricky. You have to remember that these are kids that you have with you. They aren’t little robots that will follow you around and just obey all of your commands. They do things like cry when you really need them to be quiet and wander off and they generally give no real consideration to their own safety. You have candy which helps. Yes in this game a stranger giving sweets to children is a good thing as it gets them to follow you. You can also pick them up but you have to remember you only have two hands so if you’re carrying two of the little blighters you’re not holding a flashlight or anything else for that matter.
There’s an a achievement for completing the game saving every child but also another one for completing a level saving all children in on go and then one for completing a level without saving. If you get one of these much less all three you will earn my utter admiration. This actually brings me to another interesting point. Saving.
You save by smoking a cigarette, bad for your health but apparently good for your progress. The problem with this is you only have one save. If you screw up you have to restart the whole level, you can’t just jump to an earlier save and go from there. If, therefore, you happen to lose one of the little ones you’re trying to save you’re going to be starting from scratch. This makes the game feel longer but if you’re a completionist like me who doesn’t necessarily like lots of repetition it will have you pulling your hair out.
So down to the mechanics. The game plays really nicely on the PS4 pad and controls feel intuitive. The only issue is that you cycle your item menu with the D-pad and then use triangle to use or combine items. This isn’t a problem when you’re standing still putting the pieces of a puzzle together but feels vexingly awkward when you’re running away from something and trying to get an item on the fly.
2Dark has a really nice old school look to it. Graphically the game reminds me a little bit of Zombies Ate my Neighbors or Ghoul Patrol if anyone remembers those two classics. The fact that everything is drawn in that slightly cartoony fashion actually makes the game more unsettling. The soundtrack is dark and eerie and actually very fitting for this style of game in that you are never given too much. The stripped back nature of the sound helps to build suspense.
So am I going to recommend this title? Well, yes I am. I don’t have any issues with the theme and the story is well written and interesting enough to keep me hooked. I’m about half-way through the game now and can see me completing it to follow the plot through to the end. I can actually see me re-playing this as well so I can go achievement hunting. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review this won’t be a game for everyone and certainly isn’t a game for children. Placing the themes used in 2Dark to one side, this game is still full of violence, blood and foul language. All of this is fitting for the genre so isn’t over blown but still not for small eyes and ears. If you’re of a more mature persuasion and looking for a new puzzler this may well be a nice addition to your library.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
2Dark in more ways than one.
An interesting take on the stealth adventure theme that’s addictive enough to keep you coming back for more.