2Dark could not be more aptly named. This top-down stealth-horror adventure title maintains a thematic darkness in every element of its gameplay and presentation, and it being pioneered by Frédérick Raynal gives credence to the game’s gloomy nature. A hands off demo was awaiting me at Bigben Interactive’s booth at E3 and allowed me to witness the many layers of depth that the game refreshingly brings to its genre.
You are Mr. Smith, a former detective salty from the unfortunate murder of his wife and the kidnapping of his (and others’) children. It is up to you to investigate a series of serial killer hideouts in a variety of different scenarios to figure out the who, the what, the when, the where, and yes, even the why. Inspiration from horror films and police shows of the 70s pervade the atmosphere of the game, presenting a harrowing adventure wrought with vile crime scenes.
2Dark fuses together a retro 2D art direction with characters modeled in 3D pixels to provide an obscure aesthetic that naturally comes together when combined with the game’s lighting effects. Don’t let its lighthearted, ironically childlike approach to graphical presentation fool you, though. Players will quickly discover that things are much, much more disturbing than they seem. I mean, take a look at some of the official art for the game:
Yeah. It’s pretty unsettling.
But for as visually dreary as it is, 2Dark is quick to establish an even darker sense of humor to somewhat alleviate scenarios of their intensity – the little light in the lot of dark. Most of the game is lit by incredibly small sources of light – if you find a well lit area, revel in it. While you may not be able to see everything (and everyone) at all times, Mr. Smith will be able to hear movement from other nearby rooms with each step being represented by a small circle in the dark abyss. Recognizing these patterns will alert you to where your enemies are, allowing you to sneak around them accordingly. Outside of the already dark motifs prevalent in the game’s visuals, the gloom resonates throughout each aspect – even saving the game itself.
Throughout the stealthy puzzle-based gameplay, the only solace Mr. Smith has is the occasional cigarette. Smoking one allows players to save their progress, but 2Dark complicates matters in a still unexpectedly grim fashion. Players are vulnerable for the duration of the cigarette, adding a tactical component to when and where you should take the risk. To make matters worse, you will die if you smoke too much. Players must choose their checkpoints carefully if they wish to find the kids and escort them to safety.
Each of the game’s 7 maps present the same basic premise with different villains according to the scenario. The behavior of the kids differ from map to map, as well, so players should find a challenge in successfully working with the kids’ varying personalities. Combat is certainly integrated into the game’s framework, but it seems like an incredibly risky avenue. Friendly fire in 2Dark is on, and kids can be killed by your own hand if you’re not careful. Escalating matters to this extent is not ideal in any stealth game, but it is an option for those who find themselves in a spot of bother.
Explore the serial killer’s den, discover clues, release the children, and find a way to get them all out of there alive. That’s 2Dark. That’s what you have to do if you want to uncover the terrible secrets of the town of Gloomywood. And if you ask me, it’s just morbid enough to be as compelling as it is foreboding.
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