‘2Dark’ Review: Think Of The Children
The new game 2Dark started out as a crowdfunded title that hit its goal, and the game’s director, Frederick Raynal (Alone in the Dark), with little oversight, was able to create the game he wanted without pause. What he and Gloomywood, the developer, have come up with is an amalgam of different game styles all focused on the survival horror genre, and even though it looks cutesy, 2Dark is from from it.
The story of 2Dark focuses on a cop named Smith, who, years before, took his family on a camping trip that ended with his wife brutally murdered and his kids abducted. Now, Smith is a detective on the case of some missing children, a case that will take Smith to some very dark and scary places, both figuratively and literally, as he tries to save the children from being slaughtered using only his wits, some spotty stealth mechanics, and some cigarettes.
The gameplay in 2Dark is relatively simple, taking a 16-bit-era aesthetic and using a top-down approach. This simple, almost cartoony style masks a true survival horror game here, as Smith has to sneak into these dark locations, juggling a flashlight and a handgun. The player has to use the shadows, avoiding deathtraps that seem to be everywhere, and Smith has to lead the children to safety in each of the game’s twisted levels, like an abandoned amusement park full of scary murderous clowns and creepy-crawlies. This element is done rather well, though it is frustrating at the amount of times a player can die from silly, stupid things, like hidden traps and rats. Keeping the noise down as to not alert the bad guys is key, and the only way to save a game is to stop and have a smoke, which means lighting a cigarette and puffing away at it, which causes light (the lighter) that can cause detection, or even the smoker’s hack of that first draw, which can be deadly in more ways than one.
Saving/smoking is key is 2Dark, as death comes way too easily, and the player will have to restart the level from the beginning if they forget to save. Luckily, Smith has huge pockets and can store a great many items, as they will all be needed, either to survive or to solve a puzzle. It should also be noted that 2Dark is a brutal game, not just in the unforgiving gameplay, but the story itself. This is a very adult game, as children can be murdered, and Smith is prone to curse. Don’t let the cutesy graphics and gameplay fool you: 2Dark is horror through and through.
The music and voice acting (Smith is voice acted in load screens and between investigations) are adequate, with Smith sounding like a gruff, noir-ish gumshoe from the 1950s, and the music hits the right notes, out intended, for a survival horror game.
If 2Dark had some drawbacks, it would definitely be in the difficulty of the gameplay. The top down approach means that it’s not always easy to make out your surroundings, and in a game where stealth is valued above all else, not being able to scope out and plan paths is frustrating to no end. Also, the flashlight is constantly in need of batteries, and with deathtraps everywhere, you have to have the light on, which causes more problems when Smith is discovered by enemies. This is an exercise in major frustration.
There are a few true scares in 2Dark as well, but the true horror of the game comes in the seriousness of the story. That said, 2Dark makes Heavy Rain feel like a romantic comedy. Seriously.
A game like 2Dark may not be for everybody. I love the survival horror genre, and even I had some major issues with where the story went (and the aforementioned gameplay issues). But I will give Frederick Raynal and Gloomywood credit: they found an envelope once considered taboo — children and death — and pushed it until it broke into a million little pieces — like my heart after playing this game.
2Dark is available for the PS4 and Xbox One. This review is based off the PS4 version, provided by the publisher.
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