2Dark. This game is aptly named. Not just for its stealth element gameplay but also for its gripping yet incredibly dark and gruesome story line. 2Dark created by Gloomywood and led by Frédérick Raynal, the creator of Alone in the Dark, is a top-down stealth game in which you infiltrate various lairs of serial killers that have all abducted and in most parts killed children. Some of these vile killers have even gone as far as removing the insides of dead children, stuffing them and using them as dolls. Some have even experimented on children sewing on body parts from previously deceased children on to living children. Sounds pretty morbid and not something you’d expect from a video game right?
You play as Mr Smith, who on a camping trip, had his wife murdered and two children abducted. Fast forward seventeen years later and he is alone still tortured by the loss of his family. With a lot of child abductions in the city of Gloomywood, Smith takes it upon himself to rescue the abducted children and hopefully find some clues as to where his children may have ended up.
The main objective of 2Dark is to infiltrate numerous serial killers’ hideouts and rescue the children that are mercilessly being held against their will, trapped in cages or even nailed shut in wooden crates. I even found one child locked away in a drawer they keep dead bodies in, in a morgue! As well as finding various clues that lead on to the next level and the next serial killer, holding children captive. Each level proves challenging. From negotiating a series of traps that provide a pretty good jump scare the first few times you encounter them, to having to sneak past guards or creating a distraction to sneak past some henchmen. Doing all of this with only a limited amount of light coming from a torch or a lantern that can give away your position.
The focus here is on stealth. When you do get spotted and attacked, you have very little life and you will quickly find that in only a few hits you will be dead. It is a lot easier to avoid conflict and try to find a way around a patrolling enemy in the shadows, or by sneaking up behind an enemy and backstabbing them for an instant kill. You are equipped with a gun however; you have a limited number of bullets unless you can scrounge more from around the location. This is where I have a problem with 2Dark. Top down games often struggle with the control system when a gun and aiming is involved. It gets a bit fiddly trying to run away from a pursuing bad guy, turning around, aiming and then trying to fire. After a while I did manage to get to grips with these controls but nonetheless it’s still annoying. One other major gripe I had with 2Dark is the in-game menu system. You can only have two things equipped, which is not where the problem lies, but it is again, a pain, to try to swap weapons whilst running away really becomes an awkward mashing of buttons. The same can be said if you need to swap weapons or reload your torch. It just isn’t dynamic enough.
When you do eventually find some of these children, locked away in dingy, far parts of the level, you then have to get them out of harm’s way and into safety by either getting them to follow you or picking them up one at a time and running with them. This is where 2Dark is at its most tense. The children walk slowly and will often let out a scream if you move too far away from them, alerting enemies to your position.
The overall atmosphere created by the developers makes the city of Gloomywood really feels like a scary and disturbing place. From finding various body parts of children stored in glass jars to a killer clown who dresses up children in animal costumes and makes them perform death-defying tricks. These all add up and create a strange mystery that will ensnare you into wanting to play more and find out what happened to Smiths’ children. I do feel however, that the graphics slightly let this game down. The creators have chosen this pixelated design of their characters to showcase how the different light sources reflect off them in-game but if the characters had been modelled to maybe look slightly more realistic instead of the cartoonish, blocky 3D design they are now, I think this could have added some much-needed realism to really push the atmospherics of the game a lot further. Some of them just look too cute for a horror game!
Gloomywood have done a very good job with this stealth-horror. Even though I found small issues with the controls to begin with and I feel as if the graphics could have been to a higher standard, for a small team of just four people to create such an atmospheric and bizarrely disturbing game, they really have done a great job. With a story that is engaging, to the overall satisfaction of cleverly bringing down one of the grotesque serial killers, 2Dark is a great indie title.
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