Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also available on: PS4, Steam
2Dark is a new indie thriller from Frederick Raynal, the creator of Alone in the Dark. The games title works on many levels as you play in a lot of dark areas with little light, but more importantly, the game is very dark in tone also. I also wonder if the title reflects whether they thought, or expect others to think is the game too dark?
The game puts you in the gumshoes of Detective Smith who, at the games prologue, lost his whole family on a camping trip as his wife was murdered and his two young children abducted. Fast forward seven years into the mid 1970’s, Smith spends his nights looking into missing child cases and going out looking for the wee lost souls.
This is where you come in as Smith gets his first lead via a news report that some kids have gone missing near an old abandoned amusement park, what you discover there is just the first step into a dark and horrid rabbit hole of child abduction, murder and madness that will take you all over the city of Gloomy Hills as you delve deeper and deeper into the case and risk everything to bring these kids home and maybe, just maybe, find your own in the process.
As I mentioned above, 2Dark is every bit a thriller that wears its inspirations on its sleeves. It is a pastiche of other works in the genre following in the footsteps of films such as Seven, 8mm and the like, as well as Raynal’s earlier works like Alone in the Dark (the original – not that weird Central Park affair). During the course of the game you will learn about child abduction and some of the horrible things that happen to these poor kids, ranging from simple murder and torture, to much more horrible fates.
This game might not be for the faint of heart as it doesn’t shy away from the gruesome things that happen to missing kids and you will see plenty of bodies and find tonnes of evidence both written and photographic that outline and show you some of these horrible acts performed by the deranged psychos lurking behind Gloomywood’s doors. Thankfully the impact of these horrible acts are somewhat negated by 2Darks cartoony visuals with the character’s overly large heads and massive eyes. Aslo worth noting is, should you fail in your mission, you may even see some of these poor kids killed right in front of you.
The gameplay of 2Dark is a mix of stealth and survival horror elements. You have to creep in the shadows to avoid detection and get the jump on the scumbags that are taking these kids, utilising limited resources like ammo and batteries/gas for your torch and lantern, as well as light and sound to navigate and distract the enemy but they can just as easily betray your location and alert nearby baddies. The game has a kind of Hitman-y feel to it, at least to me anyway. Each level you plan a way in and watch all the npc’s movements and patterns and use this to dictate how you move around. Do you sneak and avoid confrontations to remain undetected? Or do you go in guns blazing and and murder every one of these kidnapping monsters? You may do as I did and opt to kill everyone for their sick crimes but then you will soon discover, as I did, that not everyone in the game is bad, or may even be aware of what is going on.
Take the 2nd level, a privately owned tower block, there is a receptionist, cooks and delivery guys all milling around this building doing their own thing. They probably have no idea what is going on behind the scenes and what some of the buildings residents are really up to but they will recognise you as an intruder and call security, hampering your progress all the same. It is this aspect that makes it feel like Hitman to me, as you can kill these people too if you so desire, to get them out of the way and to keep your cover intact. When you finish a level you get a list of challenge results including finding all the kids and no victims, a challenge I have yet to accomplish in my child rescuing career. At first I thought no victims was just no deaths but I have since figured out it relates specifically to people not involved, at least directly, with the child abductions.
To this end, every encounter on each level feels like a puzzle and requires thought on how to proceed as you have many options at your disposal, ranging from fighting to sneaking and even distraction. Just about every action you take will have a knock on effect as well, as characters have routines and if some go missing others may go looking for them and may even find their bodies, which will put everyone on alert and make getting around that bit more trickier. There is an odd mechanic in place where you can’t stealth kill someone in total darkness, which kind of makes sense as realistically you’d need to be able to see someone to actually kill them which adds an extra tactical layer of luring people into at least partially lit areas. Likewise, you can only look at documents and photos in lit areas too which makes total sense but is a cool wee feature none the less.
I touched on the games graphics earlier with the cartoony visuals, but to elaborate, 2Dark has a colourful art style that sets the tone very well, the character models aren’t great, perhaps looking like something out of a PS1 game (Really reminded me of Azure Dreams in that respect, which I loved), but that doesn’t necessarily detract from the game, I personally feel it adds a bit of charm to it. The lighting is done quite well with different items giving you different levels and areas of illumination. For example, a torch will illuminate straight ahead of you on a conical shape whereas a lantern will illuminate all around you in a circle. Smoking a cigarette, which you have to do to save, when standing in complete darkness is quite amusing as you just see Smith’s face being illuminated and nothing else, as he takes a draw. There is also some colourful and gruesome as well as a few amusing pieces of concept art which you should check out if you enjoy the game.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the game and getting to the bottom of the mystery, it felt really rewarding to pull those kiddies out of the horrible situations they found themselves in and stealing them away from those who would do them harm, it felt even better sneaking up on those same people and plunging a knife in their backs, or finding other ways to take them out, thus preventing them from repeating their misdeeds on other children in the future. Direct face to face combat is a bit fiddly, mostly resulting in death or near death, making stealth kills the way to go, it is unclear whether this is intentionally so or just a delay in your ability to attack because of your getting hit animation. Also, I feel the game kind of has a lacklustre ending, obviously without going into details, some things happen and other things are revealed but I didn’t feel like there was enough closure to the story and characters, like you get the big reveal as to whats going on but I never felt like I got to know why it was going on, to what purpose. Also an epilogue would have been nice too, like what happened to the bad guys (If you left any of them alive)? And what happened to Smith? How did this journey affect him? I just didn’t feel like there was any resolution in that regard.
To wrap up, 2Dark is a very interesting and enjoyable thriller game that delves deep into some murky waters showing us the ugly world of child abduction, it has some good solid gameplay and very charming visuals. It only has about 6 or 7 levels so it’s not a huge game but replayability for the challenges and to see if there’s any variation in the story by taking different approaches makes it worth the £23.99 I dropped on it for the Xbox One. 2Dark is currently 20% off on Steam until the 17th March so if you want to save yourself a few quid, pick it up before it goes back up in price.