There are certain games that carry a special amount of weight when someone mentions them, as they often had a profound impact on something in gaming history. While Resident Evil may have stood the greater test of time, it owes a lot of its success to the Alone in the Dark series, which hasn’t aged quite as nicely. It was still exciting to hear about a new horror title from the series’ creator, Frederick Raynal, at Gloomywood. Unfortunately, 2Dark is likely to join the ranks of the greats.

Few things can evoke an emotional response like the thought of a parent losing their child, and here the story starts out strong by going down just that route. Smith, a detective, watches his wife murdered and his children being snatched away in the middle of a family outing, leading him on a hunt for several years to not only find his children but to save all the children who get taken in his city.

The difficulty in this kind of story is in how it’s handled, and this is where 2Dark hits it’s first big stumbling block. The game begins by showing the detective’s obsessive need to rescue children, heading out to target practice where he must “visualize those child rapist scumbags” as he draws a bead. But then minutes later, the game is explaining that Smith can lure children to safety by tossing out pieces of candy.

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The villains in the game are also comical to the extreme, such as when one has children jumping through rings of fire like circus lions (see the featured image). While comic relief is crucial in a game with such a heavy subject, it’s completely uneven and thus unclear whether it’s a serious game with some black comedy or trying to be a darkly humorous game and simply has some awful delivery.

Labelling games by genre these days can be incredibly difficult, but “horror” doesn’t really fit this title so much as “stealth escort”, combining everyone’s least favorite things from most games. The stealth is alright for the most part. Smith and enemies create circles of noise as they walk, enemies have cones of vision, shadows can be used to hide, etc.

Not alright is the fact that stages have labyrinthine mazes to navigate, usually in total darkness, with little to no signage on an absurd amount of booby traps that will kill Smith simply for walking over them. At no point did I feel that I could have avoided death if I’d noticed something, as there are no clues pointing to these traps. With no autosaving, players are forced to save every few steps just to avoid the frustration of having to repeat a few minutes of gameplay.

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On top of all this frustration is a UI that is simply terrible. Granted, this game was built with computers and keyboards in mind, but it seems like no one actually tried to handle this with a controller. As Smith picks up items, an inventory bar fills up on the left side of the screen. Changing flashlight batteries and reloading guns must be done by manually combining items, but accessing the inventory doesn’t pause the game, and there is no sorting. Each hand also has a “quick inventory” selection wheel, but to equip an item, a face button must be pressed while selecting it with the right analog stick, which requires some gymnastics.

After getting through the maze, finally the kids are found and the escort portion begins. Smith must lead the children to safety to complete a level, though kids can die along the way if he’s not careful. The kids can be called with a shout or told to stay still and be quiet. The problem is they’re never quiet. Sure, it adds to the realism that kids would cry and scream under the horrific circumstances they find themselves in, but it absolutely ruins the stealth aspect.

Usually the children must be navigated past more baddies on the way to the exit, but there’s almost no chance of doing so without alerting them, meaning the children have to be escorted to a safe room, then all enemies must be killed. Then their bodies need to be moved, else the little ones will freak out on seeing a corpse and stop following. Again, it’s a realistic reaction, but that aspect is lost when simply tossing a piece of candy on the ground will get the kids to follow again. Save the kids and it’s on to the next nightmare stage. Or maybe not. Sorry, kids.

KAIJU VERDICT

1/4 Pops:  Weak  One pop games may be functional, and enjoyable to some, but not the reviewer. Mechanical or conceptual failings make them impossible to recommend.

Review based on a digital copy played on a PS4 Pro

Review code supplied by the developer

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