Reviews April 3, 2017

2Dark

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Reviewed By: Kenneth Seward Jr.
System: PC (also on Xbox One, PS4)
Genre: Stealth/Survival Horror
Rated: M
Players: 1
Cost: $24.99
Release Date: 03/10/2017
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
Developer: Gloomywood

It didn’t take much to sell me on 2Dark, back when I was first heard about the title. The dark story, about children being kidnapped and a grizzled detective who puts everything on the line to save them, certainly piqued my curiosity.  Honestly though, the “newest game from Frédérick Raynal, the creator of Alone in the Dark” tagline was what made me take a closer look...

2Dark is centered around a former detective, Mr. Smith, and the happenings within an incredibly eerie city called Gloomywood. For years, the city has been plagued by a string of child abductions, something Smith has experience firsthand – his wife was slain and child taken while on vacation years back. Becoming obsessed with finding his children he ended up venturing outside the law while apprehending a suspect. This, of course, resulted in him losing his badge and ultimately souring his reputation. None of that deterred him from his search though. Unfortunately, for everyone but Smith, the child abductions continued. His hope was that if he caught whoever was taking these kids, he’d find out what happened to his children. Maybe even find them alive.

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You’ll step into Smith’s shoes as he investigates different locations that he believes are tied to the most recent kidnappings. An abandoned circus, mental hospital, a luxury hotel – each one a maze of locked doors and secret rooms. Darkness will act as a fickle ally when entering these places uninvited. Turning off your flashlight helps in hiding your presence to those who mean to do you harm. At the same time, it’s dangerous to wonder about in the dark; a wrong step could send you plummeting into a pit or gored by a spike trap. Speaking of steps, moving hastily will also draw attention. Waves of sound can be seen emitting from your person whenever you move, less so if you’re sneaking. Resources like batteries for your flashlight or bullets for your gun are hard to come by. Other objects, say a butcher knife resting on a counter in the kitchen, are easier to find. Though their usefulness will vary. That lumbering beast wearing a pig mask won’t go down without a fight. Unless of course, you attack from behind when he least expects it.

The goal for each level is to find the missing children and guide them to safety (a glowing spot located outside near the exit). A child might be chained to a wall in the basement of a house. Another might be locked in a crate, crying as they await transport. All of them are susceptible to an untimely death if you procced carelessly. They’ll follow you on command and wait when you signal them to do so. Take too long while they’re in tow or come across something frightful (like a dead body you forgot to move) and they’ll whine or scream respectively. These audible outbursts might alert psychopaths within the general area. It is possible to lure enemies around using found objects. Throwing a piece of hard candy near their location will cause them to take notice, allowing you to mosey on by. Whatever the case, a straight up encounter should be avoided as Smith can only take a few hits before dying. And having a group of kids following you might make it hard to flee once spotted. Basically, things can go from bad to worse in a heartbeat.

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Thankfully, you can save your progress at time by stopping for a quick smoke. Combining Smith’s lighter and cigs in his inventory makes him light up for a few seconds. This helps when you come across a sticky situation and you aren’t sure how to proceed. Like when trying to free a kid from a room without waking a dog while it’s master patrols the general area. It’s also great since the game doesn’t autosave (at least not during a level); old school mechanics for the win! As long as you don’t save in a bad spot, forcing you to restart the entire level, or are seen smoking by an enemy, you’re golden.

Smith’s journey is filled with tension. This is especially true when you realize that not everyone is out to get you, per se. There are innocent people among the crazies. Circumventing their gaze is more difficult – you can’t just kill them like the others. I mean, you can but the story will change if you do. The last thing Smith wants is for the police to be looking for serial killer and not the kidnappers. Not that it’s particularly a good idea to kill every enemy you come across either. But at least you’ll have some sort of moral footing in those cases, given how depraved some of these people are.

Stepping back a bit, there is an overarching narrative here. All of these killers are linked in a really interesting way. Unfortunately, some of the novelty is ruined given how over-the-top everything is. A person amassing wealth by selling decrepit dolls made from the bodies of her young victims is one part horrible, one part “wait…seriously?”. The idea that someone would host a dog fighting ring where the dogs fight malnourished children is absurd. Reality isn’t void of insane events, but some of 2Dark was…well, too dark. And with it being all connected…these seedy activities would have drained Gloomywood of all of its children years ago.

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That’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate the campy noir-esque story. It provides the right amount of B-movie fun – like the early Resident Evil games, just less complicated. I just didn’t think people would care as much about Smith’s struggle as they would have otherwise; because the story is so unbelievable at times, it can be difficult to see these characters as real people. The same goes with how the game ends. It doesn’t ruin the game, but the “what” and “why” just doesn’t add up in a convincing way. The gameplay wasn’t without issues either. There are times when the game would glitch, forcing me to abandon my plans.  For example, the levels are set up to include situational puzzles where learning the pattern of a guard’s patrol is important. And while it’s possible for them to veer off course based on what’s going on, they tend to stick to one area. However, a few times I had to deal with enemies being frozen in place. For whatever reason, they wouldn’t resume their patrol, making it impossible to get pass them without being seen. My only options at that point  were a needless fight or restarting the level.

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Despite all of this, 2Dark is rather entertaining. I don’t think it’s going to be genre-defining like Frédérick Raynal’s earlier work. It could lead to a new franchise of sorts though. There’s so many places that Gloomywood could go with this set up. New characters, places, maybe toss in some supernatural elements. They could be on to something!

Gameplay: 8
2Dark is B-movie amusement in game form. Some campy elements and a few glitches keep it from excelling though.

Graphics: 9
The retro graphics and stylized stills add to the game’s creepy vibe.

Sound: 8
The voice work isn’t bad and the ambient sounds and music help to heighten tense moments.

Replay Value: 6
Some start the campaign over to see slight changes in the story, complete levels in alternate ways, or to try out a harder difficulty level. Most will be done after the first playthrough.  

Final Score:

7.8