No, it’s not a sequel to that terrible vampire stealth game. That would’ve been preferable
I’ve been spoiled this year. After Resident Evil VII, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Night In The Woods and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (yes, I know that last one wasn’t on PC, I do play some stuff on consoles) I was beginning to think I’d never play a game that I didn’t love every minute of and was sad when it was over. In that case thank you 2Dark for reminding me that yes, games can still suck.
A lot of things about 2Dark are completely messed up, and only one is a good thing. That’s the story, or at least the premise. The main character Mr Smith (imaginative name for an imaginative game) saw his wife killed and his two children abducted 7 years ago, and now he’s trying to hunt down a child abduction ring that may have been involved. 2Dark is a deeply disturbing game, with many, many dead children to its name. There are Hannibal levels of disturbing imagery here (and that show didn’t mutilate kids), and it shows how f***ed up I am that I consider this the best thing about 2Dark. Unfortunately after introducing the kidnapping, murder and mutilation of pre-teens the game does rather go downhill.
Firstly in the writing, which is just awful. Well, in English anyway, where it has been incredibly badly translated. You’ll get such gems as “this door opens otherwise” which makes delightfully little sense. When Smith enters his shooting gallery he talks about practicing on “those child rapist scumbags” even though, despite the game subjecting kidnapped children to a lot of death and horror, at no point does 2Dark ever even hint at the idea that the kids are being raped or sexually molested in any way. This is just something that Smith says, and the developer clearly meant “kidnappers” or “abductors” or even “murderers” but they had obviously heard the term “child rapist” on English news and thought it meant the same thing. The entire game is like that, with an equally tenuous grasp of language that ruins the atmosphere. And it’s not the only thing that’s bad.
2Dark is best described as a stealth-survival-rescue ‘em up (you know, like Lemmings or Krusty’s Fun House, except less bloody). From an isometric perspective Smith has to sneak his way through the levels, find clues, save missing children and escort them to safety. NPCs will either run away and set off an alarm or straight-up attack, and so need to be either avoided or killed. There are minor adventure game-style puzzles involving items and occasionally some sneaky Hitman-like solutions like poisoning a cake before it gets sent up to the cake-scoffing rich heiress murderer upstairs. Once you’ve found all the clues and escorted all the still-breathing children to safety the level is over.
All of this would be fine except the implementation is off. Wildly. For everything. It is one of the most ham-fistedly badly designed games I’ve ever had the misfortune to be interested in. Every little part of it has been made wrong. For starters the interface looks like Gloomy Wood started making a point-n-click adventure and turned it into a survival horror Splinter Cell without telling the UI guy they’d done so. Consequently there’s an inventory that takes up a quarter of the screen which gives a useless ticket stub the same level of importance as a gun or torch. It’s always difficult to select anything, you can’t drop anything, the game doesn’t pause while you mess around in the inventory, and guaranteed you’ll get caught at some point for having a torch turned on because you couldn’t work out where it was in your inventory in time to switch it off.
Then there are the controls. It’s bad enough with mouse & keyboard, where just using an inventory item at the correct location takes a lot of working out what button to press, and where the difference between a torch and a lantern can get you killed. Woe betide you if you try playing it with a gamepad though, which I tried at first and the inventory management made me want to kill myself. Point-n-click at least made me not want to slit my wrists, but not to the degree that it was any fun and it still was hard to select anything quickly at crucial moments.
Then there are the universally stupid things. Stealth is no fun, which is bad news for a stealth game. The areas are all too cramped to avoid NPCs, Smith can’t hide behind anything, all the rooms are incredibly dark so you’ll need the torch on always, and worst of all – sneaking up to an enemy is painfully, ridiculously slow, so by the time you’ve reached them they’ve probably turned around and are beating you to death. So generally speaking, you can’t avoid anyone and can’t take them out either. Now you’re getting some idea why I hated 2Dark.
The kids are annoying, the levels are badly laid out, if you don’t take an enemy down instantly they’ll withstand 4x the amount of hits Smith can, there’s not enough freedom to explore before kicking things off, you can’t tell where any items are without rubbing Smith over literally everything, and for most of the time the game is just utterly unfair. I mean in the “there’s an invisible hole or spring trap which blends into the background and I couldn’t see because everything’s dull and gloomy” way. Oh, and the saving is stupid, requiring Smith to light up a cigarette and stand there for several seconds smoking it. There is no autosave.
Performance & Graphics
OS: Windows 7 32-bit
Processor: Intel Core i3-530, 2.93 GHz or equivalent
Memory: 2 Gb RAM
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GT 9800/ATi Radeon HD 4870
Storage: 1 GB available space
2Dark is a very low-demanding game, which does make me wonder why it takes such a long time to load a save game and why I have to hear that badly acted, badly written narration every single time I rage quit and have to load the game up again because I’m reviewing it and I can’t just uninstall after the first level like every normal person who plays it. Not even after the game inexplicably wiped my saves for no apparent reason and forced me to start the particularly painful level I was on again.
It also looks awful. Everything is far too gloomy with terrible low-res low-poly character models and some boring location art that can’t even make a haunted condemned carnival look interesting. The cluttered icons on the inventory don’t help matters either, nor why there are large icons for “stop” and “follow” on the right of the screen that serve no purpose when both are assigned buttons anyway.
Price & Where to Buy
2Dark is out now digitally for £18.99, although it is discounted right now to £12.99. It can be bought from Green Man Gaming. Y’know, if there are no other games to buy on there.
I was wary of 2Dark the moment I was told that saving the game could kill me. I would like to thank Gloomy Wood for making this critic’s life easy by putting one of the main problems with the game right there in the title. It’s too dark. It’s too dark to see anything, requires having the torch on at all times even in a lit room, and that spoils stealth instantly. Not that it needs spoiling, since it’s atrocious anyway. You can’t sneak past people, sneak up to people, hide anywhere, or get through any of the tiny areas without incident. Level design is cramped and unfair, the controls are imprecise, the interface is from a completely different genre of game and is extremely cluttered and unhelpful, and the whole thing is just painful. 2Dark is extremely frustrating, extremely badly designed, and extremely not fun. I’m glad it wiped my saves. Avoid.
TOP GAME MOMENT
That sweet moment when I realised I didn’t have to play it anymore
The sinister, mature atmosphere doesn’t hold anything back.
It detects when you’re fed up with it and deletes your savegames to keep you on your toes
Extraordinarily badly designed in every aspect
Cluttered interface with an adventure game-style inventory doesn’t work with a game that requires quick reactions
Stealth is poorly implemented and feels like an afterthought even though it’s the main focus of the gameplay
Dark, gloomy, unimpressive to look at, and it’s too easy to walk into gaping holes in the floor and randomly die for no reason