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Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: NACON
Developer: Gloomywood
Release Date: March 10, 2017 (US), March 17, 2017 (EU)

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PS4 Review - '2Dark'

by Michael Keener on Oct. 10, 2017 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

2Dark is a unique mix of stealth, horror and adventure game.

2Dark is a stealth-based horror-adventure title from Gloomywood that tells a story of a man who has dramatically lost everything in life. One night, while out on a camping trip with his wife and two children, a simple task of fetching firewood turns into murder and kidnapping. He hears distant screams and a struggle, so he instinctively darts into the darkness. A body nearby is his slain wife. Further up, on the nearby road, a vehicle pulls away with his two kids looking out the rear window in complete fear. Depressed, anxious, and with nothing more to lose, you grab a gun and a pack of cigarettes and begin searching for your kids. The journey may or may not yield the desired results, and it turns out that there are more missing kids than anyone could've imagined. Who can you save? What terror will you ultimately face in your quest?

The stealth gameplay works as expected. You can use the darkness to mask your location, walk silently throughout the locations to avoid drawing attention to your presence, and you can kill potential bad guys — and children. The goal for each level is simple, but it's flooded with inventory fluff and confusing map traversal. Infiltrate a serial killer's compound, find the kidnapped children, and escape. You can also get creative with how to kill the boss.

The AI lacks any intelligence and is beset with struggles in operating the user interface and traversing the environments. Many times, my inventory filled up quickly, and it became a chore to remember where my key items are. There's a way to organize it, but when you need to make a quick swap, it feels slow to move items. It would've helped if there were a way to pause things while you're digging through the inventory, but unfortunately, there isn't. At times, you may need to combine items. For instance, in order to save the game, you need to combine the cigarettes with the lighter. Some puzzle-solving elements are involved, such as placing a book on a secret bookshelf.

Learning the environments as best you can will mean ultimate success or failure. Moving in the dark is one of the most important tools, as it masks your presence from killers and snitches. Most of the map is in darkness, but if you prefer to have the lights on, there's usually a light switch nearby, or you can use the flashlight, which has limited battery levels. Throughout the game, you can find batteries and ammunition for your pistol. If you must, you can use the lighter for light, but the illumination is minimal. Running out of ammo won't mean ultimate death, though.

Visually, 2Dark is not the most beautiful to look at, but it sufficiently delivers an intense and grotesque setting. Imagine a mix between pixel graphics and the smooth motion of game engines; everything moves and operates smoothly but suffers from lesser graphical details. Regardless of its lack of achieving AAA levels, it puts you in the scariest scenarios imaginable, and you can sense the extreme nature of the plot in every room of every map.

2Dark doesn't shy away from controversial subject matter, but it doesn't show anything that's genuinely over the top. It's graphic to see children die or psychologically damaged, but the game doesn't make it the focal point and doesn't rely on it to build tension. You're given the plot and then literally handed the gun to explore and survive the darkest depths of this fictional — although not far from realistic — society. Exploration, enemies, and the ever-present spatters of blood in the environment continuously set the tone for the game.

The audio underachieves in some key immersion areas. Sound effects such as melee swings and bullets are loud but abruptly go quiet instead of naturally fading out. They're repetitive and a little dull, but the more disappointing thing is that you don't feel as though they ring within the environment. The same gunshot sound plays whether you're outside or inside.

2Dark has a lot of potential, and the premise is exciting. The developers dared to delve into a dark plot, and that bravery should be applauded. The title doesn't fail in any particular way, but it also doesn't meet its full potential. The gameplay felt overly complicated and could've benefited from a "less is more" approach. Some improvements to the inventory system also could've made gamers feel more in control of the protagonist. It would've been amazing if the game had managed to remain focused on some quick and tense action sequences, rather than spending so much time on tedious tasks, which interrupted the sense of immersion.

Score: 6.5/10

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