Available on: PC
Developer: Unfold Games
Publisher: Unfold Games
Genre: Adventure, Indie, Puzzle
Version Tested: PC
Official Site: DARQ
Release Date: August 15th, 2019
Where to Buy: Steam
Horror is a great genre. One of the things that make it so great is the wide breadth of genres and motifs within the genre itself. It can span from gory, intense experiences like Outlast or it can be sweet on the surface like Doki Doki Literature Club. But it is a rare gift to see a horror experience use the environment, the style, and mechanics cleverly enough to create a spooky experience without going overboard. And DARQ is one of those gifts.
The story is simple, but that’s the only thing about DARQ that is:
DARQ tells the story of Lloyd, a boy who becomes aware of the fact that he is dreaming. To Lloyd’s misfortune, the dream quickly turns into a nightmare and all attempts to wake up end in failure. While exploring the darkest corners of his subconscious, Lloyd learns how to survive the nightmare by bending the laws of physics and manipulating the fluid fabric of the dream world.
So That’s How You Do That
There is a lot to love about DARQ, but let’s start with the basic premise: puzzles. One of the coolest aspects of this spooky puzzler is the ability to manipulate a 3D environment where the rules of physics don’t apply. This mechanic is done incredibly well, and while it may take some time for your brain to adjust to the idea, you’ll be flipping rooms and traversing ceilings in no time to solve puzzles and gather pieces.
This flipping and switching of rooms and environments also allow for exploration and discovery as you slowly piece together a level and how the puzzles work with one another. The overall effect is pretty brilliant, and it definitely breaks up the monotony of moving back and forth in a space to solve the puzzles in order.
The puzzles also fit well with each level. The story itself seems loose and up to interpretation, and because of that, each level is almost like a small vignette that revolves around it setting whether it be the park or a train or a spooky theater. Each setting revolves around a dream setting, so the puzzles will tease you with odd solutions that force you to think outside of the box.
Plenty of Style
If you gravitate towards the dark yet whimsical style of Tim Burton or the childlike terror associated with Limbo and Inside, DARQ is definitely up your alley. From the enemies to the environments, all of them are strange and on the darker side, but there always seems to be a sense of whimsy… Well. Maybe not the wheezing Nana figure. But everyone else for sure.
Speaking of Limbo, DARQ definitely doesn’t share its more graphic nature. And that is one of its major pluses. So often horror experiences rely on gruesome guts and gore. However, this puzzler’s horror is smartly done. By relying on great atmosphere, sound design, and settings, it creates a more welcoming horror experience that might attract new fans to the genre while still rewarding the tried and true veterans.
Teeny, Tiny Complaints
The complaints I have about DARQ are small and trivial at best. For those looking for a narrative-heavy experience, this might not be for you. There are elements of a running storyline, but it seems kind of vague and very much up to personal interpretation. Personally, I read it as a child potentially struggling with the death or illness of an elder member of the family, but there’s nothing concrete to support that.
Another small complaint is how short the game is. Now, it didn’t feel incomplete or like the ending was rushed, I just legitimately enjoyed it and wanted the game to continue. With that being said, the developer has already promised the free DLC is on its way! So, I can’t even really say it’s a complaint, but, really, it is just an excuse to say I wanted more.
All in all, DARQ was a puzzling experience with the fun sense of horror associated with haunted houses. With a great aesthetic and head-scratching, physics-defying puzzles that are sure to spook and delight!
Verdict: DARQ is a thoughtful, stylized puzzle game that is well worth your time. It’s spooky in the way a haunted house is- you’ll jump but quickly laugh at yourself afterward. The monster and level designs are cool and unique, and the mechanics that involve shifting and turning levels to complete puzzles are done incredibly well. My only complaint is that it was over too soon, but the developer has already promised DLC is on the way! So, what are you waiting for? Go add it to your Steam library now!