ReviewsReview: DARQ: Complete Edition

Review: DARQ: Complete Edition

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Dreams are a weird and wonderful state. You can experience some beautiful times where your mind takes you to some spectacular places, but then there are the moments that you wander the other direction. Your thoughts trail to the shadow and gloomy part of your brain. Your fears become a reality, and the only way to escape them is to wake up. What would happen if you couldn’t open your eyes? If you knew you were asleep and there is nothing you can do about it! DARQ: Complete Edition takes you on a journey through this horrific and dark existence.

Developed and published by Unfold Games, this single-player adventure puzzle game will; play with your mind, terrify you with tension, jump scares, and the unknown. It’s a mind bending title that asks you to alter the laws of physics to escape the nightmare that you now live in.

DARQ: Complete Edition is a simple concept blended with odd and sickening images.

What DARQ: Complete Edition does so well is its straightforward and easy to understand main concept. Within moments you know what is required of you, and you set about your task with little guidance. The story is broken down into 7 chapters that flow into one another. Each begins when Lloyd the protagonist lays down on his bed. The moment his eyes close, the action and the horror begin.

Lloyd is a boy who realises the moment he starts to dream. Some may think that this is a wonderful revelation, and would enjoy their new existence of this outer body plain. Lloyd is unfortunate, his night time visions are dark, twisted, and full of danger. Locked in this imaginary world, he soon learns that he must bend the laws of physics to wake up from his sleeping prison.

No need to fear the many scary masks.

Each chapter sent shivers down my spine!

It’s rare that a game makes me shudder with discomfort, but DARQ: Complete Edition successfully brought me out in a cold sweat. It doesn’t use traditional horror tactics of blood and gore. No, it plays with tension, pace, and sound to make you feel uneasy at all times. Mutated people scamper around each chapter, and some will interact with you, others won’t. The worrying thing is, you don’t know who fears you, and who you should fear.

Bandaged zombies, a blindfolded woman in a wheelchair, and a body with a brass horn for a head await you in the depths of Lloyd’s mind. These are but some of the nasty sights you will see, and each one will stick with you long after you switch your console off. The weird obsession with mutilation doesn’t stop there! Severed heads, hands and legs, all form key objects to solve the many puzzles that you’ll face. It’s bizarre, surreal, and I want to know what has caused Lloyd to have such a disturbed mind.

A unique style of puzzle, but familiar mechanics.

I enjoyed the unusual and unique approach that Unfold Games had taken with their puzzles. The core mechanic requires the player to flip the world around by pushing buttons, clambering walls, and using levers to move in set directions. As you alter the world around you, new pathways open, and you must explore these to; gather items, find clues, or solve further challenges. It was an interesting and fresh take on what is considered a well trodden genre.

However, for its innovative approach, it still relied heavily on standard puzzle mechanics. The tests that you must overcome don’t require too much effort, and all, bar one has no time pressure attached. Though the one that requires quick thinking is absolutely terrifying, and I wish the developers had made more of this scare tactic than any of the others they incorporated.

The hardest part of this title has to be the ease with which you can miss one small item or clue. With no hint option, or any sign of where you have gone wrong, it can leave you trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. Most of the time progress is only hindered by one minor hiccup, and this can make for a frustrating and unappealing time. As long as you are thorough in your approach, you should alleviate this issue.

What could be in here?

DARQ: Complete Edition is a monochromatic and tense title.

Nothing says oppressive and tense better than a monochromatic palette. The use of shadow and low light created an ominous atmosphere that was difficult to stomach. The world around you is a twisted place that will have you looking over your shoulder repeatedly. The odd creatures that you encounter will have you scowling with disbelief and fear as you question how you should overcome their presence. Equally surreal were the variety of landscapes that you must traverse; streets with battery powered machines, a vintage train, a creepy house, and more. The lack of colour made each environment appear similar, but the well defined details kept it from feeling repetitive.

The audio matched the eerie and skin crawling theme. With little reliance on music, DARQ: Complete Edition used sound effects to portray its ideas. A constant noise of echoing footsteps forms the backbone of this creepy audio. Every other sound you hear is loud and aged. Using ancient machinery is matched with rusty components and slow moving parts. Doors creak, and pistons slowly move under pressure. The sound effects give the game a wonderful sense of depth, and the noises that the creatures made will haunt me for some time.

A leap of faith.

A clever use of UI.

This was a joy to play and control, and I think that’s down to the UI. A simple and crisp radial menu helps to keep items in one place. Objects are easy to pick up and store, and completing the puzzles was simple, mostly. There were moments where you had to alter the landscape to complete your challenge, and this was tough. But this was overcome with some practise and luck. The rest of the controls are basic, and if you have a logical mind, you will pick this up and play with ease.

So, once you plough through the 7 chapters, what else is there to do? As this is the complete edition, you have access to 2 bits of DLC. These add two extra levels that follow the same mechanics, but they are much more challenging. The Crypt and The Tower will test you with many more mini-games, as well as some more horrific images. If you loved the base game, you’ll adore the 2 extra levels. The replay value doesn’t stop there, though. A tough achievement list requires you to have an eye for detail and quick logical thinking. It won’t be easy, but it’s a joyful experience trying to complete every bit that is on offer.

DARQ: Complete Edition does well with its unique approach.

Unfold Games took a gamble with their core concept. The constant rotation of the landscape could have been a mess and been a total bust. I think they balanced this element well with the other standard portions to create a unique puzzle adventure experience. The creepy monsters and eerie audio are the cherry on the cake of this horrific and surreal game. I loved it and recommend you buy it here! Can Lloyd escape the nightmarish world he is trapped in? Bend the laws of physics, solve the problems, and find a way back home.

SUMMARY

DARQ: Complete edition is a creepy nightmarish puzzle game that'll haunt you. A wonderful monochromatic colour palette represents a scary and oppressive atmosphere. Lloyd must wake to escape his sleeping prison in each of the seven chapters.

+ A wonderful visual presentation.
+ Creepy sound effects.
+ Quick to pick up and play.
+ Accessible puzzles.
+ Plenty of replay value.
+ The DLC adds a greater difficulty.
- No hint system.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I've now found a new home to write my reviews, and get my opinion out to the masses. Still the lead admin for Xboxseriesfans on Facebook and Instagram. I love the gaming world, and writing about it. I can be contacted at [email protected] for gaming reviews.

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