Have you ever had a dream that you felt you couldn’t wake up from? How you either had complete control or total chaos in the imaginary world you have built in your sleep. Unfold Games have taken that concept and turned it into a fluid, mind-bending, world warping puzzle, horror-inspired experience entitled DARQ.
Upon game start there is no intro video, no main menu, no intro video and no backstory prologue. DARQ kicks off by having you load to the view of a nervous, shaking young man standing in a rundown house. This is your protagonist, a young boy named Lloyd, who experiences vivid dreams that have been periodically invaded by enemies set on killing him and thus making him stay in the dream world forever. Eventually, through luck and circumstance, you will come to find that things in the dream world are not what they appear.
The purpose of each chapter in the game is for you to solve a series of increasingly difficult puzzles to escape your dream and return to reality. However, as you progress further, the concept of the dream world becomes more and more bizarre: Certain chapters will have you shift backwards to unseen locations via switches, walk on walls which will tilt both the world AND your viewpoint perspective on its side rotating the world and all its items via a giant turn contraption, all the while being haunted by ever surprising jump scares and hunted by a mysterious blind old lady.
Even the beginning chapter of DARQ will have you scratching your head on how to discover 3 cogs to operate a drawbridge. With no guidance, hints or tutorial-based advice, it’s up to you and your intuition and problem-solving skills to work out where these cogs are located.
What DARQ does best is complementing its zany, outlandish puzzles by providing you with a seemingly helpless feeling (removing tutorial guidance/hints), leaving you to fend for yourself – much like how a real-life dream would.
There are many obstacles and enemies who are set on stopping you in your puzzle pondering quest. Besides the previous referenced old lady, there are female lampshades with pistols who will shoot you down if you dare step into their light, a twitching bandage riddled demon who will tackle and kill you if you step close and though not immediately showcased as an enemy, a trombone man who has been confined to a wheelchair and who toots at every moving moment. When you first encounter these (and many more) enemies, you will legitimately be rattled for moments on end, testing your focus and fear at once.
GRAPHICS + SOUND
If the brain warping style Christopher Nolan’s Inception was thrown in a blender with the artistic nature of Tim Burton’s animation classics The Nightmare Before Christmas / Corpse Bride, then DARQ is definitely what would be poured out into the gaming glass – and what an enjoyable concoction it is! It’s confronting, engaging and enjoyable to witness as you send Lloyd through such levels as a disregarded, broken down remnants of a train station, only to then have the world suddenly and violently shudder and Llyod be (literally) turned upside down, revealing a new area and perspective on his surroundings. It’s a repeatable occurrence during DARQs chapters that will always be a surprise and will always be so overwhelming, but in the best possible way!
The sound design perfectly complements the dream world. From every water pipe dream, to its gloomy ambience, to the distant groans of a looming enemy and the ‘kick-in-the-teeth’ feeling of worlds being shifted, your audio senses will be matched on par with your already stimulated visionary senses.
For a game to capture awards prior to even being released, and be created by one man, DARQ is most definitely a game you need to pick up and play immediately! Though the puzzles will leave you temporarily frustrated and the enemies will rock you to your core, the overwhelming sense of accomplishments will have you wonder if this dream of a game could one day become a reality.
- Fantastic graphics
- Mind-bending puzzles
- Immersing and creative gameplay
- Further DLC content is on the way
- Some puzzles are extremely frustrating