While many gamers complain that games are getting easier, more titles have started to feature fair challenge again. Never mind those games that are made to troll gamers by being seriously unfair; we’re talking about games that give rewarding experiences without being needlessly cruel, but without spoonfeeding either. Such a game had just come out for major consoles, but some would want a more entry level experience into this world of challenge. Platformers are pretty good at that, and there are some that aren’t too sadistic and still give a good burn.
A Walk in the Dark is a puzzle platformer by Flying Turtle Software that combines Limbo-like visuals with gameplay that shifts between normal puzzle platforming and VVVVVV-style gravity shifting platforming with either movement control or as an endless runner. There are two main characters featured in this game, namely a girl called Arielle and a cat-like creature called Bast. Some dark and misshapen entity swoops in to abduct the girl, and Bast must now traverse the abstract forest of full of spikes and other deadly obstacles to find her. Meanwhile, Arielle ends up in a weird place and defies gravity to find her way back.
Things look calm and serene at first and the controls look simple enough, but it then gets quite intense with every succeeding level. It does do well in introducing new obstacles and level features with each chapter, teaching you how to negotiate them first in an easier level, then ramping up the difficulty in the next stages. There are the usual obstacles to jump over, enemies to avoid, lots of spikes and other sharp objects to not touch, and other features that make you think twice about running forward without thinking. You can temporarily cling and jump off walls like in Super Meat Boy, or like Mega Man and Shinobi if you’re more into old school platformers. If you die, you immediately respawn at the start of that level like a whiff of black smoke reforming back into your current character.
You then encounter the VVVVVV-style levels with gravity shifting from the floor to the ceiling if you jump, which you must take advantage of in order to avoid hitting spikes and buzzsaws to help Arielle survive and reach her destination. Later on, you gain control of Bast again and play through levels that mix that gravity-shifting mechanic with the endless runner mechanic of constant forward motion, making things even more difficult as you have no time to think before you react. You get a bonus for making it to the other end on your first run, but that’s not exactly child’s play.
The visuals are the black silhouette foreground that Limbo fans should be familiar with, as well as a (mostly) soothing background and lighting effects in the right places. As for the sound design, it’s spot on for this game as the music and ambient sound captures the dark and serene feel brought on by the visuals. The controls are simple left and right arrow keys for forward and backward movement, then a jump and crouch key to not die to obstacles.
Most levels have a par time that you must beat in order to obtain the level’s main achievement. Even if you don’t get to finish on time, you still get to unlock succeeding levels, but you may want that achievement after all. There are also shiny orbs that you can collect to obtain the Shiny Catcher achievement in each level for added bonus. Beating those par times or finishing with first runs in the harder levels is quite difficult, but it does add a bit of replay value to the 100 levels available in this game.
Aside from those shiny orbs, there are also bigger patches of light in the gravity-shifting levels that act as trampolines that automatically send you to the opposite side when you run over it, which may seem helpful at first but can actually mess up your jumps if you’re not careful. If you hit one of them then you accidentally press jump, you’ll most likely hit spikes by mistake. Perhaps its only real weakness is that it’s just a series of platforming challenges with short animated cutscenes in between to fill in the abstract blanks. Despite its innocent exterior, the potential frustration level may be a bit too high for casual players to deal with here.
If you’re looking for a simple time-killer, then this may not be the best choice as this game can be stressful, especially for those who aren’t that proficient with platformers. Perhaps there are just too many platformers these days with both major and indie developers making and releasing them left and right. If there’s ever a cheap one that you should consider, then this one is actually a very good choice.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8/10