DARQ: Complete Edition Review
Imagine constantly being tormented by never-ending and ever-worsening nightmares. This is the life of Lloyd, the protagonist in the wonderfully crafted puzzle game, DARQ: Complete Edition.
The above description is the best way I have found to describe the story of DARQ. There isn’t much that is overtly mentioned. Rather, the game tasks players with crafting their own story by leaving many details up for interpretation.
This would normally irk me as lazy game design, but the developers have included enough details to allow players to craft a coherent narrative.
As this is the complete edition, the game includes both the DLC levels that were previously released. While I thoroughly enjoyed playing through these, I felt they contributed nothing to the overall story.
Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems these stages were included just to give players some additional puzzles to mess around with. I would have loved it if these could have continued the narrative in some way.
The gameplay was a treat, and I found myself getting lost in the game as a result. As you are in a nightmare world, you possess strange abilities, which allow you to walk on walls and ceilings. By utilizing this ability, you are able to solve a number of inventive puzzles that make you think.
The difficulty of this game was something I really enjoyed. I haven’t played all that many puzzle games and I can’t say they typically grab my attention. Instead of having fun, they usually just make me feel frustrated and dumb. However, I felt the puzzles in DARQ were just the right difficulty. I had to think and try out different strategies but never felt like I was stuck.
I did find it strange that the game doesn’t appear to offer any sort of introduction to the controls. Sure, I figured them out by mashing my controller, but I wish I had simply been introduced to them.
I didn’t even realize that I could sprint until I opened the controls menu halfway through the game. I understand that this adds to the mysterious and uncomfortable tone of the game, but I found it more annoying than anything else.
As I mentioned, the puzzles in DARQ are some of the best I have experienced. The end goal of every level is to escape the nightmare by gathering a particular set of items. These items can be retrieved by exploring the map, which often requires other items, or completing some small puzzles. These puzzles were enjoyable and stopped the exploration of the map from getting old.
There are also some stealth sections, where you have to avoid the various monsters that inhabit your nightmares. While these portions may sound enjoyable, I found them to be quite boring. The monsters move extremely slow and there is no real strategy to avoiding them. This portion of the game, had it been implemented better, could have been used to create an even scarier environment.
The graphics are another area where the game really shines. If you have seen any Time Burton films, then you know exactly what you’ll be getting with this game. If you haven’t, the best words I can use to describe them are cartooney and dark. The game is black and white and uses lighting extremely well to create environments that are both mysterious and terrifying.
The level design is equally as impressive. Obviously, as it is a puzzle game, it needs well-designed environments that can harbor puzzles. The levels require just the right amount to backtracking and take you through a number of different locations.
Despite the black and white graphics, I never found myself getting bored with them or wishing for anything else. It certainly isn’t a style every game can pull off, but it fits DARQ perfectly.
As far as sound goes, there isn’t really much to say. I felt like music was barely present in this game, only being included in the most intense moments. Although this did not bother me, I do have one gripe with the sound design.
Too often, it was used to facilitate jump scares, which are fine in moderation. However, there were far too many of them, mainly resulting from unexpected loud noises. I found many of the other terrifying aspects of the game losing their effectiveness as a result.
Before I conclude this review, I do want to pay a little attention to the two extra levels included in the complete edition. The first stage, “The Crypt”, was one of my favorites in the game. Although it didn’t change the game at all, it built on what already made the game so great.
While I enjoyed the other level, which introduced a new mechanic, I thought the puzzles were a little too difficult to understand. As I previously mentioned though, I felt DLC was not fit for this game, as it takes away from the strong narrative it worked so hard to create.
Even if you’re not a fan of puzzle games, I recommend you check out DARQ: Complete Edition. The puzzles are challenging but not impossible, and it features both greater graphics and a fantastic story.
Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy for review.