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A WALK IN THE DARK - 2D SIDE SCROLLING PLATFORMER (REVIEW)
Moody music, silhouetted foregrounds and the promise that every turn will turn you into a wisp of indigo smoke await you in Flying Turtle Software's new platformer.
You begin the game as 'Bast' the cat and the first few levels are designed to acquaint you to some of the dangers of the forest environment. These include such evils as rotating saw blades and porcupines. There are glowing dandelion like flowers to collect in out of the way places, however if you collect them it will be unlikely that you will finish under the level's par time, although I found the times to be achievable in the main, finishing some levels two or three seconds under par and most within five seconds of it.
From the menu, the levels are presented on a 'map' which allows you to chose the level you want to play from those already completed and those unlocked at any given point. You can also see your completion time and whether you have obtained the two in-game achievements available for each level; for completion on the first run through and collecting all the shiny flowers!
The story of the game is presented in a series of short and silent cutscenes from which you soon work out that you have to save your owner 'Arielle' from the dark, twisted world that was once your utopia. A phase of the game near the start whilst playing as Arielle introduces the 'gravity inversion mechanics' used to make the platformer more interesting. They work extremely well although caused me some frustration remembering to press the key to flip gravity.
The controls are simple to use with the buttons being given as left, right, jump and crouch - as standard then. However, without an xbox controller (which is supported) there are no in-game prompts as to what to press. Left and right as default are the left and right arrow keys but jump and crouch are 'v' and 'c' respectively. The jump key also inverts the gravity during relevant levels. This works well enough and they can be reassigned within the menu.
A Walk in the Dark feels like a mixture of existing platformers with several coming instantly to mind; VVVVVV with its gravity inversion, Limbo with its art style, Super Meat Boy with its wall jumping and saw blades and Bit.Trip Runner with its constant restarting when you make a mistake. Overall though this comes through positively and mixed with music produced by Cody Cook the atmosphere is kept intense whilst the speed and difficulty increase and gameplay improves throughout. The total game time at par is around the half hour mark, but unless you are the world's best platform gamer or see and think faster than a fighter pilot then you are likely to get about 4-5 hours play out of the game. Which is good for the price of the game but not perhaps the new controller that you will have to purchase when you smash yours out of frustration at the 100th time of accidentally inverting gravity into a spike! Although you won't get a 'game over' as there are no lives, so you can smash as many as you like!
During my playthrough my brother came to see what I was doing and wanted to have a go. I naturally let him try one of the levels that I was stuck on. The next twenty minutes were spent attempting to get the controls back off him. 'One more go' was the cry over and over again, the addiction levels were that high. This is surely a good sign when A Walk in the Dark can pull such attention from even casual players. My playthrough is not yet complete, as this game is so difficult. Short levels, attractive graphics and relaxing music do mean that you don't get annoyed at this, and I will finish the game without putting it on a shelf and forgetting it, so to speak.
I enjoyed playing A Walk in the Dark, and would recommend it, it's got enough of its own game to not be considered a complete rip-off of other platformers yet regular gamers in the genre will recognise the themes and mechanics. You will die, you will turn into a puff of smoke and you will have to retry levels many times. Don't let this put you off, and give it a go, Flying Turtle Software have obviously put a lot of effort into what has turned out to be a very polished, atmospheric and fun platform challenge.