Version tested: Xbox One
Darq it is the poetic representation of an endless nightmare. The hope of salvation hides behind the enigmas that block the various levels. The distressing atmosphere makes everything more immersive and the protagonist's staid movements convey the fear of those unknown places. The dream dimension also allows you to break the laws of physics, every surface is walkable if it allows us to get out of the nightmare.
What game is it?
Darq it's a platform full of puzzles that draws titles like Limbo e Inside. We find ourselves in the shoes of a boy who, every time he falls asleep, sinks into horrible nightmares. The gameplay proceeds by puzzles that we will have to solve if we want to wake up. These puzzles have increasing difficulty which makes it the challenge of Darq decidedly challenging, partially offsetting the short duration of the title.
The commands at our disposal allow us to interact with objects, switch to stealth mode, run and walk on walls, with a decidedly successful design choice. In fact, by pressing “A” near a wall without doors or obstacles, we can walk on it and, with a rotation of the camera, the perspective is overturned, transforming that wall into the floor. This allows you to make the play spaces considerably larger than they normally would be, as well as hide secret rooms for items and collectibles.
For the game world, some collectibles are in fact sown in the form of diary pages. Finding them is far from simple and they don't provide extra plot clues. In fact, the narration takes place entirely through images and there are no textual elements. However, the pages are essential to unlock most of the trophies in the title.
Darq It also features a wide variety of hauntingly aesthetic enemies, making the game world an extremely dangerous place. The game, in fact, does not allow us to defend ourselves from attacks and, if we want to survive, we will have to proceed without being noticed. Enemies crawl in the dark or await us, seemingly harmless, in their wheelchairs. When the protagonist is attacked, there is no way out and you have to start from the last checkpoint.
The soundtrack of Darq it is not very invasive and lets the player immerse himself in the atmosphere of the various levels. In fact, ambient sounds prevail, while music stands out when its presence is necessary.
What did we like?
One of the greatest advantages of Darq is to know how to build a credible atmosphere through the use of common scenarios (a street, a station or a hospital) that become terrifying thanks to the design choices. The visual style devoid of bright colors and tending to black and white reinforces these aspects and recreates a perfect horror atmosphere.
All levels have different settings and, through artistic choices such as the ability to walk on the walls, they also have a greater complexity than other similar titles present. In fact, in Darq we do not just go back and forth through the level until it ends but we can find several areas that are difficult to reach and not immediately visible.
The puzzles of Darq present an exciting challenge that never ends in the banal. The first levels are much simpler and more immediate but we soon move on to more complex puzzles that have tested our skills. The challenge is therefore well balanced and the backtracking necessary to find some objects is not at all frustrating, thanks to the beauty of the environments.
What didn't we like?
As said previously, Darq it has few keys to memorize and most of the actions are performed with the “A” and “X” keys of the pad Xbox. However, the choice to use the "X" key to interact with the objects is not particularly immediate and the lack of a tutorial makes it almost mandatory to switch to the options menu to check the mapping of the commands. In the long run you get used to the controls, but we would have preferred at least the possibility of an alternative mapping to be able to use "A" to collect and activate the objects.
Although the puzzles are challenging, Darq it lasts a couple of hours which is significantly reduced in the case of a second run. As this is such a beautiful game to look at, we definitely wished we could have played a little more.
Darq it is a little gem. The challenge it presents is anything but simple and the environments it manages to recreate are wonderful. It is obviously not without defects, but these are shortcomings that do not compromise the overall gaming experience. For platform lovers who are also looking for an engaging atmosphere in which to get lost, it is definitely a recommended title.
Darq is available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X / S e Xbox One.