The Dark Room is a comedy puzzler developed by Stirfire and The Fear Corp that is inspired by text-based adventure games from the eighties. You find yourself in a dark room, and your job is to find a light switch. The premise is simple, but escaping the room won't be easy. This game revolves around choosing options on a screen and hearing the offensive, cruel, and hilarious commentary of your torturer/helper who laughs and contorts visibility in the center of the screen. Your choices often bring imminent death, and your tormentor is your only help.
The Dark Room was originally a YouTube stage show, and the game is based on this premise and series; the developers have stated that they have tried their best to capture the essence of the stage show in the game.
The Dark Room can be purchased on Steam for your regional pricing.
This game is currently in early access and will be subject to change, so this review does not reflect the final version of the game or improvements that may come later. With that said, you can play the early access version of the game and help make suggestions and offer feedback that will improve upon the finished experience.
The Dark Room is a game with no real story yet is all about story at the same time. What I mean is that the game starts off by explaining that the game is a retro-style text adventure game, but brief intro excluded, you wake up in a dark room with no realization of who you are or why you are there.
Your tormentor appears on screen and asks for a morality test and your name, and after that, the entire game is about trying to escape a dark room. That is the backstory. You are in a dark room, so find the light switch and escape.
On the flip side, the gameplay is all about choosing text, hearing hilarious commentary and verbal abuse, and either drying or continuing, so the gameplay is boiled down to zany choices told in a profane and minimalistic story that lead to a chance of escape or immediate death.
The gameplay is very simple. There are no real actions you can take, and you can't move around. You can play The Dark Room with just a mouse if you wish. It's intentionally simple and made to mimic some of what made eighties text based games so fun (a time before hedgehogs were blue according to this game).
You will see four options appear on the bottom, top, left, and right of your screen. Each option has a different color and clicking one will elicit a response from your captor(captor?) who watches your every decision from the center of the screen. He will swear at you, belittle you, and laugh at your pathetic escape attempts after you choose an action. Occasionally you will receive praise, but don't expect it too often. Fortunately, the voice acting is top notch, and most of the punchlines land as intended. I loved that they wouldn't let you name yourself Mario, claiming they didn't have the rights to the name, and I burst out laughing on many occasions, one particular point was when I chose to swallow lint, and he reminded me that I was supposed to chew first and therefore choking on the lint.
After the dialogue, you will either be presented with four more choices on screen or Ya die! ya die! ya die ya die! Ya die! Expect to hear this quite a lot, because you need to trial and error through a lot of the options in the game, even illogical options such as "listen for the light switch" or "let the dog eat the puke".
The Dark Room runs a lot like a Dungeons & Dragons game–for those nerdy enough to have played–where the captor is essentially a dungeon master and narrates your every choice. You won't actually see any the actions you choose to come to life. For me, this was a little boring after the initial humor of the game wore off. While checkpoints are generous, and you are usually only one to three options behind where you died, there is a ton of backtracking. Luckily you can skip the commentary and fly through the options though. They can be a bit of a maze, and they aren't randomly generated or anything. In this way, the game seemed more like a maze than the surreal and terrible survival exercise of trying to escape a dark room.
It's worth noting that the early access version of the game had a few bugs. There were times when I clicked an action and nothing happened or it took longer than it should have to initiate your captors dialogue. He would awkwardly stare at the screen, and I just had to click through the bug to the next option. it wasn't a deal breaker by any means, but hopefully, small issues like this will be fixed in the final version.
I could not beat the game in the early access version. I got as far as I could get (as far as I can tell), and I played through the game twice just to be sure. I got to a point where I beat a giant boss spider and found myself at a "to be continued" screen. I had probably played for about 30 minutes in my initial playthrough, so I would expect the whole game to be about 60-90 minutes. Due to the minimalistic style of the game, I can't see it being much longer than that, and the price is still unknown as well.
graphics & Sound
The Dark Room has intentionally simplistic graphics. The game takes place in a dark room, so it should come to no real surprise that the setting is mostly a black background. Options will pop up on the four sides of the screen, and your tormentor's face cackles and contorts as he lays out your options and whips your ego with each bad — or good — choice you make.
The graphics look dated to be sure, but this isn't a game you play for dazzling visuals anyway. The intro has some cool effects as it tells you the origin story of the game, but this game is intentionally minimalistic and retro and it works well that way. I guess some shadowed details could have been added or what not, but I think the developers succeeded with their minimalistic intentions.
My only complaint is that there is occasionally glitching with the face in the middle. There are some odd transition colors that are clearly a bug or glitch in the game that shouldn't be there. That said, it doesn't take away much from the experience.
The sound in this game is actually very well done, at least for the style of the game. There is no background music to speak of, and the only real audio is the tormentor/helper's words as you choose options. The voice acting was superb and hilarious. They chose a great actor for the role, and the emotion and sarcasm in the voice acting is spot on.
I picked up The Dark Room based on intrigue. I am too young for text-based adventures, but the humor/puzzle combo had me curious, and the premise of the game seemed original. The humor is the strongest factor in this game due to some great voice acting, surprising profanity, and hilarious choices. It's worth trying this game to experience the belittlement alone.
As far as the puzzle part of the game (and the meat of the gameplay), I am less thrilled. I did enjoy it for a little while, but the lack of any kind of visuals or actions, and solely relying on narration, had lost its charm after about twenty minutes. This is accentuated by the options always remaining the same and having to backtrack through the same choices after you die. A good puzzle game keeps you on the edge of your seat, but the deaths in this game were common yet unmoving. I died then simply had to choose more text. It never really felt like there were any consequences to dying, and I felt safer than I would have hoped for while being trapped inside a dark room.
This game is definitely a mixed bag that will appeal to some and completely turn off others. It's important to state, once again, that this is an early access game. I hope some of the glitches and monotony will be weeded out of the final version of the game. I doubt the gameplay will drastically change, but maybe the developers have a few surprises up their sleeves to make this game feel a little more frightening and engaging, otherwise the novelty of verbal abuse wears off pretty fast, and It would be hard to recommend this if the final price tag is over $9.99 (USD).
|+ Cool premise for a game||– There are minor bugs|
|+ The humor always hits the punchline||– A lot of repetitious choices|
|+ Voice acting is top notch||– Could use more diverse puzzle elements|