25/03/2017

☆ Review: Dark Fear "Pixel Art Horror At Its Best" ☆

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Dark Fear - PC

Dark Fear is a mouse-driven horror RPG/Adventure game developed by Arif Games, originally released as a mobile title in 2015, it has been ported to PC and released via Steam with added audio fidelity. 

Arif Games have several other well-received casual / indie titles under their belt, but this is their first foray into Horror territory, how did it turn out? 

Very well, in my opinion.

The game features very a neatly designed pixel graphical style with items of interest well-marked so as to avoid any of the irritating pixel-hunting that can sometimes lurk within adventure games. Also, to call it an adventure game doesn’t quite do the game justice. To put the variation of genres on offer in perspective, when I first booted the game up I purposely didn’t read into the background too much as it has been billed as a horror game with a mystery narrative, I thought I’d dive in blindly so as not to stumble across any spoilers whilst researching. Within the first few minutes, I was treated to a Myst-esque abstract puzzle, an ‘escape-the-room’ section, traditional graphic adventure style elements (collect the object, use an object on another object) and turn-based battling. This was, as the Persians used to say, “A good start”


  
“Like I said, £400 a month rent, bills not included… don’t mind the blood or spooky trees and here are the keys, I’m off before I get eaten by wolves”

You’ll notice from the above screen shot the Sierra style points system, a nice throwback to the adventure days of yore, a nice touch to show you how much you’ve achieved(or how much you’ve missed). Also illustrated above is the movement system, on each screen you are presented with arrows that show possible directions of movement.

The sound design of the game really shines. Some areas feature eerie ambient sounds whilst others sport a keening orchestral score in the background or delicate, disconcerting piano whilst the battle scenes have driving, tribal drums to keep up the adrenaline up during fights. Throughout the game it becomes apparent that some serious time was spent on this aspect, each location having its own accompanying music which varies according to the landscape, ensuring that it never becomes repetitive.

The narrative of the game is mysterious and gripping enough to keep you enthralled as to what will happen next with tightly scripted dialogue boxes and descriptions adding to the oppressive atmosphere of the game world. Often in indie adventure games there can be issues with grammar or typographical errors which can affect emotional involvement but in Dark Fear, this is not the case, dialogue is suited to each character that you meet and due to the writing style, isn’t laborious to read.




The battle system is simple but effective with a fun timed mini-game to make your strikes (or run off). Later in the game, the timing of a single strike can mean life or death and so it gets pretty tense. The hunting mini-games also use the same ‘timed-strike’ system.

The puzzles in Dark Fear are quite often pretty straightforward with only a few head-scratchers thrown in. There may be times when you may be stuck with what to do next but for the most part, the text boxes in the game strongly hint as to what your next goal is. Dark fear moves along at a very smooth pace with minimal back-tracking required due to the fast-travel system that activates whenever you have discovered a new location (combined with the graphical style, this reminded me of Crime City on the Amiga) the only exception to the back-tracking is the hunting aspect of the game which was clearly designed primarily for mobile devices. 

I must admit there were some times where I felt like I was grinding somewhat to get enough gold to complete the next battle. If I was playing the game on my phone, this would not be an issue as it would be the perfect time-killer for a few minutes on a train journey, whipping out your phone and spending a few minutes tapping away, hunting animals in order to move on, but unfortunately when translated onto the PC, this area of the game is slightly impractical, especially when compared to the rest of Dark Fear which moves along at such a neat pace. It’s one of the few moments in the game I feel could have been trimmed back or revamped for the PC release. A big plus is that there are no random battles in the game, each monster is fought only once which adds variation to the battle system.

With its foreboding atmosphere, Dark fear keeps the tension ramped, especially in the more claustrophobic areas of the game. Relying less on jump-scares (although there were a few choice moments which were heart-clutchers) and more on an ever-present creepiness which works much to its advantage, especially in a genre where jump scares can sometimes be a poor replacement for decent writing or inventiveness. There’s a Lovecraftian element to the proceedings, a strange empty town cut off from life where people live in fear of an unnameable entity out in the beyond. There’s also a lake in the game with a name that Lovecraft fans will instantly recognise, a nice nod to the game’s literary inspirations.

Should you die in the Dark fear (and you will), you end up back in the cabin where the game began with all items and gold intact. This works well as it removes any need for saving and loading if you make mistakes (and you will). The game can occasionally give you no warning should you accidentally stumble into a battle where you are certain to die in one hit without the correct equipment and so this instant restart is appreciated and well-implemented. 

Health in the game generates over time which again removes the need to back-track too much in order to raise gold to purchase health items. Personally, I got into the habit of going fishing or hunting as my health replenished which was a routine that worked for my play style. 


You will see this screen a LOT.

The sheer variety of locations in the game is quite astonishing, especially when considering that this is a budget title. Quite often low-budget horror games can all be set within one location (which can sometimes work effectively) but this game does have a sense of scale and momentum with each new place that you uncover.


 


Some uplifting artwork in another spooky house I discovered. I believe this one is titled ‘Crikey Moses’ 
Summary:
I have spent five hours in the world of Dark Fear and according to my save file I am 81% of the way through the game. Considering this is a title that retails at £2.79 (currently on sale at £1.67 through Steam at the time of writing this review) and the game length is roughly 6-8 hours to complete, it’s fantastic value for the thrills it has to offer and the quality of its design. I’m looking forward to seeing what Arif Games comes up with next.

Right…I’m off hunting rabbits!


Dev Link: Arif Games
Game Link: Steam














Review by Britt (www.twitter.com/kingdomofcarts)




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