Sometimes in the gaming review business, you volunteer to cover a game on nothing more than a whim. A lot of times this strategy fails, especially if you haven’t researched it at all. And then other times you strike “personal gold”. Thankfully it’s the latter of the two for me and my experience with Unfold Games and Feardemic‘s DARQ Complete Edition for the Nintendo Switch! This macabre, physics twisting puzzle platformer was a joy to play even if it ends all too soon. Welcome to our review of DARQ Complete Edition for the Nintendo Switch!
We’re The Dream Warriors
DARQ is one of those games where it conveys its story without words. Essentially you play Lloyd, a boy who becomes aware that he is dreaming. Lloyd’s main priority is to wake up. Unfortunately, each attempt drives him deeper into his nightmarish dreams. Lloyd has to adapt to the new world. This includes re-learning what you know about gravity, employing some minor platforming skills, and using some minor stealth mechanics to advance.
Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This
DARQ is presented in a fashion that would make director Tim Burton proud! Burton is known for his work on quirky and stylish films such as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, among others. DARQ‘s artwork and animation have a very white and grey, noir-ish style to them. Some of the characters in Lloyd’s dreams have a very macabre feel to them. The presentation is a beautiful balance of light versus shadows mixed in with greys. It’s an eerie environment that is juxtaposed by no dialogue to read or hear. The beautiful soundscape is by Bjørn Jacobsen, known for his work on such games as Cyberpunk 2077 and Hitman.
There are a few “jump scare” moments but nothing taken to the extreme. Chapters in DARQ are essentially you as Lloyd lying in your bed, trying to sleep when your astral body leaves the physical plane and enters into a dream state. That chilling beginning at the start of each chapter is just downright cool to watch. Once you enter the nightmarish, astral plane you need to use your brain, some stealth, and potentially some minor platforming to escape the current nightmare and return to your bed.
A Port That Dreams Are Made Of
DARQ plays very well on the Nintendo Switch even in handheld mode. You’ll get clear on-screen cues for items you can interact with. Your inventory management is via a wheel interface but your inventory is never overbearing anyways.
While you’ll pick up some bizarre items, e.g. severed hands, you’re never left guessing on how to use these items with the environment puzzles. You’ll also manipulate objects in all dimensions.
The Puzzles, Oh The Puzzles
DARQ has some of the most unique puzzles to solve that I’ve ever seen in a puzzle game. To make things even edgier there is no tutorial per se, a lot of these solutions involve exploration. Solutions involve scaling walls to tip the room you’re in. This allows you to walk on ceilings and walls which in itself creates another area essentially to explore. There are some platforming techniques used in some cases but they involve things like flip a switch and run “here”.
While some of the puzzles use some familiar techniques, e.g. connect the wires to allow electricity to flow, sliding puzzles, etc. it’s their implementation that makes them unique enough to be refreshing. Even as a seasoned adventure/puzzle gamer some of the chapters left me stumped for a while until I stumbled across what I needed. The puzzles in some cases are challenging but not overbearing. You can also die if you don’t avoid the scary creatures but the game is very forgiving of death as it resets you outside the “room” you died in. The game is also developed with an auto-save feature but this never posed a problem for me personally.
The only complaint we could muster is that the base game feels a bit short. This “complete edition” includes two previous DLCs namely “The Tower” and “The Crypt”. The base game combined with these two included DLCs will run the gamut of about 8 hours to finish, more or less depending on how many of the chapters provide a “head-scratching” obstruction for you personally. The game, while relatively short in playtime hours, provides a great sense of accomplishment when you figure out the actions needed to complete a level.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with a code provided by PR.