When I first ran into this game, I did not expect much. For me it was just another opportunity to experience a fellow indie game developer’s work. Exciting, but not that thrilling. I thought I would see yet another game, like so many others, that has a thoughtful theme, interesting mechanics, and an overall design which shows both pros and cons.
But Black Light’s Darkest Dreams turns out to be a bit more than I expected.
The art style reminds me of games like LIMBO. Quite some games in the recent years have picked up this silhouette, noir style. And yet Darkest Dreams does make the style its own. From the weedy rims of the screen to the dark woods in the background, and to the blocks and protagonist, the graphics come to create a highly atmospheric setting.
I did not put on my earphone when I first entered the game. And let me tell you, it was a horrible mistake. The music is simple, but fits the whole setting and brings out the quietness which prevails the game. I later went through the first few stages again with the music, but had already missed the sensual blast I could have had when everything was strange and fresh. I strongly recommend anyone who is going to play the game to wear your earphone.
Swipe left or right to move in the corresponding directions. It’s that simple. But from this a great challenge for my brain is born. The different blocks with various uses, the traps and deadly mechanics, and the need of careful steps all lead to the mind-challenging stages. I often get stuck in stages from minutes to hours, but the happiness of solving each puzzle is true.
The story is about ‘a guy who enters his darkest dreams, reminding him of his girlfriend that died in a tragic accident, to succeed in forgiving him self and to forget his past’. Yes, I just copied this from the app store page. The visual and audio elements have already created a dark, eerie setting perfect for the story mood. I am completely comfortable with the short monologues that appear at the beginning of each stage. Sometimes there are a few lines, other times you just get one line. But the textual narration gradually steers you from the starting perplexity of the protagonist to the later strangeness.
The story idea is promising, and the narrative elements (music, graphics, and text) work closely together. But the story flow can be disrupted by the player’s getting stuck in a certain stage for too long. As the stages become more difficult, I often have to spend a period of time trying to solve one certain puzzle. My full attention would then be on the puzzle itself until I finally crack it. By then, the story would seem to be some faraway memory, and sometimes I would even have to go retrace the previous stages just to remember my story progress.
Darkest Dreams is a wonderful game developed by a single person. The graphics and music combines nicely, giving the story a rich space to execute without having to rely heavily upon texts. The gameplay is fun, and provides challenges from time to time.
The only issue I have is the discontinuity in the story experience. It is perhaps inevitable when both gameplay difficulty and story plots are to be kept. It results in a slightly disrupted rhythm in the story.
Nevertheless, Darkest Dreams is still a remarkable game that I would highly recommend people to experience.