A work colleague of mine came into the office last week and excitedly said to me, “Have you played A Dark Room?!” My obvious answer was No, I hadn’t heard of it let alone invested any money into it. So, being the intrepid gamer that I am, I decided that it was my quest to go home, download this onto my iPad and give it my best shot…
Now to set the tone for the review, the price I paid for this game was 69p from the Apple App Store, and truth be told, I think this may have been the best 69p I have EVER spent. Below is a screenshot of one of the main menu from the game:
Simplistically beautiful in it’s design and it’s execution. I was always too old to have played the text adventures of old (Think Zorg) but I do remember the joy I had when I spent more time playing the hidden text adventure game in Call of Duty: Black Ops than the actual game itself…
The basic mechanics of the game are wonderfully simple. You need to harvest resources, to build better dwellings and equipment to progress. As you attract more villagers to join your humble dwelling, you can increase the amount of resources that you can harvest and how fast you can harvest them.
The more resources you can harvest, the better technology and buildings you can build, and the more resources you can harvest to build more buildings and better technology. Beautifully simple.
This is when the game really comes into it’s own. As Humans we are driven to explore and to discover and this game taps into the psyche better in this way than any game I have ever known. I wasn’t so much pushed to explore as I was drawn to explore. As soon as I had created a compass and a back pack, I was given the option to leave my sleepy little township and explore outward.
As I sat staring at the screen, with the basic functions (North, South, East, West) at the bottom, I felt like a whole world was ahead of me. I get it that the graphics are rudimentary but this is all part of the charm of the game. As I took my first brave few steps into a new world, I was quick to stumble upon an abandoned building. This was marked by little more than a little H on the map, but walking to this landmark set me on a pathway.
I entered the house. The game text told me that I was staring at a a ragged man with a crazed look in his eye. The next thing was the combat screen and I was stabbing him with my constructed bone spear. Then he lay dead (as another text screen told me) by my hand. The weight of this kind of then began to sink in. I had killed this man in a world where it was my survival or his. I did not know his name, but his ragged face will be in my mind for a while to come.
From here, things began to steadily become easier. I found several caches of equipment and resources and even managed to stumble upon a few mines which have helped with the building up of my township.
That brings me up to 5 hours of gameplay and I can’t put it down. I know there is an endgame, I have been told there is an end game…but what it might possibly be…I do not know. I am being led somewhere and it is exploring my very humanity through it’s text based fun.
I urge you to invest 69p in this masterpiece.