Fantastic design, but nothing to care about

User Rating: 7 | DARQ PC

Minimalistic indie puzzle/platformer games are something I really adore. Limbo, Inside, Little Nightmares, Unraveled, and many others like it are just full of atmosphere and clever puzzle design and great platforming. The issue with all of these games is the story. It's nice to be minimalistic with no tutorials, simple controls, no cut-scenes, etc., but please guys start making stories we can care about. Darq falls under the same problems like these before it with interesting character designs, but no context. Why am I running around themed levels solving puzzles and running away from creatures with lamps as heads, creepy women in wheelchairs, and a guy in a wheelchair with a tuba as a head? Why am I placing severed legs into sockets to solve puzzles? What does this all mean?

I feel like the meaning of the game would mean more than the game itself. Darq is only an hour-long, probably the shortest of these minimalistic platformers I've ever played, and yet there's no purpose to any of it. Sure the concept of walking on walls, flipping switching to shoot you between area, and all the other puzzles are done very well and are quite clever, but why am I doing it? I don't even know my character's name, there's not a single piece of written dialog, and all I know is that I'm waking up in a dream to solve these puzzles.

There are 7 levels, with one being a scripted running level and they get progressively longer and more complex. By complex I mean the game consists of "where does this piece go" type of puzzling and once you figure out where it goes the actual puzzle is fun and not very hard. I had more trouble finding the pieces than solving the puzzles, and there was an occasional section in which I had to hide from an enemy, but it was only a single section of the level. Puzzles range from switch flipping, lining things up properly, twisting things, etc. Nothing Myst level or extremely vague. You can mow through the game in 60-90 minutes and be done, but I honestly wanted more, now only more if there was a story or something.

I found the atmosphere and art design to be rather fantastic. The main character looks like something from a Tim Burton movie with everything in black and white and creatures that could fit into Silent Hill. The levels themselves range from a hospital, train, subway station, four-way street in a neighborhood, to a mine. Each level was unique and memorable and I loved how you can walk on walls as this game just worked your brain and really made you think, but everything made sense. There are no vague hints here if you think it works then it probably works. Each level can take about 10-20 minutes to solve depending on how stuck you get. I found the final level the most challenging, which is expected.

Again, the visuals are amazing, the art style is very unique, great monster designs, the puzzles are well designed too, but why am I doing all of this? I'm tired of these indie developers thinking no story is some niche thing. Are developers catering so some pseudointellectual niche audience who think they "understand" these games or something or are they just too lazy to design a story? Whatever the case may be, the flack "walking simulators" and other indie games that focus on gameplay and "story" over AAA bombastic scenes need to grow a little and maybe add a story and characters that we can care about.