It’s hard to describe Our Darker Purpose in a single sentence. If I had to try, it’d probably come out something like “Edward Gorey Zelda dungeon meets Coraline.” The game takes the form of an endless (and randomized) dungeon-crawl within the confines of a fallen-to-pieces boarding school, the Edgewood Home for Lost Children, that has seen the adults vanish and the children grow wicked and feral. Our meek but powerful heroine, Cordy, must navigate treacherous halls and fight off her fellow students on her way to the administrator’s offices atop the fearsome structure.
The gameplay is pretty familiar to anyone who’s played a Zelda game, or any of a number of similar action-RPG titles. You set out on your quest from a small room on the first floor with up to four choices to choose from to progress from there; the whole thing is procedurally generated, so you never get same experience twice – even details like which boss you’ll fight to move up to the second floor can change, and the rooms and enemies are always a new experience. A mini-map that builds as you explore helps you keep your bearings, and track important things that you find along the way, be they health-restoring juice boxes or item-dispensing vending machines.
Most of the gameplay revolves around exploring and fighting enemies; that’s pretty plain, I think. The controls, unfortunately, really leave a lot to be desired – if ever I played a game that begged for gamepad support, Our Darker Purpose is it. Cordy’s firing of flame-bolts can be done in any direction, independent of movement; this means you’re using WASD to move while using the arrow keys to shoot, and it gets a bit confused sometimes – for me, anyway. That’s the game’s biggest hurdle for me right now, and the poor implementation of these controls along with all other controls being huddled around the WASD keys is a hassle. When I do get into a groove, though, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience, although I find myself fighting the keyboard nearly as much as I am the game’s curious cast of characters.
Despite my difficulties with the controls, I managed to squeak through a few levels here and there, and gain enough experience to level up; it seems your path up the school, as well as your level-up perks, are also procedurally generated, which is awesome. You get a choice at each juncture, and the choices change with each playthrough, so there’s always something new to discover. In terms of value, Our Darker Purpose asks for a nicely digestible $14.99 via Steam ($10.04 sale price as of this writing), and I’ve got no problem saying that’s a pretty fair value. The art alone may be worth pitching that much for it. If Avidly Wild Games were to add in gamepad support, I’d call it a great deal on a very interesting game, but the controls really do hold Our Darker Purpose back from achieving its true potential for me.
[+Great setting and story] [+Visually intriguing and unique] [+Well-done randomization of content] [-Difficult control scheme] [-No gamepad support] [-Sounds leave some to be desired]