I Can’t Escape: Darkness on PC
In the string of retro-styled games I’ve had the chance to review lately, there’s one genre that’s been rather under-represented: first-person adventure. I Can’t Escape: Darkness captures a lot of this vibe, feeling reminiscent of classics such as Shadowgate. Not only is it drenched in low-resolution art and MIDI-friendly sounds, but the play style is like something out of the first experiments in first-person keyboard gaming. While this limits a lot of things about how the game is approached, it’s a great throw-back to an earlier time.
I Can’t Escape: Darkness begins with players standing atop some kind of ancient ruin. As the main character refuses to turn back, the only available option is to step forward, causing the stone beneath you to crumble, plunging you into the darkness. From here, a bit of story is hinted at, and then players are left to their own devices to explore, interact with, and seek the mysteries of the deep, black tomb. Relatively simple puzzles, bizarre enemies, and dangerous traps await those who would seek the heart of this curious place, which is exactly what players are driven to do.
Getting the hang of I Can’t Escape: Darkness‘ control scheme can take some time. While the traditional WASD-based movement isn’t much of a leap, turning is done with the Q and E keys rather than the mouse, which is used for picking up items, pointing the flashlight, and other interactive pieces. Movement is also limited to one step at a time, with the number of steps you take driving the game’s online leaderboards. It’s very similar, in many ways, to something like The Elder Scrolls: Arena‘s play style, though not nearly so broad in scope.
The goal of I Can’t Escape: Darkness is to find your way from the top floor down into the depths, with the darkness growing with each newly-descended floor. Stairs and weak points in the floors are both viable means of navigating from one floor to the next, and if you’re trying to rush, most floors have no shortage of collapsible spots. The more cautious or curious players can work paths around these pitfalls, collect mushrooms, look for keys, and seek other secrets in the many rooms of the catacomb. As you make your way down, the darkness itself becomes a force to fear, and your dwindling flashlight batteries may not last long enough to make it further in.
All in all, I Can’t Escape: Darkness is a very simple, though difficult, game. It’s squarely rooted in the past, with the only modern touch being the Steam-based scoreboards. It may be a bit too retro for some, but I really enjoyed the classic feel once I became a bit more comfortable with the controls. For $11.99 on Steam, it’s easy to get your money’s worth. Though individual games are short, the randomly-generated environments create plenty of replay value, and though the game itself isn’t easy, it’s still pretty easy to lose some time with. I can’t call it an all-around recommendation due to the somewhat awkward controls and almost too-dated feel, but those who enjoyed the classic games it pulls from may find something here to love.