Platformers in this day and age of gaming are an interesting bunch. Challenged by ever-evolving graphical beauty and faced with competition from other genres with active, immersive gameplay, the platformer has its job cut out for it.
A Walk in the Dark is one such platfomer from Flying Turtle software. Released on Steam, it depicts the adventures of Bast the cat (who looks just a tad like a dog) and Arielle the little girl who is attacked and spirited away by a horrifying spirit in the woods. Bast goes off in search of Arielle through the woods and caves for its owner.
A platformer is largely defined by its gameplay. Running, jumping, solving puzzles, enemy vanquishing optional. A Walk in the Dark features two different characters with three different modes of gameplay, and the result is a challenging experience simplified to: get to the exit.
Primarily the player controls Bast, the shadowy cat with way-too-long ears, as he runs and jumps around spikes, frogs, and whirling blades of death. There are three controls: movement, jumping, and crouching. This is the first type of gameplay and the most standard: Bast can only avoid enemies and traps but also enjoys the cat-like ability to jump off of walls (and straight up them) in pursuit of the goal.
Eventually, gameplay shifts briefly to Arielle, the trapped lass, and everything changes. Gone is the ability to jump, replaced by the ability to shift your gravity from floor to ceiling and vice versa (a la Metal Storm for the NES) – so long as your feet are on a surface when making the shift. No midair flipping about, and the mechanic shakes things up enough that it can be challenging to get the knack of it when it appears.
When Bast is once again featured, standard levels also give way to a new type of level: cave runners. Utilizing the gravity shifting mechanic, Bast is required to flip from floor to ceiling and platforms in between whilst proceeding at a fixed, unalterable speed.
The last major mechanic in the game comes in the form of a forced gravity switch. It first appears in the cave running levels, but then becomes a staple in the standard Bast levels. Forcing the player to alter perspectives as they dip, duck, and dodge around obstacles, it adds a layer of complexity in the latter half of the game to keep things interesting.
As an incentive to perform well, each level offers two rewards. One stays the same throughout: the Shiny Award, given if the player completes the level while also obtaining a glowing white orb. Doing so is often very difficult, requiring feats of twitching and perfect timing.
The second award is dependent on the type of level. Arielle’s levels and standard Bast levels get the Par Time award, given to the player if they complete the level before a set time limit. For cave running levels, a special “First Run” award is given if the player completes the level without dying in one run. This isn’t restricted to the very first round, and the award can be earned if the player returns to the level after completing it.
Graphically the game is quite pretty, taking visual cues from Limbo while incorporating a unique sense of light and shadow interplay. It gives the game a very surreal look-and-feel, coupled by the shadowy nature of Bast and Arielle. However, the game stutters at certain points during cave running levels, resulting in immediate death unless creative timing is engaged to compensate.
Overall, the difficulty of the game is fairly standard, nothing crazy (this one might have died 435 times) – until the latter half, when certain challenges enter the game. Requiring perfect timing on multiple jumps where failure drops you off at the beginning of the level (there are no checkpoints), they are a special hell. Fortunately, levels can be skipped so long as enough prior levels have been completed to move on.
Playing the game proved slightly frustrating at times. Employing the “don’t touch anything” method of inflicting death upon Bast and Arielle, the slightest miscue on a jump brings certain peril at the hands of a teeny tiny spike. On cave running levels, this can prove infuriating at times.
Yet it must be said that 437 deaths were never set against such gorgeous background music. Featuring an original sountrack by Cody Cook, A Walk in the Dark is set against a piano/harp composition so eerily beautiful it almost made trying a level over and over again enjoyable.
To sum: A Walk in the Dark is a platformer. You run, jump, and die. A lot. With a pretty and slightly spooky setting against one of the nicest BGM scores out there, the self-proclaimed “story-driven” game (a few 5 second cutscenes, expect nothing) proves to be a slightly rewarding challenge. Controls handle reasonably well, and the game runs solidly. It’ll grant a player two or three hours of enjoyment, and with the level rewards and unlockable challenge levels that can be extended. A slightly-better-than-average experience.
[+Challenging gameplay][+Gorgeous sountrack][+Varied gameplay][-Frustrating level design at times][-Mediocre experience overall]