If psychological horrors with unique and sometimes disturbing artstyles are your personal cup of tea, then allow me to introduce you to DARQ: Complete Edition. Easily set in a genre similar to that of Little Nightmares, this creepy game is immediately inviting for just a few hours of playtime, which may just be the perfect length.
Players take on the role of Lloyd, a young boy who’s trapped in his own nightmares. While the game doesn’t focus too much on a plot itself, most of the deeper meanings within the story are left up to interpretation. Repetitive themes seem reminiscent of a hospital, so I personally believe Lloyd may be confined in a deep sleep within an ICU bed or something along the sorts. From the strange beeping in the background, similar to a heartrate, or even the monsters Lloyd must avoid that are wrapped in bandages or are wheelchair-bound, these are my own thoughts since no true story is shown to the player.
The gameplay within DARQ: Complete Edition is where this really shines. As Lloyd is so desperate to awake from these constant nightmares, he explores each of the atmospheres he’s dropped in. While this may look like a simple side-scroller to some, it’s so much more.
Levers are placed throughout each level, and when activated, the room shifts, meaning players must solve puzzles by looking at everything from a different perspective. In order to escape a certain area, players may have to turn the level onto its side in order to climb across this newly-found bridge, and then may have to turn it upside-down to collect the cog that rests on what used to be the ceiling.
Stealth is also an important factor, but isn’t a perfect format. Some enemies require that Lloyd sneaks past them in order to not be caught, but the slow movement almost makes the stealth a bit of a chore, unfortunately.
The gameplay truly is the light in the darq-ness this game needs. Each puzzle forces players to look at things in a different way, meaning none of the levels will play out exactly like the prior did.
Along with the gameplay, we are accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful artstyle. Absolutely grim in its nature, but detailed and stunning enough to keep players intrigued. Not to mention the enemies are fascinating – my personal favorites being the ones encountered on the very first level, strange feminine bodies with lampshades instead of normal heads.
The biggest drawback I had with this game was the repetitive nature – not of the puzzles itself, necessarily, but having the trial-and-error format. Sometimes, just as you think you’re about to solve this puzzle, you realize you forgot one important piece, and have to backtrack throughout the entire puzzle, undoing all of the work you just put in to get there. While this does make for an interesting and satisfying experience, the tedious nature can also seem a bit more frustrating than fun.
DARQ: Complete Edition is an interesting take on the psychological horror genre, set apart by the surrealistic exploration. The unique puzzles certainly are addicting, but the game is held back from its true potential by monotonous backtracking and little to no background, leaving players disconnected from the main character.
DARQ: Complete Edition is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. The acceptable price of $19.99 also makes this accessible for players of any platform, making it a fair addition to your collection.
Rating: 7 out of 10 Nightmare Loops