Stop me if you’ve heard this one. You get a frantic call from your wife to come to the hospital. When you arrive you find the place in shambles, populated by unspeakable terrors and babbling lunatics. The patients have turned into terrible monsters who fear only the light. Time to load up your shotgun, right? Not so fast. Unlike your typical survival horror game, you’ll have to use your wits rather than your brawn if you plan to survive.
Darkest Fear is a top-down puzzle game. In it you must manipulate light and shadow such that you stay out of the dark where the monsters can hurt you. By opening windows, lighting fires, and using flashlights, lamps and mirrors you can guide a safe path to get through a level and get closer to finding your family. Each level will challenge you to unravel the proper sequence of getting keys, flipping switches and moving your light sources to reach your goal.
Surrounded by jellyfish.
The levels get progressively more difficult as you learn more mechanics. The difficulty level feels about right even though there may be a few sections which require a number of tries to stumble upon particular solution. Most levels have a number of patients you can optionally save by keeping the light on them. Though not required, doing so does give you more health for subsequent levels and adds some extra difficulty. All in all there are 15 levels which will probably take you a few hours to solve.
You control the game by touching one of the four edges of the screen to move and by tapping on the main character to pick items up and put them down. While using this technique rather than a directional pad feels awkward at first, you soon realize than this is not an action game, and a more slow, deliberate control scheme works just fine. You have just one save spot, but can go back to past rooms to rescue more patients if you so desire.
All right, who spilled ketchup on the floor and didn’t clean it up?
The ambiance in Darkest Fear is great. The music and sounds are perfectly suited for the dark atmosphere of the game. The narrative, even though it is delivered with a simple text and image format, is well-written and does a good job keeping you interested.
Unfortunately, the game does feel like a bit of a straight port of the original mobile game. The graphics and animations are starting to show their age, and there are no uses of the iPhone’s particular design opportunities. The worst offense is that there is no mid-level saving in case you get a call or quit out of the app, which can be frustrating if you are close to beating a level.
Darkest Fear does a good job of taking the traditionally action-focused genre of survival horror and tweaking it to be an intriguing puzzle game. We had a lot of fun on the first play through. However, despite a few alternate endings to pursue, the discrete nature of each level’s solution takes most of the fun out of going through them again. The few hours the game do provide are solid though, and if you are a fan of horror games or are looking for a different kind of puzzle game, Darkest Fear might be just what the doctor ordered.