Things might not be what they seem in Dark Meadow, a gorgeous new title from Phosphor Games that runs on the Unreal Engine. At the start of the game, your character wakes up to find himself trapped in a run-down, abandoned hospital. The voice of an old man comes through the speakers, telling you that you’ve lost your memory, and you need to defeat a witch and her monsters to escape from the hospital grounds. He’s helping you, he tells you, because he’s trapped too, and has been for years.
It’s impossible to talk about Dark Meadow without mentioning Infinity Blade. Both games run on the Unreal Engine, and their gameplay is nearly identical. So instead of being able to roam freely in the halls of the hospital, you can only move from one predetermined spot to another. When you’re standing in these spots, you can pan the camera to look all around you, but don’t expect the game to play like a first-person shooter. It’s more like an amped-up adventure title.
Don’t hurt me!
The fighting is almost exactly like Infinity Blade’s, too. You fight one enemy at a time, and they simply stand in front of you and attack. If you avoid enough attacks, either by dodging or blocking, you’re given an opening to land your own attacks, which you do by swiping furiously at the screen. The one addition to combat Dark Meadow introduces is that you can launch projectiles at the enemies as they approach you. This is kind of like a fun minigame, but it’s not deep. Overall, the fighting doesn’t feel as visceral as it does in Infinity Blade either, mostly because the enemies you face are usually smaller and less intimidating.
The witch you’re searching for beckons as you wander the hallways of the hospital by showing you a glimmer of white light near the doors that lead to her. When you find her, you fight– but, like the God King in Infinity Blade, she’s very tough, and you won’t likely succeed on your first encounter with her. If you die, you wake back up in the room you started in, with all of your gear and experience points intact. At that point, there’s nothing to do but wander through the same environments, grinding for gold and experience points, until you feel prepared to face her again. We won’t spoil what happens when you manage to beat her, but we will say that the grind becomes repetitive before too long.
Should’ve worn sunglasses.
And just like in Infinity Blade, as you wander around the hospital, you’ll find bags of gold scattered about, often camouflaged in the environment. The inventory system, too, seems lifted directly from Infinity Blade. You can buy new swords, crossbows, and amulets that give you stat boosts. And as you level up, you can pour points into your various stats, like melee, hit points, defense, etc.
So if the game feels basically like a re-skinned Infinity Blade, why would anyone want to buy it? Simple: the story and presentation. As you explore the hospital, you’ll often hear the old man giving increasingly strange monologues through the speaker system. When you hear him talk about eating bacon bits one at a time, or letting his bird die of thirst, it really makes you wonder whether this is a person you should be taking orders from. When he tells you not to trust the beautiful, glowing ‘witch,’ you have to wonder if she’s really the malevolent force he insists she is. Also, you’ll find letters and documents lying around let you piece together the intriguing back story to what’s going on.
So the story and voice work might be worth the cost of entry on their own, but the gameplay relies too heavily on Infinity Blade’s template. Judging by the excellent script, the developers have no shortage of creativity. So why didn’t they direct some of that creative energy into coming up with fun new gameplay concepts? Infinity Blade is great and all, but if you want to play a game in that style, you’re probably better off playing Infinity Blade. Still, there’s a lot to like about Dark Meadow. And we’re excited to see what Phosphor Games can do on iOS when they really let loose.