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Lucid Screaming: DARQ

DARQ [official site] is “a unique psychological horror game set in a zero-gravity lucid dream”. My lucid dreams tend to begin with a sense of drifting away from my own body, which could account for that ‘zero-gravity’ sensation, which seemed like an odd addition to the game’s description when I First saw it. Weightlessness and a lack of being.

Judging by the trailer DARQ has taken a few tips from Ice-Pick Lodge’s Knock-Knock, which is one of my favourite horror games. The unnerving twilight wanderings of that game are a fine place to find inspiration, but DARQ’s flexible funding indiegogo campaign makes me slightly uneasy in ways that aren’t related to its setting. [update regarding that below]

The flexible funding bothers me because the crowdfunding page states that the $20,000 goal is “the minimum amount we need to complete this game”. If that’s the case, presumably there’d be a need for a second round of funding, either through the crowd or through investors, if the developers didn’t reach the goal. But Indiegogo’s flexible funding model means they’d take whatever portion of the $20,000 had been contributed anyhow, so backers might be giving money to a team that doesn’t have the minimum needed to get the job done.

[Update: the developers have been in touch to assure us that the game will be finished even if they don’t reach their target: “The game will be made whether we make our goal our not. If we don’t meet our goal, the development process will take much longer and we won’t be able to hire voice actors.”]

It’s a shame that I have to mention all of that because I’m intrigued by the actual game.

“DARQ tells the story of Lloyd, a boy who becomes aware of the fact that he is dreaming. To Lloyd’s misfortune, the dream quickly turns into a nightmare and all attempts to wake up end in failure. While exploring the darkest corners of his subconscious, Lloyd learns how to survive the nightmare by bending the laws of physics and manipulating the fluid fabric of the dream world.”

Unlike the mysterious mechanics that were at the foundation of Knock-Knock, DARQ’s rules sound as if they’ll be recognisable. It’s a stealth game, in part at least, with enemies that detect light and sound, and a flashlight with which to pick your way through the dream. Parts of the world will be pitch black, leaving you to rely on sound alone as you navigate obstacles and avoid enemies.

Unfold Games also promise randomised elements, including enemy locations, and “Shining-like pacing”, which is to say “a slow build and creepy atmosphere”. My favourite kind of pacing is “Ring-like” or maybe even “Tale of Two Sisters-like”. A constant drip of dread that ends with a burst pipe of horror. Pacing and plumbing are just about the same thing, right?

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Adam Smith

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