If you’re a fan of the ‘nightmarish platformers where horrible things chase small boys’ genre, then Darq should be right up your street. In this case, those nightmares are literal – Darq is an upcoming “psychological horror game set in a zero-gravity lucid dream”. Adam spotted it back in 2015, but developers Unfold Games aren’t sneaking it out until near the end of this year. You can watch its latest trailer now though, and I’m interested in whether you’ll have the same reaction to it that I did.
SO. The art’s changed significantly since when we last saw it, and the combination of the main character’s striped clothing with an emaciated appearance makes me feel uncomfortable. The old version of the character wore the same horizontally-striped shirt, and it’s arguably a more direct reference to a regular prisoner’s uniform rather than a prisoner in a concentration camp. Nevertheless, I think there’s enough similarity in the new character’s appearance that the resemblance probably isn’t accidental. Which launches us off into uncomfortable territory, where I have major reservations about holocaust references being used as a cheap way of unsettling people.
Bear in mind that this is a game about running and hiding, where you’re powerless to fight whatever comes after you. Is getting fun out of what could be read as a mechanical allegory for Nazi atrocities ok? I don’t mean that question rhetorically – I’ve been trying to work out my answer and I’m all sorts of conflicted. The looser that allegory is, then the more acceptable it initially seems. But then if the reference was intended, using it as a sort of side layer of horror strikes me as crassly manipulative. Even if it wasn’t intended, I don’t think my mind will be the only one to go down those lines, and the devs arguably have a responsibility to avoid that?
There’s far more to be said on that topic in general, but I’ll stop talking about it now in the context of Darq because I’d be judging the game based on trailers and some press materials.
I’m all the more conflicted because I really want to play this. A lucid dream sounds like a fantastic setting for a horror game, the gravity warping seems neat, and every animation looks as sinister as it possibly could.
Update: Unfold have got in touch to say that “The outfit of the character is inspired by Tim Burton characters who often wear striped clothing, and it’s to make the character look like a skeleton.”