Nightmarish platformer Darq has changed its look

DARQ header

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.”

15 Comments

  1. Robert The Rebuilder says:

    The striped shirt along with its emaciated appearance helps the character to appear like a skeleton. I think that’s the look they’re going for, and not concentration camp prisoner.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Yeah, at first glance I thought the character was a skeleton, and I assumed that was what they were going for, with the shirt evoking a bleached ribcage.

  2. Jazzhole says:

    What?! Holocaust? Nazis? Well, I guess if you look long enough you could see nazis in anything if you want to.
    To me it looks like a mix of Tim Burton’s movies and McGee’s Alice pushed towards Silent Hill.
    See absolutely zero nazi/holocaust reference here.

  3. jezcentral says:

    The concentration camp stripes went vertically (from a quick Google, which admittedly isn’t using watertight logic) rather than prison stripes which are horizontal. Is Matt now reassured?

    • Psychomorph says:

      Since the game has the spin/rotate mechanic for the world, the stripes are clearly 90° rotated Nazi stripes.

      Nazis confirmed.

  4. klops says:

    Like the four before me, I don’t see the vertical lines as concentration camp uniform reference either. I also strongly disagree that the devs arguably (?) have a responsibility to avoid all the ideas that all people might get in their head.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Yeah, that kind of thinking smells of “trigger warning” promotion and (self-)censorship. However, on the other extreme, I wouldn’t defend someone who uses what I’ve written above to justify something that I consider shock value for the sake of shock.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      You might think but millenials are easily frightened.

  5. Sarfrin says:

    If they were vertical stripes, I’d probably agree with Matt, but as they’re not I don’t get the same vibe he does from the trailer.

  6. Kingseeker Camargo says:

    I’ve been following this game forever and it had NEVER crossed my mind to compare the character design to a holocaust uniform. In the comments the game gets on Instagram and Facebook on a daily basis you see plenty of people comparing this to Inside and Little Nightmares, but I don’t remember ever having seen one single mention of the holocaust.

    Hell, concentration camps’ uniforms had vertical stripes, this guy has horizontal ones. The pants matched the shirts, this guy is wearing what appears to be blue jeans. What we’ve seen so far from the setting of the game doesn’t resemble anything that can be even remotely related to a nazi camp, everything seems to take place in a regular house (or rather, the warped version of a regular house as seen in a dream). The enemies are wacky monsters that barely resemble a human being, let alone a nazi guard.

    Honestly, I don’t know how you made that connection unless you were REALLY REALLY looking for something to be offended about and ended up scraping the bottom of the barrel; and then going off like you do making such a big deal of something that so far is only apparent inside your head makes this whole article a rather insane read.

  7. Darth Gangrel says:

    I’m lucky I’m not a gaming journalist, because as a regular gamer I can just enjoy or not enjoy games without thinking about what kind of allegories a game is making and whether they are reproachable or not. Probably, that’s just a personal trait and not connected to a profession like journalism, but it sometimes feels as if every journalist has to have some opinion about these kinds of things and can’t just say “hey, it’s just a game and I don’t get those vibes”.

  8. FrumiousBandersnatch says:

    You need a very active imagination to get from an anorexic mime to the holocaust. As far as i know there were no giant gears in concentration camps either.

  9. Zaxwerks says:

    Matt, your critic’s “wanky bullshit generator” is malfunctioning, instead of saying something like “…and it’s the allegory of our existential fear of societal entrapment”, you’ve gone straight to Hilter.

    Until he’s grounded himself again by stroking a Hipster for god’s sake no-one show him Pacman otherwise we’re going to get “Pacman embodies the prisoner trying to escape from the concentration camp, forever hungry, and however much he eats he is never satiated. He is chased by the four Nazi guards who are represented as ‘ghosts of their humanity’, the power pills show us the small moral victories the prisoners aspired to were only fleeting and before long they are subjugated again. Even the ‘exits’ offer false hope, for in an act of Sisyphean futility the prisoner’s hopes are dashed and they are just returned back to their imprisoned nightmare. All this culminated in an ending in level 256 where Pacman escapes through his insanity.”

    • Kingseeker Camargo says:

      This article is just about the lowest point in the history of RPS in a year that’s been less that stellar, and as a reader it was a rather embarrassing moment to witness; but I’m glad it exists nonetheless, because it spawned this great, great comment.

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