It's been a long time since we've covered Dark Train, a strange papercraft point-and-click adventure. Originally launched this time last year, it scooped up some awards along the way, but has otherwise flown low under the radar.
To celebrate its first anniversary, Czech developer Paperash Studio have decided to make the game free on Itch.io, giving us a chance to explore its bizarre worlds within worlds from the perspective of a mechanical squid.
Set aboard a strange train in a gothic steampunk world, you play as ANN 2.35f, aforementioned mechanical squid who doubles as your mouse cursor. Beyond the regular pointing and clicking you'd expect, ANN is a real physical presence in the game-world. The tip of her head can be used to press and nudge and sometimes cut things, while her tentacles can grab and lift and drag objects found in the world.
There's no dialogue, no lore and no overt exposition. Instead, you poke and prod and stretch at your limits as you explore the environment, the oddest part of which is the world inside the train itself. Each car contains an environment with its own puzzles, which connect with the 'outside' world in their own strange way.
I'll have to sink some more time into this one sometime later this week. If your monitor is on the murky side, I recommend bumping the brightness up a little. Dark Train lives up to its name, and some finer details and important interactive objects might get lost if your screen isn't calibrated quite right.
You should probably give the developer's site a look, too. Somehow, the English-as-second-language nature of it makes even the most mechanical descriptions of the game sound like a strange and arcane ritual. Whether intentional or not, it's a fascinating read. Paperash aren't done with the Dark Train universe either, with Dark Train Coupe presently in production, a visual novel prequel to the main, textless game.
For the next two days, you can claim Dark Train, DRM-free on Itch.io, or get a Steam key for the game if you pay half a dollar or more.