DARK TRAIN Review

Dark Train is a 2D puzzle adventure game developed by Paperash Studio from the Czech Republic. You control a mechanical squid creature inherently bound to a rickety dishevelled train. The game stylistically utilises handmade paper cut visuals with animation techniques. Dark Train cleverly explores intricate puzzles in an unconventional way, amongst the backdrop of a bleak and oppressive setting. 

You begin the game controlling a rather lively mechanical squid that goes by ANN 2.35f. ANN represents the mouse cursor as well as the menu controls and other user interface features. Dark Train’s story is an altogether mysterious one that’s told visually without text or dialogue. Not much of anything is revealed as the train that you’re chained to rolls on through a sombre city.

You’ll begin to explore various parts of the train’s structure, including control panels and environments within carriages. You’ll come to understand how the train functions as you’ll need to repair it often and replenish its supplies of water, fire and electricity. There are different carriages on the train that represent vastly different worlds you can explore. These settings range from towering cityscapes, a gloom-ridden church to tranquil forests. Each environment offers up new differing tasks as well as various objects you’ll need to collect that can be used within other sections of the train later on. The scenery of these worlds will also dramatically shift as you change the order of the carriages which will have correlating effects. In turn, this makes the train begin to feel as if it has a life of its own and is in a state of constant being. Each environment feels connected in some profound way, where you’ll come to question whether or not you’re completing the right actions in their intended order.

You’re not completely bound to the train the entire time, ANN will also be able to interact with the background environment of the game. These instances will happen randomly and always when the train is stationary, requiring you to complete certain tasks before you can resume your travels. Don’t expect any handholding in Dark Train either, in fact, there isn’t even so much as a tutorial. The game notoriously keeps you in the dark with no hints or help. More often than not these unconventional gameplay mechanics will leave you feeling stumped as to what to do or where to go next.

The objects gathered from various instances of the game can aid you as well as ANN herself. She has a magnitude of abilities that come in handy within each new instance such as, imitating shapes, moving objects with her tentacles and even camouflaging. Although solutions to some of the sections in the game may not be obvious at first, they do feel logical and cohesive once pieced together. When obstacles are finally overcome it can be an overly gratifying experience as you are able to successfully progress further throughout the game and story. This feeling, however, is few and far between when each area is ultimately a new challenge bringing with it a new world of confusion and stress. Dark Train’s carefully hand constructed papercut visuals are by far the most mesmerising quality of the game. The uniquely tailored environment of each setting dramatically bustles with life, further producing an overly atmospheric experience.

Dark Train is a game that requires patience above all else. The lack of instructional mechanics coupled with trial and error problem solving can prove to be demanding. However, these features are what make the game something dissimilar to any other gameplay experience. Its striking visuals and distinct gameplay mechanics will appeal to an audience who want to experience something out of the ordinary. Dark Train can be highly praised for its ingenious design that offers players a new found sense of discovery that won’t be easily forgotten anytime soon. 

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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