Half Limbo, half Super Meat Boy; Flying Turtle’s, A Walk in the Dark makes no effort to hide its inspirations. Problem is, while the game created successfully combines the art style made famous by Limbo with the fast-paced, unforgiving, death-strewn gameplay of Super Meat Boy, it immediately opens itself to comparison to two of the finest indie games of the last decade.
That’s where the problems begin – judged upon its own merits, A Walk in the Dark is a perfectly enjoyable platformer, one blessed with striking art design and plenty of challenging gameplay. Thing is, you can’t judge it by its own merits. For anyone who has played them, comparisons with Super Meat Boy and Limbo are all but inevitable, and despite its many positives, A Walk in the Dark simply isn’t in the same league as those two indie heavyweights.
Not being as good as Limbo or Super Meat Boy is no disgrace though, and as long as you can accept that you are playing what amounts to a bit of a cover version (albeit a very good cover version), there is plenty to like in what amounts to an addictive, aesthetically pleasing and very reasonably priced platformer.
With very little in the way of story, you begin your journey through 100 relatively short but almost universally very challenging stages playing as, Bast the cat. After your owner, Arielle gets lost in the woods and, y’know, accidentally awakens an evil spirit and stuff (standard lost in the woods fare), it is initially down to Bast to avoid the forests’ numerous devilish, and to be honest, absurdly convoluted obstacles as he seeks to save his owner and escape the downright spike-laden shrubbery. Playing as Bast, you’ll be dealing with scrolling levels of differing speeds that will see you fly through the short stages via your feline dexterity…..until you die of course. Which you will. Loads. To give you an idea, there is an Achievement for dying 1000 times which, once you get past the initially gentle introduction, soon becomes a very realistic proposition.
It’s not all cat though – you also get to control Arielle whose stages deliver a slower pace and a unique mechanic that allows you to jump from the ceiling to the floor with very little respect for Newton’s law of universal gravitation. This does mix up the gameplay to a degree and the change of pace proves a welcome one, but for the most part, this is challenging, quick-fire platforming that will test the patience of even the most seasoned of gamers. It’s not quite as difficult as Super Meat Boy, but it does get frustrating at times (especially during some of the less forgiving latter levels). The good news is that, despite the occasional sense of frustration, A Walk in the Dark never feels unfair with the blame always falling at the player’s feet……or thumbs. The control scheme isn’t quite as tight or responsive as it is in other games of this ilk, but it’s fit for purpose with the stages carefully built around the games specific set of mechanics.
The core stages can potentially be finished in next to no time if you’re skilled enough (I certainly wasn’t), but even if you do rinse the main adventure with your wizard-like gaming skills, there is a separate challenge mode that can be unlocked along with time challenges available for each stage that really ramp up the already brutal difficulty. It’s all a bit much for my tastes, but if you’re one of those crazy gamers who love seemingly impossible challenges (there appear to be plenty of them out there), then this mode should provide plenty in the way of “good times”.
It might be rather derivative and it certainly falls short of the incredibly high bar set by its primary inspirations, but with its beautiful visuals, fantastic audio design, addictive gameplay and fiendishly brutal challenge, Flying Turtle’s, A Walk in the Dark proves an enjoyable alternative and a very solid platformer in its own right. It’s a shame that it doesn’t do enough to escape the shadow cast by Limbo and Super Meat Boy, but by combining the most memorable aspects of each of those games, A Walk in the Dark occasionally hints at a genuinely unique experience. It never really achieves that goal, but in its defence, it’s rarely anything less than highly enjoyable.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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