If you like your puzzle games with a good helping of the macabre, then consider DARQ to be on your must-play list.
Casting you as Lloyd, a strange, lanky boy who seems to have a habit of having lucid nightmares, it’s your job to guide him safely through them. With seven of them forming the game’s main campaign, DARQ likely won’t take you more than two or three hours to complete. The Complete Edition also bundles in two DLC levels, however; The Tower and The Crypt. They’re separate from the main game, so you can jump into them at any point. Though it makes sense to complete the main game first, as earlier levels ease you into the mechanics you’ll be using throughout.
DARQ‘s unique mechanic is that Lloyd can manipulate the laws of physics. That is to say he can walk off the edge of a room, or up a wall, with the world rotating around him. He can also switch between planes at times; though DARQ is 2.5D, some levels contain switches that when flipped, will send Lloyd backwards or forwards, into the foreground or background. Both of these mechanics together mean that what looks like a small area can open up, with multiple dimensions to explore.
Solutions to puzzles often require you to rotate rooms, making ceiling hatches become doors that Lloyd can climb through, or making a new pathway appear entirely. It’s mind-bending at times, but once you get your head around the weird and wonderful ways that DARQ works, its puzzles are a joy to solve.
Well, for the most part, anyway. Some of DARQ‘s puzzles are beyond fiendish, such as a maze puzzle that needs to be completed in a short amount of time while the camera rotates around the room. Some items are also used in non-logical ways; a small watch in your inventory can be placed to become a rather sizeable bridge, for example. Then again, this is a surrealist dream world where not everything makes sense. Thankfully, you never have too many items in your inventory, and everything you pick up has a purpose.
Elevating DARQ from a simple puzzle game to a horrifying romp are the grotesque enemies that stalk its levels. From a bandaged woman in a wheelchair to a man with a tuba for a face, DARQ relishes in the macabre and does a fantastic job of unsettling you at every turn. This isn’t a game about combat, so getting past foes means taking your time, sneaking or hiding in darkness or recesses.
Along with those enemies, DARQ‘s beautiful presentation helps to invoke a nightmarish feeling. It uses light and shadows to great effect, creating a gorgeous yet morbid atmosphere. On PS5, DARQ: Complete Edition allows you to choose to favour performance or visuals. Unfortunately, even on ‘performance’ mode, I encountered a few framerate hiccups and stuttering. Nothing too immersion-breaking, but it’s a shame it isn’t silky-smooth. Hopefully a future patch will address this.
DARQ may be short, but it’s the perfect length to ensure it never outstays its welcome. It uses clever puzzles and a fantastic atmosphere to draw you in, then challenges you just the right amount to keep you invested. The inclusion of the DLC makes the Complete Edition the best way to play, and if you enjoy a mind-bending and physics-twisting puzzler, you’ll love everything DARQ has to offer.
DARQ: Complete Edition Review: GameSpew’s Score