by Marjolein Verheij
reviewed on PC
Be the cat
In A Walk in the Dark you play black cat Bast and his owner Arielle. The two friends are enjoying a day in the sun watching butterflies flutter, when suddenly the world turns black and a monster clad in rags snatches up Arielle. Before he realizes what happens, the monster disappears into the distance, leaving little Bast alone with nothing else to do but to find his owner.
What caught my eye when I first saw this game were its visuals. The backgrounds consist of beautifully rendered landscapes like dusky forests, abandoned houses and spooky underground caves with clockworks in the back. There is a stark contrast between the various background elements and the game’s black foreground which often changes in size, significantly reducing the viewable area as a result. This makes everything feel slightly… oppressive and cave-like at times.
There are a whopping 100 levels in A Walk in the Dark. They are divided into platform levels and running levels in which you control Bast while he jumps, runs, crouches over and under the obstacles and scrambles up walls. The main difference between the platform and running levels is that in the former, you control Bast’s every move while in the latter, Bast is propelled forward automatically and you only get to control his jumps. It may sound like the game removes something vital from its gameplay, but you get something in return: fast paced action that challenges the speed of your fingers. You switch between the floor and the ceiling, jumping to avoid the obstacles in your path. To reverse gravity you have to touch the glowing balls scattered around the level, only then will you survive.
The levels that feature Arielle are platform levels which are something of a mix of Bast’s platform and running levels. With Arielle, your main tool to deal with spikes and other lethal objects is the ability to reverse gravity, causing her to flip to the ceiling. Contrary to Bast, who needs the glowing balls to reach the ceiling, Arielle can switch gravity whenever she likes with a push of the ‘jump’ button.
Rotating saw blades, bats and porcupines are just some of the many obstacles that you will encounter playing this unique platformer. The first few levels will gently ease you into the game and teach you what to avoid and, more importantly, how. Once you’ve got the controls down, levels can be navigated in quick succession. That is, if you manage on your first try of course. The controls are simple and precise but you will need quick fingers if you want to avoid replaying the majority of levels at least a handful of times. Luckily Bast and Arielle will just disappear in a puff of dust when they are killed and reappear again at the beginning or at a save point halfway through the level.
If you do are fast enough you may just beat the time challenge that comes with every level. And if that does not keep you busy, there are achievements for collecting every shiny flower and for your first run through of each level.
From the menu you can open a map that contains all the available levels. Here, you can choose which level you want to play of the ones you’ve already completed, or those that are unlocked at any given moment. You can also see whether you have obtained the two in-game achievements available for each level and the time it took you to complete the level.
All in all A Walk in the Dark is a great game for a rainy afternoon, or to play in short bursts between work, school or other responsibilities. The piano-filled soundtrack does much to soothe the irritations of dying constantly so you won’t feel like throwing your keyboard at your screen - too - often.
Beautiful graphics and soundtrack, easy to learn controls, short bursts of gameplay.
Difficult to master controls, no background story present in-game.