Right now as I write this oddly enough, I’m in a dark room. The light switch is just feet away yet I cannot be bothered to switch it on..
You see at this point I’ve been hammering game after game on Jon Robertson’s open access game ‘The Dark Room’, named after his live show which let’s face it, has been touring the world over the last few years , and has been filmed countless times on you-tube. And yet… the whole thing feels fresh and unspoilt.
This is the amazing hook of the concept and implementation of what seems a 5 min task, taken to the extreme! If you ever watch any of the YouTube videos for this or the live shows, you be familiar of certain phrases, much like how the Disneyworld cast members seem to know how to speak perfect Spanish after every request, without realising they have been slowly conditioned (honestly take a look, alongside the fact no-one there points with just one finger..). And yet.. no-one appears to every complete what the simple objective is.
So here it is…
‘Find the Light Switch’
Sure, there’s a quick personality check before hand, just to check your persona (of which death is an option before you even commence), you enter your name.. (‘Darren’ seems appropriate) and slowly the options stare in front of you, mocking you quietly as you just know what ever you pick, death is but minutes away.
Having watched enough live performaces to know the ‘deadly options’ I avoid certain key phrases like the plague. Like certain areas of Birmingham, no good will come of me taking that route, and death is certain..
so I ‘Go North’
So let’s ‘Find the Light Switch’
“BUT HOW WILL YOU FIND THE LIGHT SWITCH, YOU NEED TO SEE.. DO YOU SEE?
“BULLSH*T YOU SEE…”
New options appear in front of me, some different to my previous experiences which the live show…
So the true game begins and with it the hell of 1980s text adventures returns. the further you proceed, the more options you face, stranger and more confusing than the last, moving further away from your objective, and throwing more concerns at you.. and everytime a new set come up, it just feels like your inching closer to a new death in a pre-prepared trap of your own undoing.
Each time Jon’s fearful persona mocks and enlightens, you narrating the scene with gusto. yet carefully alerting you that further dangers lie ahead. It’s these narrations you listen to intently, as each time you’ll never know if the infamous ‘YA DIE YA DIE YA DIE’ will emblaze the screen with Jon alerting everyone near of your failings.
Which you will hear a lot.
And by a lot I mean, A LOT!
In my 8 hours of game time playing ‘The Dark Room’ I have so far, been to Bethlehem, met Stalin, touched a wall inappropriately and made another wall insanely jealous. I’ve met Mr Spike, and played him in a tag-team, I’ve grabbed a gorilla by the nuts, found out I’ve got cancer, and got a little puppy I called Darren!
With still much more I’m not covering for fear of leaking spoilers as to the one true route, this game sets you on a simple journey with one task, and leads you through a tale with an epic boss battle before heading down to level 2. Yet with the game in it’s early access phase, there is still so much more that will be added (alongside more deaths) that I can’t fathom out how the hell I’ll be completing this soon.
Upon time of starting this game, no-one had completed the game and found their way out of The Dark Room. Incredibly I somehow did thanks to my knowledge of text adventures and love of the show, and although I missed the top spot by a small amount of time, ThatRetroVideoGamerDarren did make the official second place slot… for now!
So when level 2 comes out, I’ll be back in the dark room quicker than anyone!
To summarise the experience, it’s like a one task dark souls, where you can see f*ck all, everything hates you… your mocked for ignorance, punished for arrogance, and your name is now Darren.
….I love it!