Voxels might be the way forward. From The Touryst to Minecraft Dungeons to Riverbond, the little cubes can stack together to produce a juicy-looking game. Next up is Dark Sauce, which may be a little too budget to match the look of those other games, but it has a good go regardless. It’s got a vaseline-smear-on-a-CRT visual style, and it owns it well.
Dark Sauce is a simple level-based platformer where you play a pig lost in a dungeon, and your aim is to get out the other side without becoming streaky bacon. In your way are moving platforms, twirling blades, enemies, box-switches and a dragon. Sure, we didn’t encounter a single challenge or idea that wasn’t present in umpteen other platformers, but there was a cosy familiarity to it.
The difficulty of Dark Sauce is pitched a little south of Meatboy, or perhaps at the top-end of a late-game Mario level. Your skills have to be reasonably precise for you to reach the end, and the controls are decent enough to match that ask. In most instances, the fault will lie at your door if you don’t make it. In those few where you end up blaming the game, it’s because Dark Sauce asks you to predict where a platform might be on occasion. It’s no dealbreaker.
There are no checkpoints here, and the levels are short. Equally, there are no lives, so you can die with abandon. The combination means that you’re restarting over and over in an attempt to pass the point that you reached before, with the aim of nudging a snout over the finish line. It gives you that ‘one more go’ feeling, as you know the end of the level’s never too far away.
A little more variety would have been welcomed: each level adds a mechanic that the last didn’t, so there is some form of escalation, but there’s room for much more. Graphically, the levels look identical, the pig’s abilities stay the same, and there’s no change in objective. As flavourings go, the sausage could have done with more seasoning.
The real problem, though, is that there aren’t enough of the levels. There are twenty in total, and they’re barely bigger than the ones you find in Meatboy. Even with my daddy thumbs, I still managed to waddle past the twentieth stage in less than an hour. It’s short to the point of ridiculousness, but Dark Sauce is a budget £4.19 title, so it might teeter on the edge of enough. There are also future Xbox sales to think about, so Dark Sauce might be a consideration for an ‘add to wishlist’.
A quick note that Dark Sauce is an achievement pinata, which might be enough of a carrot to tempt you. There are achievements for dying, achievements for points (cumulative, even when you die) and achievements for levels, and most of the 1000G was mine after twenty minutes. I almost felt embarrassed emerging from Dark Sauce with such a haul.
There really isn’t much more to say about Dark Sauce on Xbox, as it’s so slimline. What you see is what you get: a competent, mid-difficulty platformer that lasts you for an hour and showers you with achievements. Outside of the chunky, colourful art style, there isn’t anything you haven’t seen before in dozens of similar games.
It’s more a chipolata than a full blown sausage, then, and Dark Sauce is tasty for the single hour of entertainment that it offers. It’s up to you whether that’s enough of a meal for the £4.19 outlay.
- Simple but effective platforming
- A nifty voxel art style, like a hold-over from the ‘80s
- Budget pricing for a near-guaranteed 1000G
- The sub-one-hour runtime is going to be a turnoff for a lot of people
- There’s nothing innovative here: it’s a mixtape of platformers you’ve already played
- There’s no real variety, either: the backgrounds stay the same, and you’ll have the same abilities on the 20th level as you did on the 1st
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PC
- Version Reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - November 2020
- Launch price from - £4.19