We all have nightmares from time to time, but I’m willing to bet they don’t often look as if they have come directly from the mind of Tim Burton. Well, prepare to experience the horrors of DARQ: Complete Edition as never before thanks to the power of Xbox Series X|S. This optimised edition once again sees you play as a young boy called Lloyd who suffers from a pretty extreme case of night terrors. Every time you head to bed, you sink further into the terrifying loop of bad dreams, desperately searching for a way to break the cycle.
In terms of setup, or narrative, that’s all DARQ: Complete Edition really has to offer. You’re thrown straight in, with no hand holding, and left to quickly learn how to fend for yourself as you try to solve puzzles and avoid monstrous creatures who stalk you throughout Lloyd’s dreams.
DARQ: Complete Edition is essentially a puzzle platform game, but with a twist (quite literally). Lloyd can’t jump, but instead he will need to wall walk to gain a different perspective on his environment, thus discovering alternative paths hidden in plain sight. As well as this, he’ll be able to manipulate the environment through crank handles and other similar mechanics to reveal the route ahead.
There are plenty of items that Lloyd will discover on his journey which seem utterly random at first. You won’t be able to use them in a linear order either, so a good memory is key to kick starting the chain, tracking back to where to use the first one. As you piece the puzzle together the domino effect kicks in and you’ll find your way to the exit step by step, unable to help feeling satisfied at figuring out how you got there.
However, you’re not alone. Lloyd can’t fight or fend for himself, so evasion is his only option. Enemies will regularly jump out from the shadows, or scuttle across the screen in largely successful attempts to make you crap yourself. Unfortunately for the young lad, the enemies get more strange and increasingly sinister as he delves deeper into his dreams. At one point you’ll need to sneak past a humanoid figure in a wheelchair, who has the business end of a tuba for a head. Lloyd should really lay off the cheese before bed.
There’s also a particularly unpleasant encounter where you need to solve a seemingly innocent maze puzzle. However, as soon as you begin the camera starts to rotate and a horrific silhouette starts to approach from behind, edging closer every time the camera pans around. The first time I spotted it, shivers ran down my spine. It’s a brilliantly effective horror set piece, of which there are a few.
The final chapter is a tense on-rails segment which will require a combination of memory and luck to see it through without dying too many times. Luckily, there’s no penalty if you’re killed; you’ll just start out again not too far from where you left off.
Lloyd’s attempts to escape his nightmares will take him to an abandoned house, a deserted subway and even on board a moving train. As you might expect, his nightmares are brought to life in DARQ: Complete Edition in a bleak, grey, washed out style. Despite this, the game still looks great and oozes character. It strikes a similar tone to Alan Wake in that way.
There’s a selective use of music to accompany the action, but an excellent use of SFX throughout creating an unsettling, eerie but always atmospheric world. However, as the end game credits roll you are treated to a beautifully sombre piece of music which feels reflective in nature. Also, in the options menu, you can switch between “performance” and “cinematic” graphics options. There’s a subtle difference between the two, with the latter feeling purposely more grainy and sluggish.
The game controls well overall and is pretty simple to play. Rather oddly the settings state the view button is used to see your items, however this is actually done by pressing “Y” which opens up your inventory wheel. Other than this, you’ll be using your action, wall walk and sprint abilities to get around.
DARQ: Complete Edition is named so as it includes all seven chapters from the original, as well as the two extra DLC levels, “The Tower” and “The Crypt”. The main game will only take you a few hours to complete but the extra levels are a little more challenging. These expand slightly on the base campaign, once more putting poor Lloyd through his paces.
Despite DARQ: Complete Edition being brief and not overly challenging, it’s an immersive little adventure that will immediately peak your curiosity. Despite costing £15.49 on the Xbox Store, it’s so wonderfully crafted that the experience makes it worth the price tag.
DARQ: Complete Edition on Xbox is a surreal, curious adventure that has the look and feel of a big budget title. Despite its short length Lloyd’s world impresses and terrifies in equal measure, and now it looks better than ever thanks to Xbox Series X|S.