It must be said, I’m more of a dog person rather than a cat fan. That doesn’t mean I don’t like cats, I like them fine enough; they’re cute, mad and full of fun. But when I was little, every time we had a cat, they always got run over. We were cursed and it was like a pet cemetery in the back garden. In A Walk in the Dark you play mainly as a cat named Bast, and like those cats of my childhood you will die a lot. But in this case there is always another life…
The independent games market is thriving with a host of games converting from PC to the console market extremely successfully. Developers Flying Turtle Software have had this little gem of a game on the market for about five years now, and it’s also picked up a couple of awards along the way. A Walk in the Dark is a platform action puzzler set in dark fantasy world, where you need quick reflexes and a sharp puzzle solving brain.
You play the role of Bast, a cat on the search for its owner Arielle, who has become captured by an ancient evil creature while they were both on a walk through the forest. Over 100 levels you will use your cat skills to pursue and find your friend, before it’s too late and all is lost to the darkness.
The controls are simple, but the execution is the tricky part. You have a jump button and a crawl button. But that’s about it. You move across the level at quick pace, jumping over traps or creatures in order to get to the other side to end the level. You can climb up walls by moving back and forth, as well as actioning both large or dainty jumps. There are also whole sections in this nightmare world which are full of inverted gravity and mind-bending levels. If I had to sum it up by comparing it to other games, then it definitely feels like a cross between Super Meat Boy and Limbo – hard, not impossible, but you will die a lot. But that’s okay because the levels are so short it doesn’t feel like such an effort to go through it again. In fact, it becomes so obsessive that you have to tear yourself away from a level, because otherwise your brain will simply melt.
When you’re done with all the levels, which could take you a few hours or many months depending on your reaction times and skill levels, there are other things to do. There are time challenges and the opportunity to collect special shiny awards – all of which are in hard to reach places. For the price, A Walk In The Dark has a lot of value and there is loads to do. The reaction times from button to jump sometimes don’t work, or suddenly you’ll be greeted with a double jump when you don’t want it, but maybe that’s just me and a case of my brain not working properly. The level designs are good, with them at first seeming very daunting and impossible, but it’s only by trying and dying that the path becomes clear.
The game has a very effective Victorian gothic cartoon vibe going on. It’s all 2D and monochrome with some beautiful backdrops and effects. The cat and the girl look great, like they’ve been transported from a Tim Burton movie. It all feels like a very familiar world and this tone has been used effectively by other games like Limbo, but I feel A Walk in the Dark stamps its own brand of uniqueness through the design. Additionally, the soundtrack from Cody Cook is original, masterful and brilliant. It’s a lovely mix of melancholic tunes and Michael Nyman type of haunting piano composition.
I think that as A Walk in the Dark comes with such a low price, it’s definitely worth a punt, especially if you like platformers. The world it creates is evocative and superbly designed with an amazing soundtrack. It is however a niche title that you could hate in the first few seconds, and it is relentless in the way it plays – especially in the later levels. You can probably only play this for a short amount of time without going mad, and it is definitely more suited for a mobile device, but it is extremely addictive.
If you have nerves of steel and the reflexes of a cat, this is the game for you.