I Can’t Escape: Darkness Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD

I Can’t Escape: Darkness Review




Randomness is not an easy thing to pull off in games. How does one design a truly random system without the game in question devolving into an RNG-induced madness or a horrible grindfest where that 1% drop may well never spawn? Indeed, a component of true unpredictability may well make a game that much more interesting if handled properly, but it can also ruin a good concept. I Can’t Escape: Darkness is threading this thin line, just barely.


Err… hello..

The game begins with the player character – an archeologist of sorts – falling down in a hidden dungeon just before managing to reach his original goal, which was an unnamed ancient city. A strange presence immediately makes itself known, as well as of its seemingly benevolent goal of keeping you alive for as long as possible. A more malicious force is also at work, trying its best to separate you from your earthly vehicle. Basically, the dungeon is housing an ancient evil responsible for innumerable killings in that area; working through its monstrous vessels, this engine of death will be the end of you. The only thing left to wonder is – how?

This game can best be described as a horror-centric offshoot of Legend of Grimrock. If you’ve ever played the famous indie smash-hit dungeon crawler, then you know what you’re about to delve in with Darkness. The whole thing plays out in a node-based real-time dungeon that gets completely randomly generated each and every time you die or restart. Atmospherically-speaking, the whole package works wonderfully. I Can’t Escape: Darkness nurtures highly-detailed pixel art as far as visuals are concerned, which means it’s quite easy on the eyes. Despite the relative sameness of the entire dungeon, the eerie pixels that define its walls manage to maintain a fascinating facade that makes the game stand out in that regard. The audio design is great in its own right as well; Darkness encases you in silence with an occasional distant whimper to really ease you into the whole notion of being lost in a dungeon. The presentation is, in that regard, noteworthy at the very least, and combined with the game’s well-crafted lighting mechanics make for a bone-chilling experience.


Get back here, you little prick!

The controls are fairly simple, with WASD for movement, mouse for immediate interaction and Q, E for turning. Same as Grimrock, really, but whereas Grimrock’s whole experience worked wonderfully well and never managed to annoy me, Darkness has no such luck. Issues with strange level generations and whatnot aside, it’s combat that really puts the game in a bad shape. It boils down to catching up with an enemy (or getting cornered by one) and mashing the interaction button furiously in hopes that you’ll take the mob down before it does the same to you. The only real difference between the numerous melee weapons available in the game lies in the amount of times one has to swing or slash at any given monster for it to die. This makes things more dull than fighting an eldritch monstrosity with a broken glass bottle ever should be. The worst thing about combat, though, is that, should an enemy not notice you or should you – god forbid – try to chop away in “stealth”, chances are that the mob won’t give a single damn and continue moving along the dungeon unhindered. This has much to do with the game’s movement mechanics and nodes, as well as its real-time gameplay basis, and the way it all meshes is definitely less than ideal.

Aside from obnoxious combat, the game’s other greatest flaw lies in its most touted feature: the randomness of the whole thing. Now, don’t get me wrong – the fact that even after twenty playthroughs the game still offers new and different horrors is astonishing, but the goals and means by which they can be attained are simply hidden too well. “Escape the Darkness”, is all you get – the rest is entirely up to you to figure out. And you’ll have to do lots and lots of figuring out to do, combined with impossible amounts of luck if you ever intend to finish the game. I haven’t escaped the dungeon once, and seeing as how strangely difficult I Can’t Escape is, I don’t even feel bad about admitting it. The good thing is that this game rarely (if ever) feels unfair or out-of-touch with the universe it establishes.

I Can’t Escape: Darkness is seemingly just one of the multiple similar titles the developer, Fancy Fish Games have in plan for their future projects. Should this be the case, their development should be an iterative process. This game is a highly atmospheric title with some great ideas thrown in, yet the sub par combat and complete lack of direction cut it down before it even manages to spread its wings. The genuinely great art direction and audio help increase the terror factor by a large margin, especially compared to some other similar titles, and with all of that in mind it’s painfully obvious that the potential this game had remained mostly untapped. Which is a damn shame, because I Can’t Escape: Darkness is positively terrifying in some situations. As it currently stands, I can recommend the game to those who can live with the annoying combat feature and don’t mind being lost 90% of the time.