REVIEW: ‘DARQ: Complete Edition’ Delivers Dreamlike Psychological Horror (Switch)

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DarqI have been having trouble sleeping these past few weeks, often tossing and turning at night and waking up anxious. So when presented with a game exploring lucid dreams, blurring the line between fantasy and reality, morbid curiosity made it impossible not to play. DARQ: Complete Edition is an atmospheric psychological horror puzzle-platformer following the plight of Lloyd, a boy trapped in a dilapidated house and his own looping nightmares. The debut title from developer Unfold Games, and published by Feardemic, DARQ: Complete Edition includes the base game’s original seven chapters as well as two additional DLC levelsThe Tower and newly-added The Crypt

DARQ doesn’t waste much time plunging you into the story; this game is all about atmosphere. You wake up in a crumbling, dilapidated house as Lloyda pale, skinny boy in a striped shirt and pointed black boots. I was immediately struck by DARQ’s score, which completely elevates the game’s tortured dreamscapes and blankets them with creeping trepidation. Your surroundings are swathed in shadowy hues of purple and grey, all blanketed in a dreamlike white mist that seems to mimic that hazy feeling of trying to recollect a memory. 

There’s nowhere to walk but forward. After passing through a sparse kitchen and a shadowy hallway, you come upon a mattress and are offered the option to go to sleep. However, there’s no rest to be had in sleep. Lloyd’s nightmares aren’t much different than the drab world he left behind, except now the rules of reality are lifted. Layers of illusion and creative interpretations of everyday objects lay groundwork for dozens of gravity-defying puzzles (with some light stealth elements mixed in) as Lloyd sneaks and scurries across the screen to avoid dread-inducing monsters and escape his lucid dreams. 

Come across a wall, and you can suddenly walk up it. Pull a lever and the game’s camera shifts perspective, entirely altering the layout of the map and revealing a new path forward. Press a button and watch as what appeared to be the fluorescent-lit factory basement you were exploring transforms into living, dripping flesh, removing an obstacle in your way. 

Meanwhile, the objects you come across seem innocuous at first. I was puzzled as I picked up an abandoned wristwatch and added it to my inventory, wondering how this tiny object was going to help me escape the sinister factory I was trapped inside. But DARQ is a game that rewards trial and error and leaning into dream logic. Later in the level, when I came across a large chasm and could find no other way forward, I selected the watch from my inventory on a whim and watched as it grew larger than life, stretching itself and forming a bridge for Lloyd to cross. 

The genius of DARQ is in how deceptively simple it can be. The game encourages you to look at something once, then again from another angle. It’s a side-scroller that isn’t just about moving from one end to another. It is at times frustrating to find yourself walking the same paths again and again, until you notice a detail that your eye had passed over before and the solution suddenly becomes obvious and unmissable. 

The need to scrutinize every scene and carefully examine your surroundings also makes the game’s jump scares particularly jarring. For a game that does such an excellent job of building tension simply with its setting and masterful sound design alone, I’d hoped for some more sophisticated horror over momentary scares. 

Some may also find the lack of a “story” disappointing. But I found the world of DARQ rich enough for interpretation that I didn’t need more beyond what the game showed me to speculate and create my own theories on Lloyd’s background. Overall, these gripes are small when looking at the experience of playing DARQ as a whole. 

A great game for a weekend or even just an afternoon, DARQ: Complete Edition packs in about 4-6 hours of spooky puzzles. Best enjoyed with headphones, its strengths are its immersive and chilling sound design provided by Cyberpunk 2077 and Hitman’s Bjørn Jacobsen, and its creative, perspective-shifting platforming within a vividly realized world. While it leans more unsettling than scary and at times relies too heavily on cheap scares, it’s a satisfying, imaginative game that is well-deserving of an afternoon. I wouldn’t recommend it to cure any sleep issues, though. 

DARQ: Complete Edition is available now on PC (Steam, GOG), Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Playstation 4/5, and Nintendo Switch.

DARQ: Complete Edition
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

A great game for a weekend or even just an afternoon, DARQ: Complete Edition packs in about 4-6 hours of spooky puzzles. Best enjoyed with headphones, its strengths are its immersive and chilling sound design provided by Cyberpunk 2077 and Hitman’s Bjørn Jacobsen, and its creative, perspective-shifting platforming within a vividly realized world. While it leans more unsettling than scary and at times relies too heavily on cheap scares, it’s a satisfying, imaginative game that is well-deserving of an afternoon. I wouldn’t recommend it to cure any sleep issues, though.