DARQ: Complete Edition is a fairly priced bundle that packages in the main game and its two DLC packages. That right there is the first plus for the game – it’s fairly priced and the developer/publisher isn’t trying to mooch into your wallet for an extra tenner.
If you’ve played DARQ before, you know what’s going on and what to expect. If like me, you’re a newcomer to the creepy thriller, you’re in for a puzzling treat, but not much more.
DARQ looks and feels like a horror game – Lloyd, the bald lad you play as – goes to bed and enters a surreal nightmare where he’s aware that he’s dreaming. His dreams aren’t filled with bunnies and superheroes, though. Instead, his dreams are nightmares full of puzzles and strange creatures. I expected to be scared senseless but I wasn’t, ever. Well, there was one devilish puzzle that did get me a little nervous, but aside from that, there’s no genuine horror here. It’s more odd imagery and suggestions than in-your-face scares, though the game does try to pull a fast one every now and then with a quick jumpscare. They never worked, at least not for me.
If you’re here for horror, you won’t find it. But, you will find one of the smartest puzzle games around, and that’s no exaggeration.
The game hangs it hat on the idea of dreams being illogical but grounded in reality. So, when I found an old wristwatch when exploring an early level, I thought nothing of it. I assumed it would be used in some mundane way. It turned out that the normal-sized wristwatch could actually be used to bridge a six-foot gap for Lloyd the cueball to walk over.
DARQ is full of these oddities and once you loosen up and start buying into the idea that you’re playing a dream, you’ll find the puzzles open up a lot, too, and become much easier. That said, there are some brain-teasers and during the three-and-a-half-hour runtime of the main game, I probably spent a good 45 minutes on the penultimate level – my least favourite of them all.
Puzzles revolve around going back and forth, collecting items, using items, and shifting the level around by pulling levers. Oh, and because Lloyd is having a sleep, he can walk up walls. This is central to the game, actually, because solving many of the puzzles requires you to think outside the box. If you can’t go forward by walking straight, maybe try going up the wall. That’s a lesson the game hammers home early on with its first puzzle, and from there, it all clicked for me. I never assumed that walking from left to right would be the simple solution, though sometimes it actually was.
Most of the puzzles can be solved by brute-forcing your way through them. If you explore every available area and interact with every item and try to use every item where items can be used, you’ll hit the end eventually. The puzzles aren’t overly obtuse and a bit of lateral thinking does work, even in this monochrome dreamland.
There’s no story to speak of in DARQ. It’s just Lloyd and his nightmares, but there are suggestions that he’s a bit of a poorly boy. For one, he’s thin as a rake and bald, which is never considered a picture of fine health. Then, there are the enemies. They’re deformed and sometimes they’re in wheelchairs, suggesting they are patients, and maybe that Lloyd himself is a patient and that his dreams are actually taking place within dreams. I think there’s a name for that…
The enemies are the only real downside to what is otherwise a really good puzzle game. You don’t come across many enemies, and you certainly don’t lay the beat down on them – poor Lloyd doesn’t look like he could hold a meal down, nevermind wielding a weapon. Stealth is your only weapon and it’s really quite poor. It typically boils down to hiding in a small outlet or clambering above while an enemy shifts by. Then, drop down or pop out and be on your not-so-merry way. They’re mostly inoffensive and don’t do much wrong, but there is one particular enemy that I wish I could scrub from existence, and it’s the reason I spent so long on the second to last level.
There’s a person with a trombone for a head sitting in a wheelchair, slowing shifting from one side of the area to the other. I like the imagery and the idea of the trombone providing the tense music while also pushing this poor digital cripple along, but I had to go back and forth in this area a few times. Mostly because I didn’t know what I was doing, which is fair enough, but I won’t be the only one who sits through this tedious section, wishing it wasn’t there.
I’m not saying that the game needed combat but I don’t think it needed these obstacles. I wouldn’t have found the game any worse if they weren’t in it. But, I get the idea and maybe it can be solved in a sequel? And I really do hope there is a sequel because DARQ: Complete Edition is a genuinely good puzzle game thats only blemish is its enemies.
If you already own the game on PS4 or Xbox One, you’ll get this updated version, which runs really well and looks great – at least as great as a game of this style can look – and I’d say it’s worth a second look, even if that’s just to get through the extra content. If you’re fresh to DARQ, enjoy it but be warned that there are some annoying moments with poorly thought-out enemies and a few puzzles that don’t quit stick the landing. But, in all, a decent game and one I’m annoyed that I missed the first time around. At least I’m getting the best version of it, so that’s something.
DARQ: Complete Edition PS5 Review
DARQ: Complete Edition is a fairly priced package that offers up around 6-7 hours of puzzles and thrills, though the thrills aren’t all that thrilling. The horror is definitely missing but the cleverly constructed puzzles and the dark world of Lloyd’s subconscious carry the weight well.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS5. Reviewed using: PS5.