Thursday, January 15, 2015

5 Reasons Why - A Dark Room

Awake, head throbbing, vision blurry.

Either you’re waking up on a Sunday morning with a vicious hangover, or you’ve just entered the world of ‘A Dark Room’, a text-based adventure game.  For your sake, I hope it's the latter.  If not, please pop some Advil, chug a big ole glass of water, cue up the Netflix, and come back later. Feel better!

‘A Dark Room’ is a perfect activity for a long winter weekend.  I’m a bit late to the party on this one, as the game came out over a year ago, but it’s likely that you haven’t played it either.  I’m here to tell you that there are 5 Reasons Why you should download it immediately.

One – Initially the game only provides you with one option – light fire.  Do it. 

What follows is a slowly unfolding world, akin to a ‘Choose Your Adventure’ with survivalist hints of ‘Oregon Trail’ tossed in for good measure (#ChildOfThe80s4Lyfe).  In a world of increasingly impressive and life-like graphics, 'A Dark Room' dares to ask you to activate your imagination and fill in the blanks.  Visually the game is comprised of little else than simple text and a three-color palate - white, black and blue.  Nope, not even a pixelated wagon or stream are provided for reference.  Graphic design has indeed made some leaps and bounds in the past few decades, but the game reinforces the notion that nothing compares to ‘pure imagination’.

Wonka knows best.  Listen to Wonka.
Two – Hitting milestones as a savvy adventurer feels exceptionally satisfying.  At first the only few options available could best be categorized as ‘gathering stuff’.  However, I would argue that ‘gathering stuff’ (yes, even in a game on your phone) satisfies some evolutionary urge, at least in me.  Honestly, do I want to actually gather thousands of cords or wood, or subsist on cured meat?  Absolutely not.  But if I can play at doing so while I subsist on chicken-flavored ramen, and gather my iPhone charger from the other room then, consider my primal instincts satisfied. 

Three  One word.  Couch.  I’ve always been a fan of anything I can do from my couch. And this game is couch-ready.  Sure, in reality you’re slumped over some cushions in an old college sweatshirt covered in ramen stains, tapping frantically at your iPhone screen.  But in your mind you are on an epic journey.  Who doesn’t want to feel productive while simultaneously sitting on their couch?  If you answer ‘no’ to that question, go home, you’re drunk.

Four – To say much more about the game would likely ruin some of the surprises.  The story is twisty, like a good movie or book, keeping you interested and invested in the gameplay.  Also, the story is told in the present moment, asking you to fill in portions of the backstory related to your character as well as the world that surrounds you.  If nothing else, ‘A Dark Room’ is a welcome exercise for the imagination. 

Five – Good news!  All the mysteries of the game can be revealed in one weekend, or one really long sitting. Yes, even for a rusty and plodding player like me.  It took me just shy of six hours to complete it, but for most gamers it apparently takes somewhere in the neighborhood of three or four hours.  It’s not a spoiler to say that at the finish line you will be rewarded with 24 minutes of somewhat dry, but wholly interesting commentary on the game by the two developers, revealing a cache of secrets about the game.

Now, in the immortal (and bastardized) words of The Doors / Jimi Morrison: C’mon baby, light that fire.

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