By Bladeneo 11th Jun 2008 | 1,692 views
Dark Mist is a downloadable action/adventure developed by Game Republic, the creators of Folklore as well as the ‘Genji’ series of games.
The story of the game is a simple one: A terrible evil, once vanquished from the world, has returned to the land and is intent on consuming everything and everyone in darkness. You are Artemis, the warrior of light responsible for the defeat of evil the first time round. Once again it is up to you to save the world, armed only with a bow of light as your weapon, and a giant crab by your side…ok maybe not, but I had to get a reference in somewhere so I apologize.
With that out of the way, onto the gameplay. In itself, the game is not exactly what you would call innovative, but it is surprisingly addictive. You are dropped into a dungeon, and must traverse each room until you reach the “Boss”. Most of the rooms (especially in later stages) are covered with a dark shadow, which greatly reduces your overall vision, and some enemies will even replenish the darkness if any is removed, hindering you further. You play from an overhead point of view, reminiscent of old-school Zelda games -- though Dark Mist actually bears a striking resemblance in both its dungeon layout (and accompanying map) and its gameplay to the 1990 arcade (and later SNES) game Smash TV, though unfortunately there are no toasters up for grabs. For those of you who never experienced the pinnacle in gaming excellence that was Smash TV, I recommend you go play it now. But, on with the actual game I’m supposed to be reviewing.
There's quite a colourful blend of enemies, those cannon enemies remind anybody else of Kingdom Hearts? No? Just me then.
The health meter is represented by 3 stars to begin with and you are armed with a primary weapon, which can be fired continuously in the direction you're facing by holding onto the square button. Artemis is also able to select between three special attacks, fired using the triangle button; your arsenal consists of a flaming arrow which can ricochet off walls, a small sphere which explodes and damages anything within a small area and finally a short ranged but widely dispersed arrow attack, each selected through use of the shoulder buttons. The X button can be used to evade attacks, simulated by Artemis rolling along the ground, while the O button is used to fire one of two ‘bombs’, which will wipe out most enemies in the room as well as the ‘darkness’ covering the floor.
At first, each attack can only be used once before it has to be recharged, which takes roughly a second. However, by collecting crescent moon pieces dropped by the enemies the stock of each special attack can be increased to a maximum of five.
You will be forgiven if you presumed that Dark Mist is a simple copy of the plethora of action/adventure games released over the years, but it does have a few unique traits that add to its overall allure. Firstly, the artwork is nicely presented in full 1080p meaning it’s easy on the eyes, it runs well and I can't say I've encountered any technical difficulties. It also offers a rather unique array of enemies to fight as the game progresses. A nice inclusion to the game, also seen in folklore, is the minor but intuitive use of the SIXAXIS controls. Rather than attempt to ‘steer’ or control the main character with it, Game Republic has elected to once again invoke a “shaking” of the controller. The purpose of this is two fold: Certain enemies will attach themselves to you, and this will shake them off; but it can also be used to remove a small area of the darkness which covers the level, letting you see clearly in that area. It’s a big help during the later stages as enemies seem to pop up all over a particular area. Finally, the standard dungeons are broken up by main boss fights every 3 levels, providing a nice change of pace from the main game.
As you can see, the darkness creates some problems
Dark Mist does suffer from a rather steep difficulty curve, as the last few levels jump from manageable to nigh on impossible. Quite a substantial but indirect reason for this difficulty however, and one of the fundamental problems with an otherwise very good game, is there is no save function. This means you are required to play through all 12 levels in one sitting to complete it. Fortunately, being a downloadable game, we’re not talking 15 hours of gameplay, but it’s a big let down when you can’t turn off the game and return to it a few hours later if you’re really struggling or getting frustrated with a particular level (as I did on quite a few occasions). Ultimately, it does give you an incentive to power through a level you can’t finish, but it’s an incentive I’d rather not have forced upon me. The audio portion of the game is solid if unspectacular; there's a mix of quirky enemy noises resulting from their attacks to your own cries of pain when harmed, and the background music could be described as befitting the tense atmosphere of the dungeons though ultimately there is a slight lack of variation. I didn't find this much of an issue however, the sounds of the enemies and yourself will most likely drown out the majority of the background music regardless.
What is saved however are your scores, which, upon completion, can be posted online to try and top the leader board (most likely populated by Japanese players who have had this game since November and its subsequent expansion pack since February). Players rack up their score by defeating enemies and collecting small diamonds that can be found in various rooms. They can also make use of a score multiplier shown underneath your overall score, which is increased by defeating more enemies without getting hit yourself.
Overall, Dark Mist is a fun, albeit limited shooter that for the price is a pretty decent overall package. There are features to keep you coming back for more; upon completion a new Hard mode is unlocked which 'reworks' the stages so they are much, much harder than before. If I haven't emphasised that enough, these levels are MUCH harder, but there's nothing like a new challenge to keep me interested. The expansion pack, so far unavailable outside of Japan, adds 3 new characters, online and offline multiplayer and 12 new levels all for a lower price than the original game. However, focusing specifically on the main game rather than it's expansion, the price of £4.99 (that's near $10 for those of you across the pond) seems slightly steep for what is essentially a fun but fairly standard shooter with some frustrating problems.
For me however, despite it's flaws, I would still call it a good purchase. I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of old-school gameplay combined with a typical HD shine, and while Dark Mist is in no way groundbreaking, I'd recommend it to those who love the nostalgic arcade action-shooter games and don’t mind playing through the game in one sitting due to the lack of a save function.