App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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When you begin playing Dark Fear from Arif Games, it immediately becomes clear it's meant to be a love letter to Sierra's PC game catalogue.
The pixelated graphics and text-heavy interface is certainly a callback to the '90s, when adventure games were primarily about jamming one object into another and hoping for some kind of outcome.
But that's not a bad thing as far as Dark Fear is concerned - especially since the game strives for its own personality in spite of its obvious inspirations.
Thankfully, Dark Fear's balancing act between nostalgia and new ideas is successful. The final package is an atmospheric horror / adventure title with RPG elements and it all comes together nicely to tell a compelling, and often grisly, tale.
What did I do last night?
Dark Fear kicks off by having you wake up in a cabin with no memory of how you got there (it happens). You learn the ropes by lighting your surroundings and then fighting off a starving coyote by tapping the screen during appropriate prompts.
Gradually, the plot thickens. Wherever you are, there are demons and monsters everywhere. You need to untangle your own role in the drama by travelling from place to place in search of items, weapons, and clues.
As you'd expect from a Sierra-style adventure game, progressing in Dark Fear involves finding items on one screen, then using said items on another screen.
This results in a lot of poking around and trial-and-error, especially since some items are seemingly camouflaged by their own pixels. It took me a long time to find a rock that was vital to the story (believe it or not).
Where am I?
This ties into Dark Fear's biggest problem: Its lack of marked hot spots. Sure, blind poking is all part of the retro adventure game experience, but it's frustrating to be hamstrung by the scenery when you just want to get back into the story and / or beating up wolves.
One way to highlight areas of interest is to drag an item around the screen, as doing so lights things up. It's a bit of a clunky method, but it works.
The bottom line
Should you bother, though? Yes, absolutely. Dark Fear's flaws are small demons compared to the quality and mystery of the overall experience. Adventure fans, prepare to be haunted.