App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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It was difficult not to find Emily in Darkness intriguing. It's looks like and is billed as essentially an adventure game as seen by Edward Gorey. In some ways it delivers on such a premise, and in others it falls flat. If nothing else, after wandering around Emily's hellish purgatory, I can definitely say it's a little different.
It all begins with Emily waking up in a forest with no recollection of why she's there in the first place. Then without warning someone shoots her dead. Or at least semi-dead. Instead of going to one form of afterlife or another she finds herself wandering through a dark labyrinth, neither alive nor dead. In order to (hopefully) solve the mystery of her not-quite death she'll have to fight her way through the ominous maze while avoiding all sorts of nightmarish monsters. Fortunately she has a few tricks up her sleeve thanks to her predicament such as using her own blood as a projectile or placing magic symbols on the ground to use as a trap.
Emily in Darkness clearly emphasizes mood over all else. The world Emily finds herself in is nice and gloomy in addition to being quite literally dark. Very little of the environment is visible past her small cone of light, and it always feels like something horrible is lurking out there in the darkness. It also seems to take a fair bit of inspiration from Gauntlet (finding keys to unlock exits, destroying monster generators, etc), which is never a bad thing.
I certainly can't fault Emily in Darkness for using disorientation and confusion as a plot device, but the somewhat broken English makes it a lot harder to follow along than it really should be. The overall gist of the story is easy enough to grasp but many of the finer points, especially the NPC dialog, can be pretty messy. This problem extends to Emily's abilities as well. Learning a new trick is nice, but the descriptions usually aren't very helpful. For example, the bombs can supposedly be used to destroy walls but there's no clear indication as to which walls can be blown up. And while I don't mind games trying to incorporate RPG elements, here they just seem pointless. Unless gaining levels is what causes monsters to drop new skills, but that's also not very clear.
Emily in Darkness is definitely a dark, moody, and slightly disturbing adventure with the makings of an intriguing story. The problem is that both the story and even the gameplay mechanics are difficult to understand thanks to a pretty rough script. Emily's story is certainly a curiosity, but that's really all it is at this point.