Into the Dark: Narakan review
App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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Replay Value Rating:
Many mobile games are meant to be bright, colorful, and fast experiences. I guess the thought is that the platform is best suited for short bursts of play while waiting to do something else, so it makes sense to create things that are really flashy and attention-grabbing. With that said, there aren't many games I've played on mobile that go against this line of thought as hard as Into the Dark: Narakan does. This turn-based dungeon-crawler is dark, abstract, and exceedingly slow, which could be fine if the game weren't so saddled with technical problems.
Turn-based dungeon-crawlers are nothing new on mobile. In fact, they're kind of a dime a dozen. Very few stand out (except Sproggiwood. Shoutouts to Sproggiwood), and I guess this is why Into the Dark: Narakan is the way it is. Looking at it, you can't really get a good sense of what kind of game it is because of its abstract aesthetics, and you have to play it for a bit to even understand how its dungeon-crawling is meant to work.
To explain, you play as a blue-ish square that wanders through various environments (green squares for forests, yellow for desert areas, etc.), and your goal is to find your way to a golden door in each level. This door starts out hidden though, and you need to find a golden relic and activate it in order to proceed. Whenever you activate these relics, you have to accept whatever it offers you, which is usually either a spell or weapon, and from there you are free to go find the door. All along the way though, there are enemies wandering all over the map trying to kill you and you need to defend yourself. All of these steps are combined with a sort of “fog of war” system that prevents you from seeing too far ahead of you at any given time, which makes for a game experience that feels very slow and methodical.
To match the game's pace and aesthetic, Into the Dark provides additional set dressing in the form or sparse, written story beats and a foreboding, synth-based soundtrack to give you a feeling of bewilderment and wonder as you literally crawl through these levels.
This atmosphere does a lot of cover up the simplicity of Into the Dark's actual mechanics, which could certainly bore you to tears otherwise. You gather weapons and spells, tap on enemies in range to kill them, and keep moving. There are some other additional wrinkles to this format, like movement mechanics associated with certain weapons and additional relics that let you change our your arsenal or gain more health and armor, but it's really Into the Dark's look and feel doing the heavy lifting here.
Fumbling in the dark
I would be ok with Into the Dark's brand of weird and slow dungeon-crawling if the game weren't so plagued by bugs and technical problems. Without exaggerating, There's almost no level I played through in my time with Into the Dark when it didn't feel like it was breaking or behaving in a way it wasn't supposed to.
Some of these things are relatively small. You might not see the full range of your weapons at all times, or an icon might not switch appropriately. You'd be lucky if these were the only problems you experienced though. In my time with Into the Dark I was constantly dealing with bugs that would move me when I didn't want to, make some weapons disappear, and even force me to restart the game because a stage didn't load properly. The worst part of this is that Into the Dark features a bug reporting button on the game screen at all times, which I guess is nice, but also suggests to me that the developers know there are significant issues with their game and are depending on the paying public to help do QA for it. Not cool.
The bottom line
On a conceptual level, Into the Dark: Narakan is a fascinating game that you could get pretty lost in, but only if it was in a more playable state. As it currently stands, Into the Dark: Narakan is just too buggy and broken, and no amount of moody atmosphere can cover it up.