Version tested: PlayStation 3
We don't know about you (you always looked shifty), but digital distribution continues to bother our wallets like a 10-year-old after his pocket money. In fact, it's a good thing that virtual wallets and made-up online currencies shield us from the painful truth of how much we've spent, because at this stage we probably couldn't take it. It's inevitable though, especially as - thanks to the likes of Super Stardust HD, Warhawk, flOw and Everyday Shooter - PlayStation Network has developed a reputation for interesting and innovative games, rather than dull, repetitive and/or broken-headed ones.
So then, here are a couple of dull, repetitive and/or broken-headed ones.
- Developer: Game Republic
- Release Date: Out now in Japan, early 2008 in Europe
- Price: TBC (possibly EUR 8 "on the continent")
It would be easy to dismiss Dark Mist, because it's a simplistic hackandslash dungeon-crawler. But then this is a PSN game, and the rules are different on PSN, where Sony invites people to make virtually anything and the results are often surprising. Folklore and Giant Enemy Crab developer Game Republic's approach is to pretend it's the late eighties or early nineties, and the result is cheap, cheerful and largely harmless.
In it, you control a warrior of the light, Artemis, and have to work from one side of a dungeon to the other via a series of single-screen rooms. With locked doors barring progress, you wander around the intricate environment looking for keys and ultimately the exit, battling the forces of darkness when they pitch up.
Viewed from overhead, and with three different weapons at your disposal, it feels a bit like Atic Atac and a bit like Zelda as you dance around, your thumb hammering the fire button in an attempt to kill the beasties responsible for the smoky blanket of gloom.
Larger enemies typically prowl around certain rooms, so you have to position yourself nimbly to avoid their projectiles and aim accurately to dispatch them. Some are merely a nuisance, but others harbour keys essential to progress, and so it goes until you face the inevitable boss creature on every fourth level.
As nice as it is to have three main weapons to cycle through at any given time, the differences between are largely cosmetic. The right stick isn't utilised as the firing device, so directional fire is locked to whichever direction you're facing, which makes the business of taking out enemies more challenging than it might have been. Elsewhere in your arsenal, you also get a couple of bombs to use during a level, not to mention a powerful but slow attack that recharges between bursts.
Oddly, there's no save system. If you quit the game, you must start over from level one, despite the fact that you're able to continue the game indefinitely if you can stomach it. Obviously, since you can see the score by now, the repetition puts you off doing that. Indeed it's rather baffling, especially given that the How To Play instructions suggest it's deliberate. We can imagine having more fun poking away at it every so often rather than always starting again. But we have to. And other than that, it's only worth nothing that it has an online leaderboard and a time attack mode.
With no level-select, and hugely repetitive gameplay, Dark Mist quickly loses its appeal and feels like a shallow exercise in retro-headed bloody-mindedness rather than a loving link to the past. For the price, old school gamers will appreciate what it's trying to achieve, but most of you will be hacked off with a game that thinks it's a good idea to make you start from scratch every time you load it up.