Project Dark is an audio only experience targeted at visually impaired gamers, but it also wormed its way into my heart as someone with a vivid imagination. It is a collection of 6 dramatic audiobooks that have choices for the player to make, meaning you’ll have multiple endings per story. You’ll need some headphones or good stereo speakers to get the full immersive experience but Project Dark entertained me throughout.
Firstly, I really applaud Project Dark’s commitment to accessibility. The menus can be read with narration so you don’t need to see them to start the game and any interaction you might be required to make has a spoken prompt to explain it to you. When a choice is due, an audible whoosh and ding tells you its time and you make the choice by swiping your mouse/finger left or right. There are a few other movements you’ll be asked to make too but these are explained as you come across them. Whilst the choices and movements are timed to 5 seconds or you “fail” and the choice is randomised, they are easy enough movements to make. Since the screen is dark, you’ll see your mouse trail light up but its just a simple visual for anyone looking. I recommend closing your eyes to get the full experience.
The six stories are varied in tone but all largely land their twists and turns well. Home Invasion asks you to survive one with your companion. Bliss is about reliving a traumatic event. Cave of Spirits is a medieval quest. Submersive places you as captain of an undersea treasure mission with plenty of danger to avoid. The Game of Three is a dystopian elimination test where you get to decide the fate of three strangers by judging them based on their vocal personality. Date in the Dark is about getting through a dinner date without knocking everything over and hopefully finding someone worth knowing.
All the stories are well written and many have stings in the tail. Even if they might be predictable, they are well acted and still enjoyable to hear play out. This is in part because you can often choose whether to follow a predictable route or try something else and since most stories have 3 or 4 endings, there is plenty of replayability. Each story lasts been 30-60 minutes so you’ll get your moneys worth. I really liked The Game of Three and Date in the Dark especially because the former is a clever comment on society and the latter asks you to pay close attention to the stereo panning of where the waiter places items on the table so you can grab them. It’s clever without being too tricky.
Whilst I very much enjoyed my time with Project Dark, I have two quibbles. Firstly, there seems to be no way to exit the game outside of ctrl, alt and delete. In 2023, that’s poor. Secondly, there is a gratuitous amount of reverb on the voice actors. Most of the time, it adds drama and gravitas to the situation but occasionally it sounds muddy. This is especially the case in scenes where a lot of background ambience is happening like the water effects on Submersive. I’d have liked the option to raise the voice acting volume against the rest of the audio a bit.
It is a minor niggle though because Project Dark took me back to the beginning years of gaming. A time where my imagination took over on pen and paper RPGs or ZX Spectrum adventures with just a few coloured blocks to go off of. Its an unusual recommendation for sighted gamers perhaps, but it is extremely immersive and let my imagination run riot.
Review copy provided by publisher. Out now on Steam. I’ve included some audio snippets at the end of my video review.
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