Written sPINDRAFT 1/16/2014
I found the application file to this game sitting in my games folder and clicked on it thinking it was a demo of an upcoming release. In reality this version appears to be the actual completed game as created by a group of students at the Universidad Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain. ‘Dark Oceans’ displays a fair amount of digital craftsmanship considering the group consisted largely of just two artists, three programmers and a musician (don’t know if that would be an actual hands on musician or the digital variety, did not research that deep).
I would venture to guess that the very short life span of in-game time is due to the fact that the game started out as a university project and most likely the idea of a public release gained momentum over the course of this creative time. First released for free via the groups Word Press site in October of 2011 the game is now being promoted on Steam’s Greenlight and hopefully it will do well in the votes, 1- because Steam is a great outlet for games and 2- its a fun little game to play.
Getting on with the game play it was actually a good thing that I started up ‘Dark Oceans’ thinking it was a demo as I would have been a little surprised at the overall length of gameplay otherwise, it seems to end just when you get going good. As it happened my initial confusion on the games origin allowed me to be free of any of the usual expectations one might have concerning a full length game.
Suffice it to say that ‘Dark Oceans’ is fun, nothing spectacular as far as real inovative gaming experience goes unless your counting the setting (I’m not familiar with any other game that takes place on a striken, mutant infested cruise ship). If your into puzzling or breaking a code or pattern you won’t find that here, it’s pretty basic hunt and seek action when it comes to solving complex problems and you are constantly told via text at the bottom of the screen pretty much how your current situation can be solved or needs to be solved.
Basically there are only three types of characters – you, an oily mutant that burns easily and a non oily mutant who needs a little more assistance to reach its flash point. In motion they have the appearance of animated rag dolls stuffed with rice and their overall performance is sort of clunky but it is fun trying to stay one step ahead of them as they chase you around a room while your trying to find a way out. Thats the entire goal by the way, get off this ship, which should not be a big deal since your the one who designed it but whatever tragedy has occurred to this liner has also configured the route you will have to take to escape the terrors.
I must say in respect to gaming experiences the non oily mutants present the best tension inducing moments for the player. For the most part your path through the ship is strictly contained inside a pre-determined path that you must follow from checkpoint to checkpoint (although the devs did a nice job of making you double back to the previous decks during one of your treasure hunts). The real fun starts when you are confronted with multiple mutants (both oily and non oily) and everything is happening really fast, the mutants are swinging and your trying to flip to your spray gun once you’ve identified a non oily and then get back to your flare to light ‘em up; all while trying not to loose control of your self defense by getting in a hurry. It sounds easy but this simple combo of enemies can really amp up your nerve endings.
The setting of the game is well done graphically, I specifically state the setting here because in all honesty the characters could use a bit more work. The ship looks good and is probably one of the biggest initial draws for the game as it was quite intriguing (after so many apocalypse, underground, frozen, wasteland, possessed, infested landscapes) to play in a totally original setting. In short it was fun to run around on the cruise ship, especially the casino deck where the decor and lighting really seemed to hit the right pitch (not so sure about those flame throwing nozzles in the wall though. What?). Never caught the name of the ship either which is one of those small things that tends to nag at me (maybe I just missed it somehow).
So here is the deal, ‘Dark Ocean’ is a very short but entertaining game that takes place in a unique setting (at least by common horror game standards) and it has huge potential. I think the story is mostly non existent at this point with the dialogue being a series of stated facts, observations or directions but man oh man with the right funding and development time this idea could absolutely be turned into something special. In its current incarnation the game is fun; its a neat little, quick romp across a couple of decks on a striken cruise ship. Now if the devs could come up with some original sea monster stuff (look at Kingsmouth Town in ‘The Secret World’ -ignore the zombies and check out the coast) that would be awesome.
HAG Score - 8.0