When you get an email about a game that’s supposed to be hard and with PR laughing at your feeble attempts to escape their prison of madness, call me intrigued. I haven’t ever heard of I Can’t Escape: Darkness, but apparently the original debuted on Newgrounds as a flash game in 2013 and with some pretty high praise. The developers decided to take this core idea and make it better, and now we’re presented with a enhanced or redone version called: I Can’t Escape: Darkness, and it will torment you.
The first thing players will notice is the games visual presentation. It harkens back to the older style of games like Shadow Gate. For those unfamiliar, usually the gameplay consisted of first person exploration, in dark dungeons, with odd puzzles and creatures that want to kill them. I Can’t Escape: Darkness seems to really play into those elements. Will you live or die trying to escape is the key question and for many, the answer is die.
What’s great about playing this is that the more it’s played, the more you learn how the game tries to trick you. From traps, rats, and odd vines reaching out to kill, it’s safe to say players probably won’t make it very far, at least on their first tryor perhaps even their 10th try. I Can’t Escape works as well as it does because while key rooms and elements are permanent, the rest is randomized and makes every trip down below a different one. Players will find notes, stumble upon puzzle switches, use lighters and flashlights to guide their way and fight their way with sticks, stones, and broken bottles. It’s an experience that is quite frustrating and that might rub some people the wrong way. Yet if folks that are interested in the genre or familiar give this a try, it can be an addicting experience and rewarding as well. Imagine playing for the 15th time and making it as far as possible only to be killed by a floating Phantom never seen before. It’s scary and tense with its gameplay, music, and setting, and doesn’t overly really on cheap scare tactics either. It’s just scary to die and players will feel that tension immensely. Though it just feels at odds, because while it can be one of the best feelings to escape the nightmare or the floor you’re on, thinking your inching ever closer to the ending. Then only for something you didn’t even know could kill you, it’s a crushing defeat, yet you reload and start again.
The soundtrack and visuals give it a clear style for its inspiration and it’s obvious the visuals look as they do, which is dated. The soundtrack is the most effective as it makes players feel as if something bad is going to happen but then never does when expected. Graphics looks as if it could be a remaster of games prior to that which have come before in the genre, but not amazing or stand out, yet decidedly retro in feel. Along with it comes the grid like control system moving square spaces one at a time and mouse pointing/control stick for cursor interactions and puzzles. Controller support is nice, but ultimately the controls feels similar regardless using the keyboard or controller. Not as smooth as most games today, but again it feels as if it was designed in this sense.
I Can’t Escape: Darkness is different take on a genre that goes back years prior. It’s hard, it’s challenging, and it feels like it’s mocking you at every step of the way. Yet for sadistic players with a penchant for difficulty, exploration, and darkness, it’s a unique experience and at the price, definitely worth checking out. It even lets you tweet out how many steps you took till you escape or die. As of now, I’ve yet to escape and I don’t know if I ever will, but I tried. Many will die, few will escape, but some will cherish this brutal experience regardless.
A pre-release Steam code for the game was provided by the developer for review purposes