If you’re anything like me then it’s quite likely you haven’t heard of this game, I’m going to tell you why this game should be on your radar, especially as it’s retailing at around £15.
Your nephew Alex has joined a cult in the South American jungle and you must find out what’s going on as he’s been there for 2 years and you haven’t heard from him in months. The game starts with a letter being read, depending on your character choice you are either related or you’ve been tasked by a relative to find Alex, you’re not given much information except for a contact within the cult but you are told you can find clues along the way to help by searching desks etc. You’re given the choice of a survival item (First aid kit, gun, alarm override etc.) and are sent on your way. The game promises many different endings and I thought ‘great that’s loads of 10 hour playthroughs’…. But that’s not the case at all…..
You’re given a choice of gender and skin colour and as I mentioned an item, you’re not given much more info except for the occasional on screen prompts on how to perform an action as this game is entirely about discovery and that’s what makes it so entertaining, I love when games don’t hold your hand and achieve an air of mystery about what’s happening.
There are lots of guards about and you’re warned that until you find a disguise they will be alarmed by you (But I’m yet to find a disguise) so you need to avoid them. Very quickly I get this wrong and get killed, expecting the game to have some sort of checkpoint, but… It doesn’t. The game actually ends and you’re asked to pick a new character and if you want the preachers to have the same personalities (Not really noticed a big difference). So this is how you get your different endings, you lose your items and clues you picked up and start again and the ending variation seems to be high, you can be shot by the preacher after being captured, killed by guards and even betrayed by those who are there to help. So far I’ve learnt that if I kill everyone the people in there are not happy about it, as they’ve been so brainwashed. The atmosphere and setting of the game really works, I really felt that I HAD to rescue Alex from this crazy cult. It helped that the whole time you’re searching around the preachers are on the sound system spouting their extremist views, there are even camp members who sing songs. For the simplicity of the art style coupled with everything else really clicked and made it a really enjoyable experience, so what about the game play itself?
The gameplay is top down, you control your character from a bird’s eye point of view throughout the jungle map, when you walk into a building the roof disappears so you can see inside (Makes sense right). For me normally I don’t like this style and assign it to flash games but for this it really works, it helps that you can see everyone around you so you can plan your path. If you sneak you’ll see a guards cone of vision and if you creep behind them you can kill them or choke them out, but they aren’t KO’d for long. You need to work your way through guard checkpoints, avoiding alerting them and tripping the alarm, and get into the main village to find clues to Alex’s whereabouts and hopefully meet allies. It can very easily go wrong and although I’m playing on medium difficulty i’ve been caught out a lot and killed a lot. I have found that there are times where the guards are extremely dumb though, if you’re literally a few steps out of their vision cone they won’t see you, and also if you fire a gun it’s not heard outside a very large area. If you’re impatient you can kind of rush through as long as you avoid their vision and don’t make too much noise. The gun play is pretty simple, it’s just aim and shoot at them, but the guard’s bullets aren’t that nerfed so be wary of getting into a gunfight as you’ll most likely lose, especially against 3 or more guards. Most of the time you’re searching through desks and chests to get clues or supplies to help you survive, and a lot of these you can also hide inside away from guards. Sometimes you can get caught, and not killed immediately, which gives an opportunity of escape a re-exploring the map with that character. It’s frustrating but fun that you have to completely avoid dying to progress the story and not get it reset, you must learn from your deaths and avoid that happening again, and you will die or fail a lot.
One thing that did put me off was that, except for the preachers, everyone else sounds like a Sim, I just felt that if they’d had the guards have a few normal phrases it would have sold the intense atmosphere a little more. I also felt that after playing for a few hours that once I’ve saved Alex there wouldn’t be a lot else to do, and the map has the potential of getting samey… Honestly though apart from this there’s not a lot of negative things I can say about this game (this is me really trying to find negatives), it’s really fun and achieves what it sets out to do. I think the combination of the game play, instant deaths, atmosphere and the story make this game quite unique. Although the map isn’t that big the game can keep you going for a long time as you discover the different endings whilst trying to survive, especially on the higher difficulties. When you take into consideration the price of the game it’s absolutely fantastic, I’ve played many worse games that were at least £10 more expensive.
The Church in the Darkness is a simple but atmospheric survival story game that should definitely be on your radar. I’m really looking forward to getting a proper ending where I rescue Alex but am equally excited to fail all those times before and learn from my mistakes. It’s not the deepest game you’re ever going to play but it’s most definitely entertaining.
From me it gets a: