I Can’t Escape: Darkness – What We Think:
I Can’t Escape: Darkness is an updated remake of I Can’t Escape, a free web game. While retaining the basic elements of the original—i.e. escaping a procedurally generated dungeon maze—this new commercial version adds a more distinct sense of setting, additional puzzles and even rudimentary combat. Unfortunately, it’s still not enough to make it a very engaging experience.
Afraid of the Darkness?
Played from a first-person perspective, the game begins as you stumble through the floor of what looks like an ancient Mayan temple. Guided by an unseen narrator who provides advice in the form of text at the beginning of each level, you’re faced with the task of exploring and descending the maze of stone tunnels, searching for the key that will let you out.
I Can’t Escape: Darkness actually does do a decent job with the atmosphere and flavor. The graphics aren’t particularly high end, but they make up for it in moodiness, with just a touch of Clive Barker thrown in, especially as you go deeper into the maze and find grotesque body horror elements taking the place of vines and spiderwebs clinging to the walls.
The game plays with light and darkness, too. You’ll start off with a flashlight, but it’s got a limited battery, so you’ll need to use it wisely, making use of the occasional lit brazier or the ambient light coming in through cracks in the ceiling in order to save some power for the deeper levels. You’ll also find a lighter, if you’re lucky, but it similarly only has a finite amount of fuel. This becomes crucial on the deepest levels, where remaining in the darkness too long can actually become lethal.
Not Afraid of the Darkness
I Can’t Escape: Darkness is hardly the first game to use lighting as a gameplay element, though, and apart from that, it’s pretty lackluster. Combat amounts to chucking rocks at rats or whacking them with a stick, and the puzzles are fairly basic, as well. Push buttons to open secret doors, read notes left on the corpses of previous explorers, pick up keys and find the doors they open, and watch out for rats, pits and other traps.
There are a few clever elements thrown in, like the presence of mushrooms that may be poisonous or helpful, but once you pick up the basic premise of the game it gets old in a hurry. Similarly, the flickering shadows and gruesome wall-carvings are creepy at first, but too soon you’ll be worried about dying a random death not because you’re actually scared, but because it means you’ll have to start the game over and play through the same puzzles again.
Playthroughs are quick, usually clocking in at well under half an hour, and random level generation means you can’t just complete early levels by rote, but it’s still not enough to make you want to come back for more.
And that leaves out issues of performance. The game seems to run on a slight delay, with each movement taking place a fraction of a second after you press the key. It’s not enough to be game-breaking, but it’s more than enough to be annoying, and it seems to get worse the longer you last in a given play-through.
Sick of the Darkness
This also makes the game nausea-inducing, which is hardly what you want in a game meant to create a sense of slowly building tension. (Honestly, the game’s other shortcomings would probably be a lot more easily forgiven if it weren’t for the fact that I started to get queasy if I played it for longer than 15 minutes.)
In the end, there’s not much to recommend here. There are other games that do random dungeon descent better; likewise light mechanics and first-person horror. There’s even a game that combines all of its elements, last year’s Greek mythology-inspired Depths of Fear: Knossos, which, though flawed and buggy, still managed to be more engaging than this.
Watch the trailer for I Can’t Escape: Darkness below: