Can you restore order to Hell? That is the big question presented to you as you begin More Dark, a pixelated retro puzzle platformer that’s not only easy to pick up but at times surprisingly challenging along the way.
Developed by HugePixel and published by Ratalaika Games, More Dark has you in control as a devilish minion who must gather up all the escaped prisoners of damnation after the Lord of the Other World (for some reason) leaves for a sudden vacation. In his place, the big bad Lord’s daughter, Evilina, has only allowed the chaos to ensue, so it’s up to you to redeem the underworld. Sounds simple enough, yet throughout the game’s 60 levels, you are bound to die repeatedly as you run into various obstacles and tricky puzzles.
The goal in almost all the More Dark levels is to clear the area by jumping on top of every escaped damned soul, which then allows for a gate to open to progress. Even if you defeat each escaped prisoner to open the exit gate, the pathway to said opened gate is sometimes a puzzle itself. Aside from the prisoners, there are movable crates, varying death spikes, and dead ends to deal with when plotting your way to the exit. The first few levels are easy enough to guide you through the simple mechanics whilst setting you up for what lies ahead. The aforementioned crates also play a big part in how you will reach the exit, as you will need to carefully push them into place to gain access to higher ground. This is where the thinking comes into play when attempting to find the best way to create an exit route. While jumping on/capturing escaped Other World prisoners doesn’t have much obvious depth, the tinkering with crates adds to the whole puzzle box’s fun.
As you progress through every fiery, gloomy hole, you will eventually gain access to different abilities such as bombs, green balls of goo that can be used to jump higher, and the power to reverse your own gravity. While moving boxes in the early levels has some of its own tricky puzzle solving in terms of platforming, it’s when these new abilities are introduced that up the ante of each level. In the case of bombs, you will see multiple bombable blocks pop up that will need to be cleared to reach either a prisoner or an exit.
The catch is that these bombable blocks can only be blown up if placed on top of them. This only adds to the thinking you must do to get through each level. The same goes with the platforming on the green balls of goo. One thing that I encountered throughout each level is that platforming can be rather spotty in sections. Many moments occurred where an easy jump seemed possible only for the button response not to register correctly. It’s not a game-breaker, but it is an annoyance that caused me to repeat some easy levels to the point of seething frustration.
However, what happens when you get stumped or cleared a pathway that ultimately leads you to a dead-end? Well, just blow yourself up. No, really, that’s basically what you must do. When faced with a situation where you messed up in the puzzle, press X, and BOOM! You start back at the beginning of the level. Nothing too hard to explain, but I did find the button placement between each ability at the death button resulted in a few accidental inputs. Much like with missed jumps leading into a small pit of spikes, these accidental inputs only added to short bits of annoyance. Otherwise, once you clear one level after another, all of these abilities you gain add more to the challenge. Never once did I feel a puzzle set-up was unfair.
One thing I did wish was expanded upon would be the non-puzzle platform segments that broke up large chunks of levels. These would be in the form of a Breakout or a Space Invaders-esque minigame. While some might assume these segments are out of place, they were a nice breather from the constant tinkering of pushing crates and placing bombs in a preferred manner. Aside from the minigames, though, there are a few boss battles, but they are nothing too special—no real strategy within these bouts other than jumping on their head and avoid oncoming projectiles.
While your journey into the depths of More Dark might be a brief one, the game’s 60 levels and the platforming puzzles within do offer a satisfying time. It certainly isn’t anything new in the mold of retro-style platformers, but there is enough here to make it worthwhile despite some small annoyances that pop up. Overall, More Dark is a neat but short distraction that’s not overly difficult even as the puzzles become slightly more complicated.