The Dark Meadow, a slash-based adventure game akin to Infinity Blade in both gamestyle and visual quality, has been released by Phospher Games Studio and is now available from the app store.
The Dark Meadow Pros:
- Beautiful graphics with great lighting and terrific textures
- Atmospheric soundtrack and nice voicework
- Familiar combat controls make taking on beasts a breeze
- Upgradeable items and a variety of enemies to use them on
- GameCenter integration for achievements
The Dark Meadow Cons:
- Cut scenes do not allow skipping
- Too much grinding, combat gets repetitive
- Lack of a map makes finding your way very confusing
Swapping Infinity Blade’s third-person perspective for a first-person viewpoint, you are an anonymous patient with a heavily-clouded memory that leaves you unsure of why you are shuffling around the halls of a psychiatric hospital, fighting off evil beings with a variety of weaponry. You do receive some cryptic messages relayed through a mysterious elderly man who you meet early on, though he is quickly relegated to communicating via intercom while you are in patient rooms. As you make your way through the building, you also pick up details and clues to the muddy backstory through minor exploratory opportunities like finding newspaper clippings or bulletin board posts, though the bulk of the gameplay is spent in combat along the narrow hallways. Creepy foes appear at length, giving you the opportunity to take aim with a crossbow and put a few arrows into their grotesque bodies from a distance. Once the gap between the two parties closes, you’ll switch to a melee weapon, using on-screen finger swipes to mimic swordplay in an effort to banish the baddies to the fiery depths to which they belong.
Much like Infinity Blade, you also have a dodge and shield ability to defend against attacks, which become quite necessary as several of the ghouls hock poisonous loogies at you. Additionally, gold and XP are earned for kills, and bags of gold can be found in various locations throughout the building, most notably in anything that can be opened (cabinets, cupboards, drawers, fire extinguisher cases). This gold is used to purchase equipment upgrades and strengthen your abilities for future battle through amulets and the like. The XP refreshes your health and gives you points to apply to various attributes, such as melee and ranged attacks, health, defense, and more.
Graphically, The Dark Meadow approaches its aforementioned predecessor when it comes to visual details. There is a great deal of creepy atmosphere throughout, enhanced by lighting effects and great textures that give the surroundings a realistic feel. Collectible jewels stand out among the dank earth tones, and minor glints of light also offer clues to areas worth examining. The UI is minimalist, with a single icon at the screen top to access the game’s menu. When in combat, the 2 dodge buttons and shield button adorn the screen bottom, with health bars for you and your foe at the screen top. The color of the foe’s bar is tough to see, so it’s not always clear how close they are to death. The soundtrack offers atmospheric noises to create tension and fear, while sound effects make the combat feel fairly authentic. The voice acting is good and it helps to move the story along in an interesting way. Controls are intuitive, using drag-and-release mechanics with the crossbow and swipes for melee. Tapping on green indicators allows you to move within the gaming environment and open doors. Swiping the screen allows you to pan 360 degrees, as well as look up and down, tapping on various unmarked objects to pick them up or open them. The dodge ability didn’t always seem as responsive as we’d hoped, leaving us open to attack despite hitting the corner buttons in plenty of time.
There were a number of items that we did find frustrating, though. One of the first we noticed is that you pretty much cannot skip cutscenes or the opening sequence, which is fine for your first exposure to it, but annoying when you relaunch the game again and again. Another is the game break that occurs after defeating an enemy, which offers a Combat Summary of gold and XP earned. It pulls us right out of the game, denying us the opportunity to get immersed in the experience. This is especially annoying when coupled with the replaying the same combat sequence over and over again as you pass certain points in the hallways. You may fight a couple of demons as you work toward one end of a hall, only to have to backtrack and fight enemies all over again on the way back. It makes exploration difficult and time-consuming. The lack of any type of map also makes finding your way around very confusing, leaving us feeling like we were spending a lot of time grinding without making any real progress. Death also didn’t seem to really dole out any punishment, as we would simply reawaken from the first room and move forward again in a confusing and combat-laden path.
Replay value is good if you enjoyed the experience the first time around, but it seemed to get repetitive too quickly and we got bored with the murky story before long. There are a number of achievements to earn, but the lack of feedback regarding our progress in completing them was disappointing, especially since most involved achieving a certain number of a variety of actions. A universal app for $5.99, The Dark Meadow is an interesting idea that just doesn’t strike the proper chord, relegating it to a somewhat depressing 3.5-Dimple score.
The Dark Meadow Review,