When I was offered a chance to have a whirl in the Alpha build of the upcoming horror game Dark Matter by InterWave Studios, I jumped at the chance as this game has been on my radar for a while. Not least because of it’s interesting format of being a side-scrolling shooter/horror game. But can this type of linear game, be that scary?
Dark Matter sure does have the ambience of a horror game, with a futuristic setting and your player being confined on a space ship of sorts, it felt reminiscent of Dead Space, but in a whole new side-scrolling format. The majority of your surroundings are incredibly dark, as with most scary games this
often adds suspense, but this title doesn’t fall into the trap of being nothing but blackness; the lighting effects make great use of the shadows and let the world shine and show off the rich colours in it’s own way. The flashlight attached to the end of your gun can be manoeuvred in a complete circle around you with the mouse, whilst moving is simply left or right, up or down. Every little bit of light becomes useful, whether it be the glow from a control panel in the distance that needs to be hacked to open a door elsewhere, or your weapon’s light to help you spot enemies and traverse dark corridors. Most enemies react to light in a certain way, making managing your light sources very important for survival – sometimes turning your flashlight off means you’ll be able to pass an enemy safely without the need to engage in a fight at all.
By incorporating sufficiently moody music and fantastically grotesque and attention grabbing creature sounds, this game really does drop you right in the middle of a suspense filled situation. Making you eager to look around and keep the lights on, whilst also at the same time half hoping it would stay dark so you don’t have to see what lurks in the shadows.
Of course, the focus isn’t wholly on point and click shooting, there are also various items to craft that will help keep you alive, from simple Med Kits to upgrades for your weapons and specialised ammunition to assist with taking down tougher enemies. One thing this game does particularly well is it brings that real panic that a “Survival” game should – ammo is scarce and you have to use it wisely else you most definitely WILL run out. The same goes for the resources required to craft items – if you’re not careful, you will not survive for very long. Teleportation even makes an appearance and can be used to navigate your way around obstacles that at first seem impossible to get around. With so much on offer, I’m very glad a tutorial was included to help me find my way, as it would be very easy to feel unsure of what to do otherwise.
My biggest issue with this game is how it actually runs when being played. Now, my computer is a very standard computer, nothing specialised for gaming, nor is it powerless in the graphics department, however, this game seems to have a very poor frame rate. Even the simple task of walking looks jittery and awkward, and even trying to aim a gun becomes frustrating because of how one second your laser sight is in one spot then jumps to another
much further than where you thought you had been aiming. It’s a real let down, especially as the actual environments are so incredibly beautiful, the lighting effects so stunning, and the character design so simple yet spot on; I ended up huffing in disappointment – it’s like seeing how intoxicating the overall feel of the game could be if this massive bug was straightened out, but never quite managing to experience this game in all it’s glory. Hopefully this will get seen to before the full release.
Dark Matter is currently on a KickStarter programme with merely a few days left and still a long way to go with funding, and will be available for PC, Mac and Linux at launch as well as hopefully being available on Steam in the future if the Greenlight Project is successful. And I believe this is a game that should be backed as it provides a fresh take on the genre of horror, whilst reinvigorating the art of survival and so deserves the opportunity to live up to it’s potential.