Two Dark, stylized as "2Dark", is a top-down 2D stealth horror game where players take on the role of Mr. Smith: one-time family man, now present day vigilante, after the death of his wife and disappearance of his children. Years after this traumatic incident, Smith heads to the dilapidated town of Gloomywood to rescue missing children (something he does regularly) from the clutches of serial killers and implied sex traffickers.
Add to that the task of personally shepherding rescued children to safety (what, you expected a "THANK YOU!" soundbite or message from the children before they disappear from view making their own implied rescue once you find them a la the POWs from Metal Slug?) and the deck is rather stacked against Smith (who doesn't seem to mind at all) and the player who only has the elements of stealth and surprise on their side, as they rescue the children and lead them out of harm's way.
So does 2Dark stack the deck TOO high against players? Are the odds too great? Can players begin hope to overcome the psychological onslaught of Gloomywood or is this game a 2D version of Dark Souls, dooming players to frequent reload prompts?
Despite all of the above factors and antagonistic forces mentioned above, working against Smith, 2Dark is a game that rewards players that let cooler heads and better judgment prevail. While players do have a lot to contend with, the kidnappers are thankfully not that bright and can be avoided altogether a great deal of the time. If you're a regular stealth gamer 2Dark should feel like familiar territory, but if you like to handle situations with brute force, 2Dark is going to shut you down nine times out of ten. In fact, it could be said that a player's own impatience is their own worst enemy when it comes to 2Dark. That and the actual children themselves.
Upon finding the captured children, the player must escort them to safety and they must do it quickly before the children start, well, "losing their shit," as the kids might say. The longer the player takes to get to safety, the more frightened the rescued children become, which means they become loud, panicky, screaming liabilities, begging for the kidnappers to stuff them back in a cell or just snuff them outright. While it's a nice realistic touch to the game and the rescue process in general, it's also controller snapping-ly frustrating and one of the few gripes I have with the game. The other major gripe that I have is that navigating the game's menu doesn't stop the game, a la a Pause Menu. While this does ratchet up the tension that the player feels and forces a sense of urgency when trying to manage time and inventory, it also feels like another unfair obstacle on an already long list of them.
Fortunately, the crying children won't distract from the other enjoyable aspects of the game, such as the graphics. 2Dark's graphics can be best described as a mix of Super Mario RPG (characters/models) and Chrono Trigger (maps) with a splash of Monaco (obscured top down overhead perspective). The trifecta of influences comes together and works beautifully, creating a style that is both gorgeous and nausea-inducing at the same time. Environments, exteriors, interiors, backgrounds, even darkened hideaways and decrepit throwaway transitional locations manage to combine the right use of shade and gore. As mentioned before the characters resemble something from Super Mario RPG which is made possible through the use of a technology known as "Soft Voxels", giving the characters a 3D bright and distinct look in a grimy 2D world.
Another great thing about the game is the replay factor; all the levels are accessible from a list once you've completed said level. Whether you want to look at it as Smith reliving his greatest moments of glory or setting right what once went wrong, it's a convenient feature that'll help completionist make sure that they rescue all of the children. If you don't, the game lets you know via cutaways that show the children being brutally killed (or as brutalized as the Super Mario RPG-esque sprites will allow).
All in all, 2Dark is thankfully not 2Hard, not too 2Soft and it's not 2Expensive. If you're a big softie or you're really, REALLY connected to kids (your own, neighbor's kids, students if you're a teacher) this might be a little 2Intense for you. Conversely, if you're 2Savage when it comes to gameplay and the only other word you understand besides "savage," is "attack!" this might not be the game for you. However, if you like stealth games, horror games, or you want just a little more than the average challenge, go grab it and feel free to get 2IntoIt. And out of TOV 5 stars, I’m giving 2Dark a 3.