Better Crawl Back Under the Covers
I honestly didn’t know anything about The Darkest Tales before I was presented with the opportunity to demo it. I quickly discovered it’s being developed by Trinity Games and published by 101XP. What’s especially fun about the game is it’s a really fractured fable. Think Toy Story mixed with some of older, darker fairy tales, and you’re on the right track. And though The Darkest Tales is slated to come to pretty much everything, including Switch, PS4 and Xbox One, I demoed it on Steam.
The story of The Darkest Tales was really captivating, even in the demo. The premise is that dream demons have infested the mind of a young girl named Alicia, and are devouring her subconscious. A protective light spirit isn’t gonna sit back and let that happen, and enlists the aid of Teddy the Bear. Rather than jump at the chance, Teddy is a reluctant bear. He’s angry about being locked in a chest for years, and would just as soon let Alicia get devoured. But luckily the light spirit is quite insistent (AKA annoying), and he finally submits. A portal into the girl’s mind is opened, and things get going.
It quickly becomes clear Alicia’s mind is in trouble. It’s full of twisted fairy tales, and your first one is Red Riding Hood. No longer a mild mannered little girl, now she’s a bloodthirsty vandal. She’s running about murdering all the wolves in the forest, leaving mayhem in her wake. As you trail after her, you’re accosted by all manner of clockwork creatures. Of course several are wolves, but there’s also giant bats and spined insects. At first you cannot attack anything, but then come across the most powerful of childhood weapons – scissors you aren’t supposed to run with. The spirit infuses them with her magic, enlarging and empowering them. Teddy then is armed with dual scissor blades.
I love the premise of the combat, but in execution it’s a bit looser than I’d like. The platforming is especially egregious, with Teddy jumping high into the air and falling like a rock. Combat itself is a bit better, but without a dodge or counter, it’s pretty generic. You just attack, run and so forth. Teddy can be healed, but you have to hold the LB button for a few seconds to do so. Which can be tricky when you’re beset by foes. That goes double for the boss fights, such as against the fierce Red Riding Hood. You’ll also level up, allowing Teddy to gain new skills, such as increased speed or attack power. It works, but again, it would be much more satisfying if things felt tighter.
Visually and musically, The Darkest Tales is no slouch. I loved the background and style of the game. There’s lots of environments, from snowbound cliffs to deep forests to burning cities and labyrinthine caves. And the music is dark and ominous by degrees, with just a hint of whimsy. The appeal of the game definitely rests in how it looks and sounds.
I wish I could be more upbeat about The Darkest Tales, but that will ultimately depend on how well the developer addresses the issues I found. I think it has the potential to be an amazing game. It just has to smooth out the rough edges first.