Title: Eyes in the Dark
Developer: Under the Stairs
Release Date: July 14, 2022
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Gearbox Publishing
Genre: Platformer, Rouge Lite
I’m going to let you in on a little secret I have kept for most of my life. I’m terrified of the dark, or more precisely, what could lurk just out of sight. Eyes in the Dark captures that childish fear and twists it into a real threat.
Victoria is a part of the illustrious Bloom family specializing in science and technology. She goes on a trip to visit her grandfather and see the family mansion, and upon her arrival, she sees her grandfather’s battle against some inky black creatures. Upon noticing her presence, he throws her a flashlight as he is dragged away. Now Victoria must search the mansion and fend off the creatures to save her grandfather.
The story of Eyes in the Dark is mainly conveyed in the style of a silent film. You will see characters’ mouths move and then see a text frame with dialogue. However, more traditional text bubbles are used in-game, which is fine as Victoria mostly talks to herself.
In fact, outside of the starting hour of the game, Victoria only speaks to herself and makes guesses about what is happening. This allows for more natural storytelling as the player learns more about the mansion as Victoria discovers and confirms theories. I wish there were more characters for Victoria to talk to, but players will get a feel for her personality without character interactions.
The gameplay is a mixture of a twin-stick shooter and platformer, using a flashlight as your primary source of damage. Each enemy releases sparks when taking damage, which acts as a currency for the player to use on customizations. This simple detail makes clearing a room out of all enemies beneficial for the player outside of allowing progress.
Most of the customization is incidental. For example, slight stat boosts or a special effect happen once a foe has been defeated. However, major customizations, like lightbulbs, for example, change how Victoria’s flashlight works or how she jumps.
These are balanced by stats that each lightbulb has independent of its function. Often, a lightbulb with good stats would have an attack style that I hated. This small design choice forces the player to decide whether to be weaker but with an attack that suits their playstyle or vice-versa.
These make builds feel different enough from each run to make me forget that a run can be long, lasting over an hour when clearing out every area. Each run’s length hinders the game slightly as players need to devote more time to it. Simply jumping into the game, completing a run, and then moving on to something else is impossible
Upon completing a run, either by clearing all areas or dying, players are rewarded with knowledge depending on how many bosses were defeated and sparks collected. These are then used to unlock permanent upgrades, the most useful of which allows players to begin a run with a build at the start.
The worse part of Eyes in the Dark is that, at times, I can’t tell apart the different environments from each other. This issue excludes the garden, as this is the most visually distinct area in the mansion.
Bosses also tend to be easy even though the areas get more difficult as you clear them; this only equates to enemies dealing and tanking more damage, so you wouldn’t get different enemy variety doing the garden at the end rather than the second area to explore.
Despite some minor setbacks, Eyes in the Dark holds a lot of charm and fun. Each run may take a little longer, but that time flies by — despite the simplicity of the enemies and difficulty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there is much to see with Eyes in the Dark.
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