Tokyo Dark Review – Psychological Point´n Click
Publisher: Square Enix Collective
Release: 7th September 2017
This year is certainly an interesting one for fans of psychological games. After the great Hellblade, the japanese indie developer Cherrymochi now releases their game Tokyo Dark too. Funded on Kickstarter and published by the Square Enix indie department, this Point´n Click has everything to be an amazing experience, and it surely holds up to the promises.
When Detective Ito killed a serial killer, in order to save a girl, she didn´t know what effect it will have on her. However, six months later, her partner gone missing and Ito needs to find and save him. So, the psychic downfall of a detective, her chase for answers and the mystery behind a mask are the main topics of our journey through the dark Tokyo.
The plot is by far the most important aspect for Tokyo Dark, aiming to deliver both, a compelling Visual Novel and Point´n Click experience. Told during a ~5 hours long play through, Tokyo Dark doesn´t only present a very grim, honest Tokyo to us, but also a despairing insight in the psyche of a broken woman. Similar to Hellblade´s Senua, Ito is by far not a bright hero character, finding herself at the brink of despair after the initial events of the game, it works just as well.
We´re getting sucked deeper and deeper into a world, which is getting more bizarre every step we take. Soon I didn´t know what was real or fiction, if there was a reality to begin with. Tokyo Dark masterfully creates a world, so brutal and grim we can´t distinguish what´s actually going on, before it´s already too late, letting us feel just as Ito. Especially the conclusion and different endings underline the fact, that there isn´t just one “truth”, letting us choose what we think is Ito´s past and future. Each character we encounter serves as a catalyst for this exact thing. Once I dwelled into Ito´s mind and world, I couldn´t let it go, forcing me to complete it in nearly 1 session. If you liked Hellblade, Tokyo Dark´s story won´t disappoint.
The great story is also the reason, why Tokyo Dark´s gameplay works really well. Featuring different stats for each of Ito´s essential attributes, like sanity or professionalism, comparable to Fahrenheit´s mind meter. Every action we take has consequences in form of points, being added or removed from these meters, impacting the endings and Ito herself in certain moments.
Often Tokyo Dark will present a direct, yet “bad” choice right in front of us, while other ones are hidden behind little, easy puzzles. The only motivation to actually search for other ways, are these exact meters, Ito herself if you will. As soon as we stop caring about dear, lost Ito, Tokyo Dark´s whole gameplay breaks apart, loosing even the slightest hints of Point´n Click behind. A fragile concept, which certainly won´t work for anyone but did for me, mainly because Ito is a character everyone can identify with, at some point of his life. Loss and despair are topics everyone experienced.
Sadly, even then, Tokyo Dark simply gives away too much potential in its gameplay. Suffering from rare, far too easy “puzzles”, or just bad game design.Maybe it´s just me, but in a game, that rarely challenges and often bores me, when nothing is happening, I don´t wanna run around for minutes, searching the right object or even backtrack to obtain this last bit of info. Tokyo Dark is full of this, at least sometimes. Be it a teenager girl, who wants us to go back to our first area, run all the way to the end, talk to a guy we´ve seen 3 times, walk all the way back, and talk again with her. It´s exhausting and adds nothing to the experience, making Tokyo Dark a far worse gameplay experience than necessary.
If you didn´t already notice, Tokyo Dark is also one hell of a beautiful game. I highly doubt, that its anything else than hand drawn. Dominated by very detailed, lively character models, painted in striking colours and look overall stunning. Tokyo Dark enchanted me with its art style, able to freely switch between cute, silly moments and dark ones, full of despair. The few animated sequences look stunning as well, Cherrymochi were able to deliver one of the most beautiful games of recent months.
Unfortunately, there are still some bugs left, the first 2 hours in particular had me encounter 2 game breaking bugs, forcing me to restart the game or even replay the first 20 minutes. However, I couldn´t reproduce in the final release build, so maybe they´re fixed, maybe not, fact is, they were there and I´m worried about many other ones.
Tokyo Dark seemed very promising when I first heard about it, I love japanese themes anyway. Even then, when I got my hands on it, I simply couldn´t let go. Too intriguing, well written and awfully good presented is Ito´s journey into Tokyo´s and her secrets. Combined with the amazing visuals, love to detail or sheer amount of smart moments or dialogues, the lacking gameplay can quickly be forgotten, in favor of an otherwise great game.
[A Review Code was provided by Square Enix Collective]