Dark Matter

Unfinished business.

By Daavpuke, Posted 01 Dec 2013

Clambering towards classics in a genre can be endearing, when well done. In the case of Dark Matter, only this reminiscent idea remains and that amidst a mess of an incomplete action platform title. What looks like a nod towards the explorative adventure of Metroid could be seen as an insult, as its design is riddled in error and only applied for the sake of being used. It’s a cheap display that could’ve been a lot better.

Dark Matter, Review, Fail, Kickstarter, PC, Iceberg Interactive

At first sight, appearances mask any wrongdoing, as somber textures of these metallic corridors seem intact. A simply animated female protagonist walks around this darkened space, flashlight in hand, which gives life to the void of blackness that is ever-present. Its only use of color is that which various electronic lighting brings in the few contraptions around that are still operational. It’s by using these lighted elements that the dark will need to be vanquished.

Along the way, a computerized voice leads in some narrative about monsters running wild and people dying out. It’s not consequential, nor is it at any point entertaining, but as a dynamic element, it also stays out of the way. That can’t be said for periodic lore sheets spread around the different areas. So far, however, things seem hunky-dory in this constricted environment of hallways, box crates and ladders. It’s a twisting and winding journey, just like those other games.

Dark Matter, Review, Fail, Kickstarter, PC, Iceberg Interactive

Playing the game will reveal its true horror. Starting off, controls seem not to respond fully to the desired mobility of the character model. Turning around randomly fails, sprinting may or may not work and combining any complexity will result in a total blockade. Aiming, which is used for both lighting and pointing a firearm, jitters to a point where its needed accuracy fails, making every small enemy more of a chore than necessary. Those enemies aren’t even that complex. Poorly animated monsters merely shuffle forward, then come to a stop at the nearest obstacle, lingering on endlessly. Combining the two elements together is worse yet, as detection rates are inconsistent, both in aiming as in collisions. That leaves very little meat to the package already.

It becomes obvious swiftly that this is due to unfinished business. Hallways are littered with leftover trigger codes that pop up at certain tiles. There, it’s not uncommon to find an enemy trigger, music change prompts and other various pieces of leftover programming, plain to see with the naked eye, as if it were some debug version. It’s a wireframe away from being completely bare. Further on, details will add to the annoyance, with animations not getting completed, some triggers causing instant death or prompts not being accessible. If anything works in the game, it’s only a matter of waiting what section wasn’t coded to find the broken alternative.

Dark Matter, Review, Fail, Kickstarter, PC, Iceberg Interactive
Thanks for the heads up.

It’s not even like Dark Matter has a terrible outset. In essence, it scripts out a few good ideas. Its titular light versus dark element is cleverly handled, with a flashlight becoming a vital survival tool, but also having drawbacks. Some alien forms react to light differently, creating a balance between using clarity and not seeing to overcome challenges. For instance, some monsters will retract their claws when illuminated, but some will draw the energy to become volatile. This, in turn, paces players to crawl through sections carefully. Rushing through a bright section can turn into a giant explosion, if not careful.

There is also some basic resource management present. By picking up scraps from enemies and lockers, it’s possible to assemble ammo and medkits. Scouting out areas can also yield blueprints used to upgrade a set of different weapons. It’s not fully fleshed out, with just a few options, but it is spread out thinly enough to be balanced and have players make choices between ammo conservation and enhancements. It’s just too bad that shooting the thing is a giant pain.

Dark Matter, Review, Fail, Kickstarter, PC, Iceberg Interactive

It should be noted that follow through is not present in design, even if it were to be complete. While it is true that exploring receives a dent due to objectives not showing up, that in itself could be handled if the game environment had purpose to go through. Its mimicked usage of backtracking from older games, however, falls dead short due to an atmosphere dulled out by vast amounts of emptiness and random level design. Some goals require walking back to areas residing several sections back, with no prompt and no activity in between. These long walks that can take more than five minutes are void of content. Its only purpose is to stall. There is nothing to discover, no mystery to solve; simply following footsteps backwards is the goal. As platforms are set up without logic, this can even require some labyrinth-like doling.

While being nearly unplayable already, it’s the glaring errors within that truly kill this project. Save points will periodically stop working, which can result in lots of lost time. Still, the biggest problem is a game-breaking issue, where an event doesn’t trigger, leading to a dead end. As there is only one save file, this means restarting the whole thing from scratch, as the checkpoint holds the error within. There is no excuse for that.

Dark Matter, Review, Fail, Kickstarter, PC, Iceberg Interactive

In its planned out state, Dark Matter may have had something to offer. This unfinished product, however, is a pitiful mess of coding, glitches and errors in a somber platform adventure. If it has any good ideas, they are downright killed by its negligence. Nothing more than that needs to be known.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed (@Daavpuke)

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General Information

Dark Matter


Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Iceberg Interactive
Developer(s): Interwave Studios
Genres: Platform
Themes: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 2013-10-17

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