Lucid dreaming sounds great: all the flexibility and imagination of a dream but with enough awareness to decide what happens and live out your fantasies. But what happens when the dream turns into a nightmare and you can't wake up? That's the premise of DARQ, an upcoming psychological horror game from indie developer Unfold Games.
You play DARQ as Lloyd, a boy who comes to realise that he's dreaming only to have monsters from the depths of his subconscious creep up on him. Exploring the zero-gravity netherworld of his darkest desires, you learn to apply dream physics in your search for a way out, walking up walls, creating objects from nothing and otherwise bending and breaking the rules of reality. The monsters you encounter are much too powerful to combat physically, so you’ll need to rely on stealth and cunning in order to survive. You'll also meet many less scary characters on your journey, helping you find answers and meaning in your quest.
The game certainly looks distinctive, featuring a mixture of 2D and 3D graphics with a hand-drawn look and heavy contrast between light and shadow. Nearly black-and-white and heavy on the bloom, the visuals resemble nothing so much as a dark Tim Burton movie. The soundtrack promises much too, coming from ASCAP award-winning film composer and Unfold Games founder Wlad Marhulets. Sadly, plans for voice work have had to be put on hold.
Taking its inspiration from films such as The Shining, the aim is to slowly build a creepy atmosphere without relying on blood and gore. As well as the physics-based puzzling, sound will also play a significant role, with certain areas asking you to navigate in complete darkness by sound alone. Some elements will be randomly generated, making every playthrough a bit different, and dream logic means the world can change unexpectedly around you. There will also be multiple endings, reflecting the choices you make.
Having received only partial funding through its recent Indiegogo campaign, there is no firm release target yet for DARQ, but the game has already been Greenlit on Steam and we could see it jump out at us on PC, Mac and Linux before the end of this year. In the meantime, you can find out more on the official site.