Seeing is believing, but what if sight is not an option? This is the question Purple Jam are keen to answer with their inaugural audio game, Pitch Black: A Dusklight Story, which is currently raising funds through Kickstarter.
After a global catastrophe in which the entire population went blind, a “select few” managed to come together to form the eponymous “largest and most infamous city in the new world,” divided into five districts based on wealth. Against this backdrop, players control an “infiltrator for the nightlanders” who is attempting to “uncover the truth of a dark and eccentric world, ruled by a tyrannical, light worshiping cult.”
Pitch Black is a “binaural-based audio game," essentially a narrative-driven experience completely devoid of visuals, instead relying purely on its audio components to help the player explore the notorious city of Dusklight. Just walking through a marketplace in the poorest and most dangerous district exposes you to a cacophony of sounds: vendors hawking their wares, digitized storefronts providing world-building in automated voices, and the odd drunk bar patron stumbling up and down the pavement.
A quality pair of headphones is absolutely essential to navigating Pitch Black. While the screen remains blank throughout, movement is handled via keyboard and sound sources change direction and volume as you walk past them or turn, each individual one behaving organically differently from the others. Stepping into a bar means listening intently to the sounds of the bartender muttering to himself, a radio playing an interview in the back room, and incidental sounds like the machinery of a blender mixing a concoction of some sort, all coming from different directions. The not inconsiderable challenge for players is to form a mental image of your surroundings.
Fortunately, two tools are available to help you, including the ability to isolate sounds coming from directly ahead of you through the use of the spacebar, diminishing all surrounding noise to the background, and the ability to drop up to five markers that emit distinct audio blips in order to use them to judge distance and direction by activating them at any time – a kind of human echolocation. You’re going to need both if you’re to overcome the “audio occlusion puzzles” encountered along the way. Whenever something is physically preventing you from reaching your objective, whether completely or only partially, you must find a way to bypass these maze-like challenges in order to progress, completely in the dark.
Pitch Black is currently undergoing a Kickstarter campaign to raise £4000 by November 14th. The crowdfunding page includes numerous explanatory videos, and for those willing to accept the challenge firsthand, a demo is also available to download. The game itself is expected to be released in October 2020 for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices.