The Dark Room is the creation of Rhys Ifans lookalike, Australian-born, UK-based comedian Mr John Robertson. Originally a play based on 1980s text-based adventure video games, The Dark Room has been touring internationally since 2012 and will be playing on all three evenings at PAX in Melbourne later this month. For full tour dates, please click here. Presumably, Mr Robertson understands the concept of up-selling because he has also created The Dark Room video game so that this text-based adventure can be experienced as nature intended. The video game is available for purchase via Steam. If you are too young to know what to expect from a text-based adventure game, read on and find out.
The Dark Room is an easy game to play in terms of technique. It does not require key binds, macros, combinations, perfect timing or above average dexterity. You will be given a scenario such as ‘you awake in a dark room’ or ‘how will you find the light switch’ and between 1-4 options to choose from. Each option corresponds to one button on the controller, so if you have the dexterity to push one button at a time, you can play this game. If you choose correctly, you advance to the next scenario and choose your next move from a new list of options. If you choose unwisely, Rhys Ifans will shout one of the game’s two catch phases at you. In this case, ‘YA DIE YA DIE YA DIE YA DIE YA DIE YA DIE’.
Mercifully, the demon who dreamt this game up added the option of restarting from a checkpoint. This is like Pandora releasing all the evils (and hope) into the world. The checkpoints give you a tiny sense of hope which uplifts you for a moment before you resume your quest to escape the dark room. For a flittering moment, you believe that escape is possible before this hope is snatched away from you and Rhys Ifans once again proclaims YA DIE YA DIE AYD DIE YA DIE YA DIE. Perhaps this is purgatory.
Like other video games, The Dark Room includes hints. Unlike other video games, these hints are not helpful. For example, in World of Warcraft, you are informed that ‘monsters with silver dragon icons have better than average loot’. In the Dark Room, you learn that ‘Christ was a carpenter but so was John’. In Monster Bash, you are informed that you may ‘press F10 for hints’. In The Dark Room, ‘have you tried thinking’ is considered a hint.
The game play is simple but the narration keeps it from ever being boring. It includes a number of witty one-liners such as ‘this game is easy… like you Mum’ and references to pro-wrestling but I am not going to tell you which options to choose in order to access them. If you are a fan of Easter Eggs in-game, you should be pleased to know that you can stumble upon the story of Christmas as a text-based game and accidentally unlock hard mode. Hard mode in The Dark Room is when the option bars appear but are devoid of text so you have to try and guess what each option is based on the narrator’s response. Hint: if he begins shouting YA DIE, it means you died.
Jokes and frustration aside, there is a narrative to this game and it is possible to escape The Dark Room. While other games require team work or button mashing, The Dark Room requires critical thinking. This is a mind game which rewards good memory, patience and the ability to learn from your mistakes. The winning combination is trial, error, observation, analysis, repeat. This will unlock story mode and like all stories, this one has a beginning, middle and end.
If you find any of this intriguing, you have the following options:
Press A: Purchase the video game.
Press B: Purchase tickets for the play.
Which do you choose?