Dark Train is a darkly beautiful take on puzzle games. This is a game that throws you into the game with minimal information or instruction so you have to figure out what to do on your own. I have found that some puzzle games are heavy handed on the tutorials or instructions, but Dark Train takes the opposite approach to make the player learn on the fly.
When the game starts you are a little metal squid that is chained to a train. The first puzzle is figuring out how to get the train free from the chains keeping it in place. This is a pseudo tutorial that shows you how to get things moving. From here it's all solved by doing, with little to no help on what to do or where to go.
One aspect of Dark Train is that the train will travel in an infinite loop until the next set of puzzles have been solved. On the outside of the train there are symbols that will light up to show you where you need to go next. Lit areas need to be solved, and once they're finished the lights go out. After each set of puzzles is done the train progresses from one phase to the next. Normally that means that a new function of the train is active. Sometimes part of the train will fall off or come loose, exposing the next part that you're supposed to explore and solve. This is one of the few parts of the game that helps to guide the player in what they need to do.
On the inside of the train the puzzles will vary. The initial puzzles are easy but they get more difficult the further into the game you get. Each part of the train has a unique theme. Later into the game you will unlock the ability to move different parts of the train. The theme for each part will change depending on what other part is next to them. On the inside of one container is a city. I have seen that it changes from a frozen town to an autumn sunset city to a night theme, depending on the adjacent containers.
Some of the puzzles depend on solving other puzzles on the train. In one container a pool needs to be be filled to raise a platform with a giant crab. In another container you have to solve a puzzle, avoid a shark, and get a chest. Once the train collects the box, it takes it away.
Upon going back to the crab the train drops the box down to the crab. The crab then breaks the box. After hitting the item that comes from inside the box, the train collects the item. For some reason the train, and you, the squid, are collecting items for a gem / egg item that is deep on the inside of the train. The game really doesn't expound as to the reason why you're collecting said items, or how they're relevant, but the game will game for it's own reasons.
I know that I have mentioned this many times, but the puzzles are both great and frustrating. There are simple puzzles where all you have to do is match a white orb to a specific place on the map, which will then turn into a reflection of the moon. Other puzzles require you to pass through holes to different layers of the screen to get to the back, all the while avoiding getting eaten by a shark. Yet other puzzles require you to hoist a broken gear into place on a bell ringing mechanism, then ring two bells within a certain time frame of each other. Some of the puzzles, like the one where you have to get a soccer ball into a specific point of the map with nothing else but the squid, are so infuriatingly difficult that I had to go do all the other puzzles before coming back to give it a second try. Worse yet, when the controls were difficult and the puzzle confusing and difficult I had to step away from the game for a few days in order to find the desire to continue playing. There are parts of this game that would make me un-install the game and never look at it again if I wasn't dedicated to solve the frustrating puzzles in order to do the fun ones.
Each action you take in this game has an effect. Go inside the train too much, do to many power exhaustive actions, and you need to wait for lightning to recharge the train. You will also need to gather the rain to help power the train. Each action leaves a mark on the train, whether needing to move the containers back and forth, harvesting energy, fire, or rain, or whether you protect yourself from the hound like trains that attack at certain points. Each action can also change the puzzles for the better or worse. I spent time preparing the solution of a puzzle only to have it erased by a single motion or mouse click. If the controls were a little more understandable to use, or if there was something to explain how to use them, it would make the game a lot less frustrating.
TL/DR: This game is a must have for puzzle lovers. The frustrating controls and lack of instruction are compensated for by the beautiful graphics and challenging yet non-repetitive puzzles. If on sale don't hesitate to purchase.
The music is hauntingly beautiful. It changes from area to area. The music adds to the to the feeling of the story.
There isn't any any clear story that is given. The game consists of figuring out the puzzles with no guidance. It's frustrating to try to figure out what to do from step to step.
The controls aren't really explained, so most of it is trial by fire. Figuring out how to use the controls with some of the puzzles made me rage-quit, they were so horrible. Many controls are added for specific puzzles, adding to the frustration.
The puzzles are not linear from one to the next. Most of the puzzles take place inside the train, while also needing to find and gain access to the puzzles from outside the train.
The game is beautiful, the puzzles are challenging, the atmosphere is creepy but stunning, and no two parts of the game are exactly alike. It's definitely worth the cost if found on sale.
PROS / CONS
- The Visuals!
- Diverse power controls
- Variable difficulty puzzles
- Choices Matter
- Confusing puzzles
- Unnatural controls
- No Tutorial
- No walkthroughs
- No game progression assistance