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Review: Darkest Fear (iPhone)

2:00 PM on 08.18.2009 // Colette Bennett

With the constant flood of casual iPhone titles out there these days, it's easy to find yourself never interested in another overly bright and cheerful puzzle game or witty tower defense title again. I find myself flipping through the App store, wondering why I'm not seeing stuff that's a bit more innovative and weird -- more RPGs, horror games, adventures, etc. And then I notice that Rovio has a little game called Darkest Fear for the iPhone. Hey! I was looking for something like this!

Going for the same horror puzzler feel that Wayforward's excellent WiiWare title LIT but into play, you are in the role of Dr. Thomas Warden, summoned to Grim Oak Hospital by way of a desperate phone call from his wife. It seems their daughter is missing, but when the good doctor arrives, he finds the hospital cloaked in darkness and populated by frightning creatures. It's like Silent Hill portable! Oh wait, that's out already.

Hit the break if you want to hear more about what kind of trouble I got up to in Grim Oak's dark hallways.

Darkest Fear
Developer: Rovio Mobile, Ltd
Publisher: Rovio
Released: July 26, 2009
MSRP: $3.99

As you can see from the screens in the gallery, Darkest Fear is played from the overhead perspective. In order to move Dr. Warden through the fifteen levels of the game, you'll need to help him carefully navigate his way through each room while using light to your advantage. You'll find some patients in these rooms that you can speak to for clues. You'll also need to take actions such as opening windows to let light in, moving boxes, and finding keys.

I hate to come off sounding so negative right off the bat, but the first issue I had was with the controls. To move the doctor, you touch the edges of the screen in the direction you want to move in. The controls work, but more than half the time I felt annoyed that I was peering around my finger to see what was happening. This could have easily been alleviated with a small control pad added to the lower right hand corner (and as you can see by the empty space, there was room for that). You also can't walk to something simply by touching it, and this seemed counter-intuitive to me.

However, these issues may not bother some gamers, and truthfully what Darkest Fear offers by the way of gameplay overshadows these control issues. To cut a path through each room you'll need to either open windows or use flashlights creatively (this can mean leaving the flashlight on the floor so you can create a path of light where you want to go). Sometimes boxes will also have to be pulled into place to hit switches.

Each level will challenge you not only to make your way through, but also save patients who are trapped in the darkness. The puzzles aren't brutally hard, but you'll need to be quick as you move through the tiny slivers of light because creatures are waiting in the dark. You have 5 hearts at the start of each level, and if you get hit five times you'll have to start again. Choose your moves carefully!

The music is also dark and atmospheric, and with the exception of what sounded to me like a few little audio hitches here and there, it set the perfect tone for the game. I definitely recommend playing it in headphones if you are able to. Like any horror game, it really immerses you to hear every little sound of the nightmare you are trapped within.

Darkest Fear won't be for the gamer who is looking for titles with a faster pace, but if clever puzzles that make you think are more your thing, you may find this game offers what you're looking for (not to mention it make you a tad scared to be alone in your room, too!).

Score: 7 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)

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Colette Bennett,
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