Tokyo Dark (PC) Review

By Adam Riley 11.09.2017

Review for Tokyo Dark on PC

The Square Enix Collective scheme has given rise to some fantastic indie-developed titles, with one particular effort really standing out last year, Goetia, a side-scrolling point-and-click mystery that impressed with its hidden levels of depth and chilling ambience. Now the Square Enix support machine has cranked into gear once more for a visual-novel-meets-point-and-click style affair from Tokyo-based team, Cherrymochi, which has received a 94% rating from the Collective members, been Greenlit on Steam, and even smashed through its funding target on Kickstarter nearly six times over, allowing for the chiller to be considerably expanded. All eyes are on Tokyo Dark, then, to see if the final product lives up to all of the early high expectations.

It is difficult to know what to make of Tokyo Dark at first. Sure, it gives off an eerie vibe right from the start, and throws players into the deep end with some tough decisions to make before a flashback occurs to explain how the lead character got to that dreadful point, so atmosphere and action are both covered nicely. However, the control system will catch some off guard initially, as only the left-button of the mouse is used…for everything other than accessing the menu screen. That means no WASD or arrow keys for character movement, and no space bar or Enter key for working through the on-screen text. This takes a point-and-click approach in its purest sense…and yet only for the control side of things, as it does not include an inventory for objects to be collected, combined, used elsewhere, and so on.

For the main part, it plays out rather like visual novel series such as Steins;Gate, with plenty of text to wade through (minimal voice acting, and only in Japanese due to budget constraints). It does include branching conversation paths, though, opening up different avenues to follow and endings to be reached, with a total of eleven to uncover in total (including a special New Game+ ending). This is no Telltale experience, however, where players are fooled into thinking decisions actually matter - no, in Tokyo Dark it really does, in many cases being the difference between life or death, either right then and there, or further into the adventure as a result of various developments and actions taken or words said/not said.

Screenshot for Tokyo Dark on PC

At first, Tokyo Dark may seem too wordy for what feels like a point-and-click adventure, but once you get your head around the fact that it purely uses that as a control mechanic and you then switch to a visual novel mindset, suddenly everything starts to sink in easier than before. The tale revolves around a darkness in Tokyo, and the sanity of Detective Ito, who went through a traumatic series of events, then eventually lost her partner (both in a professional and personal capacity, to make things worse), as well as the trust of her work colleagues, having to break out on her own to figure out just what is going on, hopefully without completely losing the plot whilst doing so.

The writing wraps players up very quickly in the mysterious world, with a dead girl reappearing, a strange cursed mask that cannot be destroyed, a myriad of secrets, plenty of subterfuge, as well as the various questions over whether Ito is having a nervous breakdown or not and simply imagining everything… The detective's mental state is monitored using a special system that comes across as a modified version of the Sanity Meter from Eternal Darkness, but rather than affecting her surroundings from the viewpoint of Ito, it plays more towards people reacting differently to her dependent on the current levels of Sanity, Professionalism, Investigation, and Neurosis (S.P.I.N.). Sanity goes down when faced with shocking situations (rotting corpse, anyone?); Professionalism changes according to things like Ito having a drink on the job to ease information out of a barmaid or beating up a colleague to gain access to evidence, for instance; Investigation points are accrued by scouring every nook and cranny for key information; and Neurosis plays on her hang-ups, with revisiting places, doing the same activities, talking to the same person repeatedly, and so on, being detrimental to her current state of mind.

Screenshot for Tokyo Dark on PC

It may seem gimmicky and not too relevant to the final outcome of the story, but S.P.I.N. is a great visual check for how progress is being made, and a marker to help nudge players down a different story path, watching the various levels adjust based on specific actions and choices during conversations. Sadly, having to access the meter via the menu screen draws emphasis away from it, and perhaps it would have been better placed somewhere on the main screen, tucked away nicely in one corner. Instead, indicators for points gained or lost are shown briefly on-screen, before having to open the menu to check the actual current running totals, and it will not be long before it gets forgotten about and players just plough on with the adventure regardless.

For all the positives found in Tokyo Dark, though, there are certain aspects that hold it back. What can be slightly frustrating, for instance, is how it is not possible to move the mouse cursor around the screen to find areas of interaction, with Detective Ito instead needing to be carefully moved to the exact position before the context-sensitive interactivity box appears, resulting in a slight click, then checking the area, then clicking to move her again when realising nothing has been highlighted yet…rinse and repeat. Fortunately, there is the option to run by clicking on the far right or left of the screen, either once to make her dash there, or holding down to keep running that way. However, again, as there is no free ability to scour the area for objects to look at, there will be times she needs to be repositioned back where she just ran past in order for the game to realise you actually did want to check out a particular door, or speak to a specific person.

Screenshot for Tokyo Dark on PC

Also, there is some weird visual glitch where at times the scene changes and Ito who has just run off the left side of the screen appears on the left side of the new screen only to quickly pop back to the right side where she should now be… There was also one instance of the choice-box appearing, but no options being within it, meaning random screen clicking was required to progress. These are no doubt small things that will get ironed out in a post-launch update, though.

Speaking of the presentation side, there is a fantastic soundtrack included that boosts the mood considerably, with some scenes that may not have been too impactful really hitting home hard thanks to the fantastic composition work from Reign of Fury's front man, Matt 'Bison' Steed, and although there was not enough in the Kickstarter tank to fund British voice actors, the snippets of Japanese used throughout actually work in Tokyo Dark's favour, adding to its overall mystique. This is all backed up by some wonderful still art and animated sequences from anime studio, Graphinica. There are times where it blows you away with how gorgeous everything is, and yet there are other times where some of the artwork is weak for the character art during conversations, or the areas of Japan represented look very basic, and the animation for Ito is rather clunky when she is running around. With so much gloss in general, it certainly feels like with a touch more polish this would be almost the perfect package.

Screenshot for Tokyo Dark on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Taking a mix of point-and-click controls and conversational style, mixing in a heavy dose of visual novel story approach, and being all wrapped up nicely in an anime trapping with a gripping tale of intrigue to boot, all helps to make Tokyo Dark a very intriguing prospect indeed. With a twisting and turning mystery to work through, and many different outcomes to the story, this latest offering from the Square Enix Collective is right up there with last year's Goetia as another indie-gem not to be missed.

Developer

Cherrymochi

Publisher

Square Enix

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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