Dark Train is Paperash’s unique take on modern adventure puzzle games. And don’t let the term adventure game dissuade you. What Paperash has created in Dark Train is a wonderful setting, great visual aesthetics, and clever challenging puzzles. Oh, and did I mention the mechanical squid?
You play as the mechanical Squid Ann 2.35f, in control of the Dark Train. The train consists a creation of the inventor D. W. Tagrezbung, which needs to be delivered to a client. Without getting too deep into the story, and spoiling anything, I’ll say that the story is actually really interesting, specially for a modern adventure game. The game tells its story visually via the environment. There’s no written text or dialogue. The fact that Paperash has managed to convey a compelling tale in such a minimal fashion is quite an achievement in itself. The game throws you into the world, in control of Squid Ann 2.35f and the Dark Train with no exposition or introduction, and you are left to discover and interpret the world around you.
The same holds true for the puzzles and challenges that you come across. Every problem will have a solution, but you will have to find the solution entirely on your own. The game provides no clues, hints or explanations. This might frustrate some players, but the reward and satisfaction found in solving the puzzles are well worth the effort. Dark Train is not a point and click adventure game. You solve puzzles by moving the mouse in order to move Squid Ann 2.35f. From the very onset, the game does a good job of establishing it’s ruleset by introducing you to smaller, and easier puzzles.
As you explore the world, and the different wagons/coaches in the train, you come across harder puzzles. However, Paperash makes sure that you are prepared for what’s to come next by means of any previous puzzles. You still need to figure things out, and some puzzles will have you scratching your head more than others, but it all fits together cohesively, and I was never stuck for too long. Also, there’s nice variety of puzzles, and almost no repetition in puzzles. All the puzzles feel unique, with it’s own unique solution.
The look of Dark Train is another aspect where it stands out. The whole world is made of paper cut-outs, but instead of an overly colorful & vibrant color palette, Dark Train has a more subdued and mysterious visual tone to it. It’s not exactly minimalist either, since there’s lot of clever environmental detail. And that’s much needed here, since Dark Train’s narrative thrives on its environmental story telling. The game does use colors though, and uses it to supplement the gameplay elements of the game, be turning on switches or calling attention to a certain object. The game does look great. It may not be graphically intensive, but the overall presentation and environmental detail is fascinating.
There are some minor issues here and there, mostly due to the abstract nature of the game. However, Dark Train is truly a fantastic game, specially if you love puzzle games. You’ll find lot to like about the visual aesthetic and challenges you in your journey on the Dark Train. And discovering the story, while adding your own interpretations to it makes the experience even more enjoyable.