Dark Meadow is a game powered by an Unreal engine which chugs out some of the most horrifically beautiful graphics and tautest atmosphere in a game that can be found on your iOS device. The opening montage from the field and into the hospital provides an eerie preview of nightmares waiting inside.
With Unreal tech running underneath the hood, the graphics and animations are truly a sight to behold. Moving along at a smooth-as-silk clip, the game moves fluidly despite the high-end, on-screen visual displays.
As an unidentified, unnamed player, you're immediately thrown into the Lion's Den, waking up in a decrepit, run down room. As you recover from your hazy slumber, a mysterious voice emanating from a central intercom speaks to you, providing what seems to be guidance on your whereabouts and what to expect.
The gameplay is a generous mix of a labyrinthine point-and-click, seek-and-search and RPG elements married with a good dose of mystery and horror for good measure. As you journey through the rooms and hallways, supernatural creatures of otherworldly origins appear as you defend yourself with a variety of ranged weapons for distance fighting or armed instruments for up-close and personal melees.
The fluidity of gameplay is oftentimes abruptly interrupted by the game's frequent prompts asking if me if I want to level up for upgrades. Each time the prompts crop up, I am snapped out of the immersive experience the game works so hard to achieve. When I play a game with RPG elements, I prefer a more linear, sandbox experience where I am in control of my character's destiny choosing what to do and when. I don't want "Big Brother" stepping out from his virtual curtain asking me for next steps unless prompted by me. This game would be better served with a call and response where, if I want to upgrade, I will go to the menu to do so.
The combat mechanics leaves something to be desired. Whether firing a ranged weapon or hacking away in melee mode, the visual and audible feedback registering that I am actually causing some damage to the assailant or receiving it, while informative, is weak and falls flat. A good example of great feedback in battle is the Infinity Blade franchise. The audio-visual prompts (loud grunts, screams of pain, clashing of swords, heightened musical score, etc.) add weight and force to my strikes, parries and blocks rounding out a satisfyingly visceral experience. My battles in Dark Meadows seem light and paper-thin. I feel distant and removed rather than armed and fully-engaged.
Another frustrating aspect of the game is that if you lose, you start from the very beginning rather than from the point where you were defeated. Without a map of the premises, it is easy for players to lose one's bearings and it is very difficult to traverse though the catacombs of the hospital as you try to retrace your steps.
Beautifully frightful and hair-raising, the visuals vividly seize your imagination and stranglehold your attention. You'll find it quite difficult to tear yourself away from the screen as the morbid monstrosities traipse through the hospital lumbering towards you.
The script and voice acting are some of the industry's best. The developers took their time choosing a great voice actor and it pays off in spades. The spooky backdrop is amplified by the bizarre ambient soundtrack effectively wrenching and enveloping players into this creepy world.
Most of the elements for a horror masterpiece are in place. A few minor changes and this could easily become an iOS classic.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Top-notch graphics and animation. Sound: - 3.5 - Voice acting is perfect. Battles in combat need to be amped up to register better feedback for a complete and visceral experience. Controls: - 4 - Easy and intuitive. Gameplay: - 3 - It is ironic that the gameplay feels distant and removed given all the ingredients mixed in to pull in the player. Overall: - 3.5 - This horror show falls a bit short, but is positioned for an awesome recovery with several adjustments.
Playing Hints and Tips:
If you have headphones, use them to facilitate your immersion into this eerily awesome world.