I love text-based adventures, probably because I can never decide if I like reading books or playing games more. Doublespeak Games’ A Dark Room opens in, well, a dark room, and most of the story is conveyed in text descriptions, with a resource table. But that format adds to the mystery, rather than interfering with it.
A lot of this game relies on countdown meters, which is one of my least favorite mechanics. Normally, I would roll my eyes and give forth a long rant about designing click-and-wait games, but by the time I realized that clicking to stoke the fire wasn’t just a lead into the starting the game, but actually a core mechanic of the game, the worldbuilding had me hooked. I found scattered teeth in the traps we set, which was enough of a hook for creepiness and for a crafting mechanic that I kept playing.
There was a certain amount of click-and-wait involved, at least until my villagers were producing enough resources that I could tab over to my homework, content that essentials like cured meat and leather were being produced at acceptable rates. Resource management is key to A Dark Room. Once you have some huts, the game’s about taking care of your villagers, so they’ll take care of your resources. Manage hunting, trapping, curing meat, feeding that meat to your iron miners, mining enough iron to make a nice iron sword, and wait, is that a laser rifle lying around in the forest? What’s that doing here? I better investigate…
There’s a lot to discover in this deceptively simple game. All the slightly-off bits of descriptive text add up to a surprising and satisfying ending.