A Dark Room lights up your iPhone with a big heart and open world

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Great games don’t always need amazing graphics and sound, but they do need a strong premise and a lot of heart. A Dark Room, an outstanding text-based adventure game with minimal graphics, starts off as a simple survival story and eventually blossoms into a full-on Fallout-style role-playing game (RPG).

A Dark Room by Amirali Rajan
Category: iOS Games
Works With: iPhone and iPad
Price: $.99

Much of the joy of playing A Dark Room is watching it unfold in surprising new ways. The game starts simply — you’re alone in the dark with a single button to press to start a fire. Eventually, new buttons appear so you can perform actions like collecting wood, and a character called the Builder shows up to help you form a shelter.

Within minutes, you’ll be setting traps, gathering resources, and inviting new survivors to join your collective. Like in a lot of iOS games you’ll have to wait for certain actions to finish, but in this one, you can’t pay to speed them along (see our interview with the creators, here)

After you build the infrastructure necessary to support venturing outside of your encampment, a larger world will be revealed. As you wander with limited food and water, you’ll light darkened caves, fight monsters in the forest and plunder abandoned houses for supplies. Amazingly, this is all represented with simple typographical symbols, like H for houses or O for towns. There’s no other artwork to speak of.

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The in-game map consists of typographical symbols and no other artwork.

Meanwhile, the game shows off its impactful storytelling. From your first encounters with other humans to the eerie thrill of exploring lost ruins, you’ll be eager to find out what’s next. The game’s simple narration lacks capital letters and most punctuation, like a quick text message, and the only special visual effect is the darkening of the screen when you need to stoke your campfire.

A Dark Room is an absorbing game with an abundance of imagination, which is a rare find in the iOS gaming scene.

A Dark Room is a brilliant minimalist experience. It provides a wealth of storytelling and interactive gameplay with few visual cues and no sound at all. That said, it could probably have benefitted from a crackling fire, a wild creature’s growl, or the occasional ring of metal pickaxes mining iron.

Once you finish A Dark Room (it took me about three hours), there’s not a lot to be gained from playing it again. However, it’s a perfect game to introduce to your friends and gauge their reaction. Watch as their confusion leads to understanding and then obsession. A Dark Room is an absorbing game with an abundance of imagination, which is a rare find on the App Store.

A Dark Room lights up your iPhone with a big heart and open worldGame Name: A Dark Room
The Good: This game delivers a big emotional impact without relying on traditional graphics and sound to tell the story. It’s also incredibly addictive once you get rolling.
The Bad: Black-and-white, text-based visuals and no sound mean that it’s deceptively simple, plus it doesn’t hold a lot of inherent replay value.
The Verdict A Dark Room will blow you away with its evolving depth and variety. It’s exciting to discover something so unique and refreshing on the App Store.
Buy from: App Store – A Dark Room – Amirali Rajan

Cult of Mac rating: 5/5

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About the author

Andrew PodolskyAndrew Podolsky is a writer and editor living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has written about video games for 1up.com, Gamespot.com, VentureBeat.com, Ripten.com, Electronic Gaming Monthly, and iPhone Life Magazine. He is also the editor and publisher of the iOS gaming site Slidetoplay.com.

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