Creepy hospitals are bad places to wind up, but Dark Meadow makes them a lot of fun to escape.
Let's be honest about something: You never want to wind up in an abandoned hospital. They're dark, they're creepy, and there are way too many unexplained stains covering the walls, floors, and (sometimes) ceilings. Thanks to Dark Meadow, the excellent new survival horror game from Phosphor Games Studio, you can now learn just what caused those stains. Don't say I didn't warn you: the truth isn't pretty.
The easiest way to describe Dark Meadow is that it's a blend of Silent Hill and Infinity Blade. The game is reminiscent of the former thanks to its story and atmosphere, while its gameplay feels like it was pulled straight out of the latter. This is meant as nothing but a compliment. If you're going to copy something, you might as well crib from the best in the business.
The story unfolds from a first-person perspective: in the middle of a "dark meadow", a decrepit, run-down hospital towers over the local scenery. The anonymous main character wakes up inside the facility with no recollection of who he is; his surroundings provide no clues, but an old man in the hallway says that he'll help the hero escape before he disappears because "SHE's coming— I can't be seen with you!"
"She" is the ghostly silhouette of what looks like a young girl, though she stays far enough away that it's impossible to make out any details. It's up to you to follow her down hallways and through doors, as the voice of your friendly old man offers advice and random thoughts through the building's speaker system. Of course, all this is happening in between the random battles with demons.
The hospital is riddled with hostile demons that spring out of the woodwork. This is only natural, since it's an unwritten law of the universe that abandoned hospitals are supernatural hotspots, teeming with all sorts of nasty things that would like nothing better than to make a snack out of you. Thankfully, even though you have no idea who you are or what you're doing in this place, you're well-armed.
The core gameplay consists of two parts: exploration and combat. All of this is experienced from a first-person perspective. The hospital is a fully-realized complex that you're free to wander around, but navigation is handled by touching the glowing hotspots that show up on the screen (thereby moving you from one section to the next).Tapping objects in the hospital will provide you with information about the hospital's background, first aid kits, new equipment, and gold to buy even more new gear.
Combat, meanwhile, is also presented from the first person perspective. When a demon pops up, it'll shamble towards you for a few seconds, which means that there's an opportunity to snipe the sucker with a crossbow. This is easier said than done, as the demons' bodies shift position while they walk and lurch, so ranged attacks aren't terribly likely to hit home. If a demon manages to get up close and personal before the crossbow bolts can remove it from the gene pool, then melee combat will begin.
Melee fighting is pretty much identical to that of Infinity Blade. Swiping your finger across the screen will slash your blade at an enemy, tapping either bottom corner will cause you to dodge an attack, and there's also a guard ability that will block attacks (though this can get worn down over time). The close-quarters combat is pretty flawlessly executed and exciting, though it will take a few battles to get used to for anyone who's new to this type of system.
While the gameplay is universally excellent, Dark Meadow's production values are also nothing short of stunning. Phosphor Games has made some truly excellent use of the Unreal Engine, crafting a world that is strange and unnerving at the best of times and truly sinister at worst. The monsters that haunt the hospital are simultaneously creepy and alien-looking, and watching them menacingly approach is a sight to behold.
The audio, too, is fantastic, thanks in large part to the dialogue from your elderly friend. His lines are both interesting (as they help flesh out the story of the hospital) and often funny. The voice acting is great, and the script is surprisingly robust: After several hours of gameplay, not a single line has yet to be repeated.
Until now, good survival horror titles have been a rare thing on iOS platforms. Dark Meadow is arguably the best title to come to the genre. It's gorgeous, it's creepy, and it's a blast to play. This is the perfect game to play during the Halloween season.
- Stunning use of the Unreal Engine to create a spooky world. Fantastic audio. First-person melee combat and exploration is genuinely fun.
- Ranged combat is more frustrating than fun.