Title: Tokyo Dark
Platform: PC (reviewed)
Publisher: Square Enix
Release date: September 7, 2017
Price: £14 / $18
TL;DR: Great storytelling touching on some heavy subjects with decisions that can take you to any one of 11 possible endings. The soundtrack is perfect.
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Tokyo Dark is a point-and-click visual novel with an unsettling story to tell – you’re Detective Ayami Ito, searching for your partner who went missing five days ago while working a case. You’re sent out to investigate a fresh lead, and it quickly becomes clear that an incident which occurred six months ago has given your boss cause to doubt your ability to handle tricky situations.
And to question your sanity.
Whilst the opening isn’t particularly mindblowing or original – a murder-mystery with a dose of the supernatural – it pulls you in quickly, setting the mood from the outset, with a great soundtrack that fuels an uneasy atmosphere, making you feel that things aren’t quite right.
The controls are straightforward, a white box will appear in front of objects and doors, with one (or more) sides giving you an option to interact with that person or object. In some of the more tense situations, there will be an onscreen timer, adding pressure to an already (potentially) difficult decision. On these occasions, I found myself agonising over which path to take.
What Tokyo Dark does particularly well – and something I wasn’t prepared for – is make you really care about what happens to the characters. You feel like you’re there and part of their world. The frequent auto-saves give the consequences of your actions a lot more weight and often has you agonising over some of the choices you’ll need to make.
While each action will affect how others perceive you and what options you may have available to you in the rest of the game, it’s worth noting that every decision will also affect your mental state.
The game uses a system called S.P.I.N. that stands for Sanity, Professionalism, Investigation, and Neurosis. Each of the four stats tie in with your general conduct and will increase or fall depending on what and who you interact with. While Professionalism and Investigation have their parts to play and can affect the path you take just as much as the others, it’s the Sanity and Neurosis stats that make the game immersive. You’re already feeling edgy and uneasy thanks to the nature of the case and your history with it, so should you really be taking those pills that are meant to prevent further ‘episodes’, knowing that doing so may dampen your investigative skills?
Certain actions can be taken to increase specific stats – playing with your cat, for example, will help increase your sanity, while opting to shoot a lock, rather than looking for a less violent solution will cause your Professionalism to drop. Each stat determines what decisions are available to you in the game, how others view you, and even what items you can see and interact with.
As you make your way to various locations in Tokyo, looking for clues and talking to potential witnesses, you’ll need to be mindful that every decision you make can have a negative impact. For example, repeatedly talking to the same person to see if they have more information or walking around the same area needlessly for long periods of time will have an impact on your Neurosis.
With most games, if you get stuck trying to remember where that clue was or can’t figure out what to do next, rechecking each area or talking to everyone to make sure you haven’t missed a key piece of dialogue usually helps. With Tokyo Dark, if you do this too much, your game can be affected and the outcome changed.
While the S.P.I.N. mechanic may sound like it needs to be micro-managed, it really doesn’t. What it does do is give you a very real awareness of your character’s mood and vulnerabilities and the possible consequences of making the wrong choice, especially when multiple stats can be changed with a single decision.
After completing the game, you’ll be presented with the option to start a New Game +. This allows you to replay the game, skip some of the dialogue and manually save before important decisions, making it easier to see how various decisions play out and alter the stories outcome. With 11 possible endings available, I’ll certainly be going for a few more playthroughs.
I enjoyed Tokyo Dark, a lot. The simplicity of the anime-style characters and backdrops make the game look gorgeously crisp, and the soundtrack fits with the locations perfectly, immersing you in the story. The S.P.I.N system works well, without feeling gimmicky, giving weight to your decisions and, as you see the results play out, making you question whether you could’ve made a better choice.
- Decisions feel impactful
- Great soundtrack
- Only took five hours on first playthrough
Rating: PEGI 18
Tokyo Dark is not suitable for children. Violence, blood and mild language. Adult themes.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.