Review: Dark Deception

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one: It’s Pac-Man, except you run around in the maze in first-person and you can’t see the ghosts until it’s too late. Oh, you haven’t heard that one? Probably because it’s a terrible idea. That didn’t stop the folks behind Dark Deception from turning it into a game, though, a straight twist on the classic formula that goes out of its way to be frustratingly cruel. And while they clearly tried to expand upon the idea, they did so with a busty grandma and cheap jumpscares instead of anything worthwhile.

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Supposedly this is a “story-driven” title but all you’re going to get is that you’re in trouble and you need a magic ring to fix things. Lucky for you, you’ve got Bierce to guide you through this ordeal, basically Elvira if you tack on 30 years to her prime and allow her breasts to defy the laws of physics. She’s a caustic, sardonic presence who guides you into hellish mazes to hunt up fragments of gemstones you need to make the ring out of, I think? Seriously, whatever story you’ll find here is so forgettable your first few ragequits from the game will wipe it from your memory.

The first maze Bierce ushers you into is cheekily called Monkey Business, a twisting hotel serviced by giant, satanic versions of those clanging monkey toys. After a brief intro littered with jumpscares you arrive in the maze, and are directed to collect 289 soul shards. That’s two hundred eighty-nine things you need to collect and then return to the entrance with. Two hundred eighty-nine. Luckily they’re littering the halls at regular intervals, like the dots you collect in Pac-Man. Exactly like that, in fact.

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There are no power pellets (or shards, or whatever edgy thing they would be here) to save you from the monsters, though. Once you collect a few shards the monkeys come out in force, clattering down the halls to give you a Five Nights at Freddy’s-esque death performance. You get three lives to clean out the maze, and if you lose them all you get to start all over. And that’s going to happen. A lot. Many, many, many times, and the reason for that is simple. Pac-Man works because you can see the entire board and strategize based on that information. Dark Deception, in stark contrast, expects you to track your foes solely by sound, noting when their tell-tale jangling gets closer or changes direction.

That might even work if the maze was as open as Pac-Man’s boards, but these developers can’t even get that right. The hotel is a knot of long, unbroken hallways and blind intersections, perfect for slamming face-first into the jaws of a murder monkey. Nearly all of my deaths have been from getting pincered in long hallways or ambushed around corners, deaths that could easily be avoided if I were given the tools to properly strategize. You have a tablet that shows your immediate section of the maze, but not the monsters. For that you need a special gem there’s only one of, and it only lasts 60 seconds. One time I got it just to see how all three monkeys boxed me in from off the edges of the tablet, to end my run in truly unavoidable fashion.

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Dark Deception is a waste of time. It’s a very pretty waste, a waste that’s certainly different from the rest of the horror pack, but still entirely a waste. You will lose over and over and over again for no discernible reason. And if you do manage to persevere and clear the maze, you get a teaser for future development. That’s right, the game is one single make and one annoying-ass enemy right now. If this one ever grows into a varied, creative game, and gets some strategy patched into it, maybe it’ll be worth a look. For now, though, you’ll get a jumpscare or two to giggle at before growing bored or angry at this thing.

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