To say that things are not going so great for detective Ayami Itō would be a severe understatement. Still very shaken by a hostage situation that went south, Ayamai wakes up one morning to find that her partner, detective Tanaka, has gone missing. Since the two of them are romantically involved, the case is very personal to Ayami. The game opens with Ayami tracking down Tanaka, but the way in which things plays throws her life into disarray. To say any more about the story would be a disservice to fans, but suffice to say that Ayami ends up having to do some investigating of her own without the backing of badge. She quickly discovers that the events of a past case were even more sinister than what she thought and that her investigation could end up costing her more than just her job, but also her sanity.
Tokyo Dark is an interesting fusion of two genres as it combines elements of both point and click adventures as well as visual novels. While this could easily have resulted in a mess that scares away fans of both genres, Cherrymochi has done an admirable job extracting the best elements while avoiding most of the pitfalls. The result is a game that features the strong story and characters of a visual novel, combined with the freedom to move around and solve puzzles of an adventure game. This doesn’t mean that you end up lugging around a huge inventory of obscure items though. The world of Tokyo Dark might feature some supernatural elements, but puzzles are mostly solved by cunning, charm or violence. For example, early in the game Ayami discovers she needs a rope and exploring her surroundings reveals a clue as to who might have one. Players can then choose whether to intimidate the person into handing over the rope or exploit his nature so that he hands it over willingly. Of course, players can also attempt to make do without the rope entirely, but most actions have consequences and making the wrong choice will come back to haunt you.
To ensure that you are committed to your choices, Tokyo Dark saves automatically after you have made decisions, which means there is no going back. To make things even more interesting, the game makes use of what it calls the “S.P.I.N” system. This stands for sanity, professionalism, investigation, and neurosis, all of which are influenced by the choices you make. For example, ordering a drink from a bartender who is unwilling to talk to the police might help your investigation if she opens up, but it will definite detract from your professionalism. Sometimes the quickest and easiest way of doing things aren’t necessarily the best for your professionalism either, such as shooting a lock in public instead of finding the key. The way that your actions have a direct influence on Ayamai’s state of mind is a very interesting mechanic and it is cool to see how weird actions, like repeatedly asking people the same questions or wandering around aimlessly can make her more neurotic. The choices aren’t just there to influence the S.P.I.N system either, but can cause the story to branch and lead to one of eleven different endings. This means that while a single playthrough might only last five or six hours, you have plenty of incentive to make use of the NewGame+ mode to pursue other endings. This mode also provides you with save slots before every major decision, making it easier to try out new choices in the future without having to replay everything.
Tokyo Dark might play out more like a visual novel, but it definitely looks like a point & click adventure. The game is viewed from side-on perspective and you view Ayami interacting with the world. This only changes during conversations when the perspective switches to a more traditional visual novel view. The game is set within Tokyo and while there are only a handful of locations, all of them look great. Your investigation will take you from the police headquarters to Akihabara, Shinjuku, Kamakura and various shops, bars and clubs. None of the locations are particularly big, but they are detailed and interesting to explore. One minor complaint that we have is the overabundance of straight lines used in some of the backgrounds, which looks a little unnatural until you get used to them. The game uses manga-style visuals for all the major character designs, while others are represented by silhouettes passing by in the fore or background. These bring some life to the scenes without populating areas with unnecessary characters. Some dynamic lighting, which can be disabled if you wish, also add some visual gloss to the scenes. While character animations are minimal, the game does use some rather nice looking animated sequences for important events. Don’t be fooled by the point & click nature of the game either as it features a couple of jump scares and some blood and gore as well.
The soundtrack of the game adds a lot to the experience and the brooding tunes are a perfect match for the sometimes gritty locations and creepy elements. There are a few songs that are extremely unsettling, but the game isn’t without some lighthearted situations either. Just visit the cat cafe and you’ll hear a song made up almost entirely of cat sounds. The game is quite text heavy, so some players might be disappointed by the lack of full voice acting, but at least the lead character is not completely silent and will react appropriately to certain situations. The control scheme is typical point & click adventure fare, but you don’t have to waste time pixel-hunting for items that are useful. Instead, whenever you walk past anything that can be interacted with a box pops up listing all the available options. For example, walk past a door and you might be given the option to inspect it, knock on it or enter. The system is very streamlined and works well for the most part except for the fact that you usually have to be right on top of something for the box to appear. Moving around is a matter of pointing and clicking, while holding down the mouse button on the corners of the screen causes Ayami to run. The game features a map of Tokyo to help you get around, but there is a fair amount of going back and forth between locations which might annoy some players.
While Tokyo Dark isn’t perfect, it is a very engrossing experience. It might lack the traditional style puzzles that fans of point & click adventures might expect, but those looking for a great story won’t be disappointed. The different ways in which things can play out also provides the game with a lot of replay value and those completing it only once will miss out on a lot that it has to offer. After our first playthrough where we chose for Ayami to be a by-the-book professional, we were surprised by what we could get up to by abandoning sanity and professionalism in a subsequent playthrough. If you are a fan of either genre or simply looking for a game with a unique setting and interesting story then don’t hesitate to give Tokyo Dark a try.
- OS: Windows 7 or above (64-bit Operating System Required)
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X2 550, 3.1 GHz or Intel Core i3 3220
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 3870 (512 MB) or GeForce 8800 GT (512 MB)
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
- Storage: 3 GB available space