The Dark Meadow will quickly feel very familiar, as it undeniably borrows heavily from Infinity Blade, a game which obviously inspired the Phosphor team. Since there are a number of similarities, I will be making a number of comparisons throughout the review. However, simply calling The Dark Meadow just an Infinity Blade rip-off or clone would be both shallow and unfair as it has a lot to offer and while familiar, the game has a number of elements that make it feel fresh and perhaps more open and expansive than the world of Infinity Blade. Although, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, so let’s start with a brief overview of The Dark Meadow’s storyline.
You’ve just awoken in a strange hospital and you have no idea of how you got there. Another patient (an old man) is talking you through the hospital’s intercom system, but he is cut off prematurely as he tries to warn you that ‘they’ are always listening. “There is a beautiful witch whose minions roam the halls seeking the living.” It is up to you to find and destroy the witch and put an end this madness. By exploring the dark hallways and searching the creepy rooms of this old hospital, you’ll find clues to unraveling this mystery, as well as items and money to help you buy better equipment and weapons to defend yourself against the monsters that lurk in Montclair Hospital’s not-so-hallowed halls.
Instead of the on-rails, choose your own adventure style gameplay that Infinity Blade offers, The Dark Meadow is more maze-like and open world-ish. In Infinity Blade, players are forced forever onwards, in a constantly forking path, but in this game it feels like you have a lot more freedom of choice and can even backtrack to places you’ve gone before.
Built on the Unreal 3 Engine, the game’s dark graphics, eerie sound and brilliant voice work come together wonderfully to build the creepy environment that is Montclair Hospital. Unlike other games in this genre, there is no top-down map or HUD to aid you in your exploration, other than indicators which show the valid directions of movement from your current point. While some may see this as a deficit, I’d argue that this only further enhances the ambiance and immersive nature of the game. You character is supposed to be confused so this lends itself perfectly to the storyline.
The multi-staged combat system is where I feel like The Dark Meadow really comes into it’s own. When you run into one of the witch’s minions in a hallway (as you quite often do), using a series of gestures you’ll have to start the battle by dodging the creature’s poisonous projectiles as they perilously make their way toward you. This distance also gives you an opportunity to lay down some fire using your trusty crossbow, which features a trajectory arrow and a requires a somewhat realistic drag back and release firing gesture. Once you are face to…err face? with your monstrous opponent, that’s where the short-range melee style swiping, blocking and dodging attacks come into play. Despite the supernatural aspects of the game, it does ground itself in some reality, meaning that you don’t have any of those magic spells found in Infinity Blade. however this two-tiered approach does a fine job of keeping the fights interesting none the less.
As I previously mentioned, your fights and scavenging of rooms and hallways will net you some gold pieces as well as XP. For those who don’t want to take the time to grind, there is also an in app purchase system where various amounts of gold pieces can be purchased for reach money (including the jaw-dropping 6 million pieces for $49.99) which can in-turn be used to purchase weapon and armor upgrades.
If I had one major gripe about the game, it would be the way that each time you complete a battle, you are unceremoniously ripped out of this suspenseful environment that has been building, just so you can see the XP that you earned. This NEEDS to be changed, Phosphor has gone through all this effort of setting the mood, so why ruin it? Instead of the stark screen of info, a somewhat transparent display of this info slowly dissipating like a puff of smoke would be much more fitting. I know I earned XP, if I want to do some upgrading, I’ll go to the menu. In the meantime, let me keep on keeping on.
The Dark Meadow is the perfect choice for Infinity Blade fans looking for something a little darker and more sinister. With stellar graphics and voice-work and enough new gameplay elements this is not simply a rehash of another game, but a whole new, creepy and satisfying experience that is definitely worth checking out. The Dark Meadow is a universal app, currently available for $5.99 on the App Store.