The App Store is a jungle of sorts. Search through the myriad of applications available, and you’ll find a bunch of tangled foliage, a few poisonous creatures, and just maybe, a diamond in the rough. Maze of Darkness, at first glace, appears to be cheaply built, third party shovel-ware, created only to make a quick buck for the developers. However, this is one game that would cost you if you judged it by its screenshots alone; this one is a diamond in the rough. A blood-covered, creepy diamond in the rough, that emits unearthly screams if you listen closely.
Maze of Darkness certainly can’t lay claim to being a completely original game. It is an endless runner, which immediately makes many want to pass on this title, since admittedly, if endless runners on the App Store were water droplets, we’d all be in danger of drowning in a tsunami. Heck, the game can’t even bill itself as the first “survival horror” endless runner, since the terrific and terrifying Into the Dead has already staked its territory in that particular spot of our iPhones.
However, Maze of Darkness manages to prove that just because something has been done many times before, doesn’t mean one more round is a waste of time.
In typical endless runner fashion, the only goal in Maze of Darkness is to run as far (or in this case, through as many floors) as possible before your character’s inevitable demise as the game gradually speeds up and the obstacles come faster and faster. You control your character from an over-the-shoulder-perspective, by swiping up, down, left, or right, to either turn, jump or duck to avoid obstacles. Don’t stop reading yet! This is where it gets interesting.
Instead of your typical collapsed bridges (Temple Run), or spiky death traps (Sonic Dash), Maze of Darkness earns its title by thrusting your unwilling hero into a nearly pitch-black labyrinthine tower, with only a flashlight to illuminate a few feet ahead of you, and your wits to keep you from slamming into the ever-changing geometry of the place, or even worse, slamming into one of the game’s monsters.
These aren’t just any monsters, mind you. These are bona-fide, nightmare material, creepshow beasts that look and sound as though they could have escaped from Silent Hill itself. That alone is not enough, of course, to make a game’s atmosphere; so that’s where the peripheral sound and graphic design come in.
Each monster has their own fittingly spooky sound effect to go with their horrifying visual, which not only serves to unnerve, but also to clue the player into their upcoming presence. Here is a great example of sound design as a game mechanic. The background music and overall look of the game could be argued to be a tad underdeveloped, but both manage to carry a solid atmosphere throughout each run.
So there you have it, the answer to why you should play Maze of Darkness over another endless runner: the atmosphere.
Not everything is spot-on, of course. Some of the monster designs seem a bit repetitive, and the swipe controls seem a tad over-sensitive at times. The addition of “lux”, a collectible and real-money-purchasable item that lets you start your runs a few floors up or continue after you’ve died detracts a bit from the challenge of the game.
But in the end, the good game design that packs in all that needs to be there and little excess works to keep the game fun throughout.
You’ve played several endless runners before, but if you want something fresh even from that stale genre, check out Maze of Darkness. It has a great atmosphere and simple gameplay. What more do you need?