I usually like to kick off a review with some introductory blurb, a history lesson or a clumsily tortured analogy... but in this case, I'm going to get right to the point.
Dark Meadow is a cross between Silent Hill and Infinity Blade. So you should probably buy it.
Read on to find out why.
Dark Meadow casts players as a mysterious amnesiac who wakes up in a decrepid abandoned hospital. With nowt but an enigmatic fellow inmate for company (who delights in doling out advice and disturbing portents over the PA system), you'll need to explore the creepy, decaying halls - collecting money, improving your arsenal and eventually working out who you are. And, just as importantly, why you've ended up in such a godforsaken place.
The UDK has been used to devastating effect; creating a world that's genuinely frightening thanks to competent art design, decent lighting effects and a high level of detail throughout. Though the iPad version betrays a fair few jaggies, the iPhone version is one of the best looking titles on the platform.
The hospital is deceptively open; featuring a number of different rooms to explore with fixed movement icons and 360 degree camera rotation. Gold, literature and items are liberally tucked away into every corner, promoting a surprising amount of exploration. In true App Store fashion, you can spend this money on increasingly effective weaponry (buying it via in-app purchase if you're the impatient type with more money than sense)... which is where the demonic denizens come in.
You'll randomly be engaged in combat by horrific monstrosities that shamble down the hallway and attempt to "wear your face like a mask." Charming. You're free to aim and fire a crossbow to weaken them at range - all while dodging the odd bit of demonic sputum hocked in your direction. Upon entering melee combat, you'll whip out a sword and face off in what I can only describe as a sequence heavily inspired by Infinity Blade. Swiping the screen deals out attacks, while dodge and block icons provide defensive options.
Tried and tested, sure. But it works - and works extremely well.
It's worth noting, though, that the combat isn't anywhere as fluid and nuanced as Chair's original masterpiece. The slick parry mechanics are out; replaced instead by hilariously telegraphed attacks that are extremely easy to dodge. In fact, the level of challenge is fairly low after you've gotten used to each creature's tell.
Until you get to the boss again, that is. Like Infinity Blade, Dark Meadow is designed to be played through multiple times with a persistent wallet and experience levels. Being killed (either by a creature or by the insanely tough 'witch') simply returns you to your bed, which is part of the bizarre rules of the hospital. Luckily the experience is open and exciting enough to warrant these multiple playthroughs, which is mainly down to the randomised locations of items, literature and gold. Gaining levels allows you to improve your base attributes - health, damage etc - though the experience summary screen does break immersion more often than it should.
- Addictive levelling system
- Graphically polished, genuinely creepy
- Slightly limited combat
- Flow-breaking combat summary screen
Summary: I've rarely been as impressed with an app as I am with Dark Meadow. Though its blatant inspirations are plain to see, they've all been taken from a good place - and they conspire to create a thoroughly worthwhile game. Definitely deserves your £3.99.
Developer: Phosphor Games
Compatibility: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later.
Price: £3.99 - App Store