Into the darkness I go.
I was stricken by Into the Dim as soon as I noticed its icon on the App Store. Powering it up for the first time sent me straight back to my childhood, playing Pokemon on my grey, giant block-shaped GameBoy. From the gorgeous cartoony graphics, to the retro pseudo-sepia tone art style and on to the simple, roguelike, Legend of Zelda inspired combat, There is far more Legend of Zelda inspiration in this game than just in the combat. Into the Dim is a heartthrob nostalgia-drenched adventure for anyone who loved their original GameBoy.
Into the Dim plays like a top-down dungeon crawler, in which you have to navigate past the scores of evil skeletons, flying eyeballs, giant spiders and the like in order to loot treasure, solve puzzles, and find the key to the next level and proceed onward. There is a huge twist though; all of the movement is turn-based. This turns the game on its head entirely, adding a chess-like, JRPG element. Constituents like these aid in making Into the Dim a wildly original, unpredictable game of critical thinking. The narrative is straightforward. It brings us to our young protagonist as he follows his surprisingly spelunking-savvy dog through several floors of a dungeon, to eventually come to a face off against an evil vampire. There is no perceivable backstory or lore in place; but that neither adds nor detracts from the experience.
As I mentioned before, the gameplay is turn-based, in a top-down dungeon crawler format. The main resources to keep track of while playing Into the Dim is your health, your ammo and your available movement/activity options. Performing just about any activity uses up a movement option: whether you wanted to move, shoot, punch, etc… All enemies have similar rules that they have to follow. So, as you play the game, you find yourself creating strategies to keep enemies from getting too close to you. Even better, you make sure that they get right next to you as their turn is ending. When you begin the game, you have minuscule allowances in health, ammo and movements. The treasure that you find throughout each of the stages grants you the ability to purchase more ammo, health, and movement slots.
The graphics and art style of Into the Dim is what caught my attention, and my heart. It echoes glorious cartoony SNES style 16-bit graphics like Earthbound or A Link to the Past. The monsters all look fantastic, though I wish there had been some more variation in the types of enemies that you encounter over the course of the adventure. The several floors of the dungeon do not differ all that much in appearance either, which left me desiring some new environments. Though the dungeon floors looked identical to each other in scenery, they all offered unique challenges, whether it be new monsters, a level-specific gimmick (such as a collapsing floor every time you take a step) or a vastly different layout from the previous stages that you’ve encountered.
The soundtrack for Into the Dim is the same looping eerie track for the entirety of the game. The only other song is the Pokemon Center-esque interlude that plays between stages, but that hardly counts. I would have liked to hear more music, maybe even some chiptune retro Castlevania sounding tracks. That being said, I enjoyed the track that was in the game. It lent itself to the spooky setting efficiently, especially when accompanied by the constant sound of monsters screaming out horrendous death cries as they eat silver bullet after silver bullet.
Into the Dim is one the finest mobile games I’ve had the pleasure of playing. It ends quickly, but given the amount of content present in the game, it feels like an appropriate length. Worth mentioning is that there is a “Nightmare Mode” unlocked after completing the game the first time. I’ve only just begun Nightmare Mode and it does not feel that much more difficult. The notable difference is that the initial amount of health you start with is slightly decreased from normal mode. Perhaps there will be more challenges presented to me as I get further into my Nightmare Mode playthrough. Into the Dim took nearly six hours or so to complete my first run, with the first half of the game taking much longer. I had not yet learned strategies like how to stay alive, stay away from enemies, and effectively kill them. Once you learn the ins and outs of the game, it does not take too long to finish.
I hope that HappyMagenta creates a sequel to Into the Dim and decides to build upon this smart, novel IP. It seems to have gotten them a sizable amount of positive buzz in the mobile scene. I have a number of ideas that I would love to give them, if they decided to make a follow-up game and turn it into a series. More than anything, though, I just want more Into the Dim. It’s that good, people. I think it’s even free on the App Store. Just go download it and thank me later.