Tokyo Dark perfectly blends side-scrolling point and click gameplay with the deep narrative focus that you would expect from a visual novel. Although it was successfully funded on Kickstarter back in 2015, the dark psychological thriller developer Cherrymochi has crafted is a perfect fit for the indie-focused Square Enix Collective that has been releasing some of the most refreshing and unique titles.
With a narrative that branches based on the choices you make throughout, Tokyo Dark features a double-digit number of endings and even a different ending that you’ll only find if you play through the new game plus. Detective Ito must scour the streets of Tokyo to find clues on her partner’s mysterious disappearance. Her mental state plays a pivotal role in your investigation. Everything you do in the game, how you decide to proceed past an obstacle, what paths you take, and even how you handle interrogations all come with consequences. The game is presented as a side-scrolling adventure, with stylistic environments, and colorful anime-inspired characters.
There are many different options for Ito to interact with objects in the environment. These are discovered by highlighting the locations with the mouse or by having Ito walk/run near them. The possible options vary, so you may be able to look at a lock on a dumpster in an alley, trying to find another way to open it, or you may opt to shoot it off right away if you don’t want to search for a key. These are pivotal moments, with every decision affecting Ito. Obviously shooting a lock off in the view of passersby is not going to do her any wonders, especially if it causes her to panic even more so than she already is regarding her missing partner.
The same type of options is open to you when talking to the locales. It’s best to understand the situation before responding. Coming across as an intimidating figure may be a powerful interrogating tool, but it won’t work with every interaction. Every choice made plays into the game’s S.P.I.N. system, which stands for sanity, professionalism, investigation, and neurosis. Collecting clues and getting civilians to open up to you may yield investigation points, but having to do something questionable to get the answers may take a toll on your professionalism. A word of advice, don’t drink on the job if you can’t live with the consequences.
Tokyo Dark continually plays with my emotions, possibly giving you an easy way to find the information that you require, but it may skirt the realm of legality. Brushing off the advances of a drunk person in the bar didn’t get me what I wanted, but I felt I made the right call, keeping Ito’s emotions and sanity in check during the exchange. However, the temptations were always there in the back of my mind, as I could get one step closer to finding my partner if I make only a handful of poor decisions. This was especially true when the game introduces a timer during specific sequences, forcing you to make a quick call, without thinking.
Although I find myself usually not replaying single-player narrative focused titles, I felt compelled to play through Tokyo Dark multiple times (the first playthrough will take around five hours). Maybe it was the inclusion of the alternate endings or the beautiful stylized visuals combined with a dark and intense narrative. The S.P.I.N. system can severely alter how other characters react to you, making you question your every action.
Note: Tokyo Dark was reviewed based on a digital PC copy of the game, provided by the publisher.