The side-scrolling adventure genre is typically considered to have evolved out of the foundations laid by the Metroid series nearly three decades ago, and in that time things progressed a lot. Recognised as a genre in its own right, standing aside platform and scrolling shoot-‘em-up titles, the formula has evolved with technology. Dark Matter is the perfect example of this, able to promote atmosphere ahead of static enemy placement and a steady thread of progression that pulls you through the adventure.
Dark Matter places pacing above all else. Early examples of the genre would offer balance through exploration, yet enemy locations would be fixed and respawn upon each revisit of an area. Technical limitations would mean that environments may appear unique but would rarely present much in the way of atmosphere. Dark Matter pushes beyond this, capitalising on the strengths of modern hardware with visual and aural design that exceeds many of its peers.
The experience is a slow paced, claustrophobic journey through a science-fiction universe in which the tension is almost palpable. You are armed to the point of being able to defend yourself, searching lockers and other storage for any equipment or ammunition, but are unable to take the fight to the enemy. In fact, you never quite know when that fight will be coming: most 2D adventures will have a steady sense of incline, building towards a challenge far more significant than anything yet faced, however Dark Matter isn’t a videogame that revels in the constant adrenaline rush of being overwhelmed by enemy numbers, but rather the fear that it could happen at any moment.
That’s not to say there won’t be boss fights or other such game changers in the final build – indeed, Electronic Theatre hasn’t yet played enough of Dark Matter to fully understand whether or not this slow pace will remain intact throughout – but the sample available was of a high enough quality to stir intrigue as to what might lie ahead. Dark Matter is expected to launch later this year with a very wallet-friendly price tag, and you can be sure Electronic Theatre will keep you updated with all the latest details.