Tokyo Dark Review — What’s in the Box!?

Tokyo Dark tells the story of Detective Itō Ayami where all her choices are made by the player as she attempts to close a horrific case.

on September 11, 2017 4:00 PM

Picture this: you’re a detective and you’ve just received word that your partner is missing and in the heads of an unknown suspect. Your head is clouded with the realization that you may never see him again and all you want to do is get him back by any means possible. So what do you do? Well in Cherrymochi’s adventure game, Tokyo Dark, you’re able to choose how you will approach this situation and many more.

Although I don’t feel like I’m the point-and-click adventure expert, Tokyo Dark promises deep narrative and a story driven by the player’s choice, with elements from the visual novel genre which I am quite fond of. As I dove into this twisted game, I went on to discover my partner’s whereabouts and how exactly these character’s found themselves in this horrific situation.

As previewed above, Tokyo Dark opens in the middle of main protagonist’s Detective Itō Ayami story. She is hot on the trail of her missing partner and is so close to finding him. What got Itō to this point happened in a previously in time that is told throughout the story that I’d hate to spoil for players who wish to experience it themselves. However, I will say the game does feature some flashbacks that do have an effect on Itō’s mental well-being.

Tokyo Dark’s story is told through Itō, but it’s ultimately driven by the player’s approach to puzzles and interrogations which will dictate Itō’s mental stability at the end of the story. Itō is able to freely move around through 2D environments that will have spots of interests marked when she gets within range. These spots are semi-easy to see and often offer various choices on how the player wants to move forward. For example, say there is a lock on a door, do you: Inspect it, shoot it, or hold off and look for a key. These options will be available in many different forms throughout the game and your choice can also come with consequences.

Tokyo Dark Review -- What's in the Box!?

The more interesting interactions happen when interrogating NPCs. There will be times that you can choose some outlandish replies to statements made from these characters as well as times when intimidation might be the only way you can foresee receiving information from the individual. However, again, this is all up to the player and this situations can be approached in many different ways.

The system introduced in Tokyo Dark is meant to keep the player grounded with the way they have Itō respond to situation and is called S.P.I.N., which stands for Sanity, Professionalism, Investigation & Neurosis. These levels of Itō’s personality will be weighed with every choice that the player makes and will keep her at a morally stable level, or at least give the player a reason to not just run into a situation guns blazing.

Tokyo Dark Review -- What's in the Box!?

The options provided are vast and change if you give yourself time to find additional clues. I appreciated the chance to take the game at a slow pace and consider how I would personally approach this case if I was a real detective. That said, maybe drinking while on the clock isn’t such a good idea, or perhaps I shouldn’t flirt with a scumbag to get information. These thoughts lingered in my head whenever approaching a puzzle or obstacle.

This is what Tokyo Dark does very well. The anxiety and stress that comes from approaching a problem that might have an easier way out if only I can put aside my Professionalism or Sanity for a moment weighs heavily during almost every choice. However, the answers aren’t always super clear and I must admit that frustration got the best of me a few times.

Tokyo Dark Review -- What's in the Box!?

There are some extremely stressful situations that occur in the game where a timer counts down and requires quick action or face the consequences. These scenes are where Tokyo Dark shines as a great thriller, reminiscent so some of my favorite films in the genre such as Seven and Zodiac. However, the first time you encounter the situation you might not get the ending that you were hoping for.

A downside of Tokyo Dark’s S.P.I.N. system is that there are times where situations are out of your control, especially on your first play through. The choices you make in the game you are stuck with, but perhaps you didn’t clearly understand the outcome of a particular choice. Other scenes could take you to a Game Over screen if your Sanity isn’t high enough to encounter one of the more stressful situations that lower it regardless of what you do.

Tokyo Dark Review -- What's in the Box!?

One other minor gripe would be that during gameplay when an interest point is supposed to appear you have to make sure Itō is placed at an exact spot on the map in order to trigger the option, but this rarely happens.

Regardless, Tokyo Dark offers some great animation and character design that reflects Japanese anime and film noir. The sound in the game complements the visuals and adds to the immersion of the story. Although I would have enjoyed more voice over, which the small budget of the game may not have allowed, I appreciated the voice over that was present.

Tokyo Dark Review -- What's in the Box!?

Tokyo Dark is a point-and-click adventure with some must see thrills and a deep player driven story that lasts a little over four hours. I enjoyed nearly every minute of my time with Tokyo Dark and applaud the small indie studio for creating such a solid video game experience. I found myself eagerly clearing scenes as I neared the climax of the story only to jump right back in attempt to get there in a more professional way.

Although the S.P.I.N. system is not without its annoyances the choices that affect Itō’s personality make the game engaging and force the player to take the puzzles at a more thoughtful pace instead of strong arming every situation. The downside is that a second playthrough is required in order to have an understanding of the approaching scenes that are out of the player’s control and can damage a meter of Itō’s S.P.I.N. With a gripping story and overall impressive approach to a unique choice system, Tokyo Dark is a great game that fans of the point-and-click adventures and visual novel genres should get their hands on.

 /  Staff Writer
Azario Lopez has held multiple positions in the game's media industry. At DualShockers he focuses on providing coverage for niche and indie video games in the form of news updates, reviews, and interviews.