Angel in the Dark Video Game Review
Written by Ryan Noble
Released by Philip Aldous
Developer: Philip Aldous
Available on: itch.io (https://paldous.itch.io/angel-in-the-dark)
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (and potentially Steam)
Well, I just spent a very enjoyable hour of my spare time, reclining on my sofa, immersed in the tense narrative of Philip Aldous' Angel in the Dark, a text-based horror game with audio, but no visuals. If you can see past that, though - pun very much intended - this actually makes the game incredibly engaging. With nothing but words, sounds, and an original soundtrack, the game was able to transport me to the dank, pitch-black caverns it was set in, where I found myself hand-in-hand with a stranger who sounded as scared as I was.
I won't go into too much detail on the actual narrative, as that would spoil the entire point of playing, but you wake up in a cave, lying in an inch or so of ice-cold water. Each moment is driven home with a relevant piece of music or sound effect, and the occasional splash of water or screech of a bat makes the experience feel like an audio book that you're losing yourself inside. You don't know where you are, how you got there, or why you have a splitting headache. From that point onwards, it's your story.
There are certain moments where you're given a choice. Some are superficial, such as entering your own name or choosing between three lines of dialogue, whereas others will branch the story in one of four directions. In all of them you're trying to find your way out of the darkness, but it's up to you to try and make the choices you think will lead to safety.
No matter what kind of choices I was making, I found that I was being more immersed in the story. I named the protagonist "Ryan," spoke to Lucia - another character who is also wandering these dark caverns - how I thought I would speak in the same situation, and could feel myself beginning to care about these characters even though I'd only just met them 30 minutes before. There are a few small typos here and there, but Aldous' writing is overall quite good, and I could easily have read/played for longer. Though, due to a great skipping feature, not any longer than I needed to...
Once you've played through to end, you're met with a question. At its core, it says: "This happened. But with different choices, could this have happened?" And then, if you're as interested as I was in the multiple endings, you can find out by playing again. This time, any part of the story that doesn't involve a choice or new information can be skipped through like fast-forwarding through cut-scenes you've seen one too many times. This enabled me to try out the other three endings in about 20 minutes and left me feeling like I'd experienced everything that Angel in the Dark had to offer without putting in an hour of time for each ending.
And, frankly, what the game does have to offer is worth your time. The narrative, writing, music, sound effects and branching storylines, stemming from a few select choices throughout, come together to create a creepy, yet somewhat relaxing experience that is both game and short story. Who needs visuals when you have the most powerful horror movie playing inside your own head? No, I'm not talking about those voices. I mean your imagination.
If you feel like letting Philip Aldous' Angel in the Dark take you away for an hour or so into a pitch-black, cave-exploring thriller, you can download it for free on itch.io, or with a donation if you're feeling generous, and you can even purchase the soundtrack. Aldous is also looking to get the game Greenlit on Steam. Whether you're looking for a game or a novel, Angel in the Dark could scratch that itch for you. In fact, it'll do more than that. It'll reach out and snatch you into the complete darkness, where you'll "wander aimlessly in the dark... searching for an exit."