The majority of good survival horror games excel at building suspense while luring the player into a false sense of security. 2Dark, created by the father of interactive horror, Frederick Raynal, makes no attempt to ease the player in. It delivers grimacing subject matter and shock factor in spades, but unfortunately not much else from a developer of such a high pedigree.
The game immediately throws the player into its dark themes with a flashback of a family camping trip gone wrong. The protagonist, a former detective known as Smith, is preparing a fire when familiar shrieks from the woods grab his attention. He then discovers his wife has been brutally murdered and watches helplessly as his children are abducted. Flash forward several years and Smith is living in the town of Gloomywood, a bleak setting where kidnappings are becoming more frequent. Adamant his kids are still out there, the gone-rogue detective investigates the reports of the missing children, determined to save them and make up for the past. While a survival horror title in spirit, 2Dark's gameplay is primarily stealth-focused. Playing from a top-down perspective, you have to navigate the pitch-black, almost labyrinth-like levels to rescue children and bring them home. There are a generally a number of enemies and puzzles lining the stage, with only limited light sources available to guide you.
There are a variety of weapons to aid you, however, and the darkness itself serves as a valuable tool. The lack of light can be both a huge help and hindrance at times, as many of the mechanics revolve around it. The darkness masks your location, for instance, and you need to utilise it to successfully stealth your way through. The light will give your spot away, but it's necessary to find your way around, pick up specific items, and avoid deadly traps littered around each stage.
For the most part, the gameplay remains active. Picking up and interacting with items only requires you to walk into them, and the action is constantly kept flowing as you slip past enemies and escort the kids across the level. Selecting items from the inventory doesn't disrupt gameplay either, forcing you to switch objects on the fly rather than suspend the action. With so much to split your focus between, it can become quite hectic at times and lead to frustration.
Once you've accounted for the overwhelming mechanics and found your rhythm after much trial and error, executing your plan of attack can still be satisfying, however, the combat often gets in the way of that, and usually it takes countless attempts of doing the exact same thing over and over again with the occasional dash of luck to get it right and feel any kind of reward. Sneaking up on an enemy and attacking feels far more clunky than it should, thanks to the character's slow movement speed and some noticeable input lag, and it doesn't help that regular enemies seem to have a large amount of health and the majority of melee weapons prove ineffective. Blasting your way through baddies with the pistol is the frustration-free way to play, but due to the survival nature of the game, you're constantly restricted on ammo.