Point-and-click games used to feel like the tattered pop-up books in a library full of literary masterpieces, but they have come far since those days. With more basic controls that usually leave out combat, a point and click or HOPA (hidden object puzzle adventure) has to work harder to impress the player. With so many of these games available on Steam, or for less than $10 at the local game shop, it can be easy to get bogged down by the less refined ones and miss the ones worth playing. Tormentum – Dark Sorrow from Ohnoo was one I put my hand up for because it has a very solid macabre feel to it, and it leaves out the hidden object part, while telling us next to nothing about the story.
Tormentum – Dark Sorrow is from a three-man development team that has a strong focus on games with a gothic twist which make you take a good hard look at your existence – whether you want to or not. With the classic ambiguous start to the narrative of an anti-hero with no memory, Tormentum gets off to a fairly average start. You are being airlifted with a character whom would look at home with Jareth from The Labyrinth, and are deposited in a grim castle with no idea what’s going on. The story in the first minute didn’t grip me, but what I did enjoy were the quotes that all alluded to ‘how you treat people is key.’ A subtle backstory evaporated after the first dialogue with my captor; however, he does mention your evil deeds, redemption and flat out says that you will be judged on my every move.
I love macabre games because there is always a hidden truth somewhere, but in this case I felt I had my favourite part taken away. I was still interested and continued through the whole game, however. There were several points that gave you choices to make, almost every time it was a very clear: “are you an evil prick or not?” kind of option. I was impressed further on, though, when the choices matured and lost their black and white nature. Instead, I found myself going for the most logical of the outcomes because I couldn’t always decide what was nicest. It’s roughly at this point I was hooked. I knew there were consequences and was sure of the big reveal in the end, but part of me still obsessed about decisions I’d made and whether or not I am as balanced as I thought. I won’t say anything else about the story, play it yourself, but I’ll admit Pride in the 11th hour was my downfall – touché, Ohnoo Studios.
Tormentum’s design is by far and away its greatest feature; every background, animation and character is precisely detailed in the dark theme throughout the game. The scenes are easy to navigate and operate while offering a screenshot worthy visuals at every point during the tale. There was no voice acting, which is a huge positive: I play loads of games in this style, and either a Christopher Lee impersonator ruins the dialogue or poor quality damages the entire atmosphere. The sound effects blended so well I forgot to pay attention to them, everything sounded organic instead of orchestrated, and I could pay more attention to accidently ruining someone’s life. The music, while appropriately foreboding and mysterious, missed a few fantastic opportunities to drive home its revelations and points of despair. It’s repetitiveness also started to annoy rather that heighten the atmosphere after a few hours.
Point-and-click games have one specific game mechanic, but as someone who plays them often, I know what I like and what drives me to want to jab someone with the mouse pointer. Hand holding: unless you just bought me dinner, I am never ok with hand holding, especially in games. Most P&Cs have options that cater to crazy, so we can toggle hints, click rate, and difficulty level. Tormentum offered none of these, and had a golden orb on everything clickable just a few seconds after the prologue. I’m in a cell, with a skeleton arm pointing upwards, an animated crow, and a glowing skull; I think I can manage finding what to click without the help, thanks. The puzzles were entertaining, at least: a few new ideas on tired puzzles were fun and required some effort, and one episode of YouTube after 15 minutes wasted on the fuse box.
More than once, I was lost as to what I needed to do next, or found myself having a conversation that seemed pointless or out of place. An escaped prisoner having a lovely chat with an armed guard, who then lets me into an off-limits room just didn’t sit well with me. At four hours in length, it also felt quite short; though, upon reflection, I think the narrative would have been ruined had it been drawn out any further. A shorter game also means I could go and replay it to change my choices and outcomes. Overall, Tormentum – Dark Sorrow is unashamedly eye candy for me, and while I prefer an endgame I can’t guess at in the first minute, I still enjoyed it on the whole. The best part would have to be the final 5 minutes where my last choice triggered an internal conversation along the lines of “Do they know I know, or do they know that I know that they know that I know?” They knew; it didn’t end well for me.