If you ask me, we’ll never have enough roguelikes. Deeply replayable games that offer short play sessions but somehow always compel you to play long into the night are always welcome, and I don’t think we’ve even begun to see the limits of what this genre has to offer. Exhibit A is Eyes in the Dark, a Lovecraftian roguelike about fighting darkness with light in a monochromatic and ever-changing mansion called Bloom Manor. Eyes in the Dark proves that even the most bog-standard conventions of the genre can be made fresh with the right approach.
The title Eyes in the Dark: The Curious Case of One Victoria Bloom does not do a particularly good job of conveying what kind of game this is. While you might immediately think of a Professor Layton-style puzzle-adventure game, it is much closer to something like Dead Cells or Rogue Legacy 2. By way of buzzwords, Eyes in the Dark is a side-scrolling action roguelike with twin-stick controls, procedurally generated levels, and complex build paths that ensure no two runs ever feel the same.
While investigating the disappearance of her grandad, Victoria Bloom finds herself trapped in his home, Bloom Manor, which has been overtaken by darkness. Victoria is armed with a flashlight that can be aimed 360 degrees with the right stick. Shining the light on enemies – bugs and beasts made of darkness – will deal damage over time until they’re killed, dropping a currency called Sparks that can be traded to a giant raven for stat upgrades, weapons, and new abilities.
The flashlight is a fascinating weapon. You have to track enemies with your light as they jump around and try to attack you in order to slowly chip away at their health. As you progress through each run you’ll find batteries that increase the flashlights power, as well as other upgrades that improve the size of its arc and the range of its shine. You can even replace the standard flash light with a variant, like a long-range flashlight that fires quick-moving globes of light or one that shoots a stream of light bubbles that bounce around randomly. There are multiple levels and stat categories for each flashlight type, and experimenting with the different kinds of weapons is a big part of Eyes in the Dark’s charm. It doesn’t have quite as many weapon options as something like Dead Cells, but it has the same idea.
Victoria has a few other abilities in her kit besides the flashlight. Her slingshot can be used to fire an arcing bolt of light at hard-to-reach enemies. It slowly recharges ammo as you deal damage with your flashlight, and it also has a few variants, like firecrackers that burst with light several times, or a firefly that moves slowly in a straight line. Victoria can also dash through enemies to gain a moment of invulnerability. All of these abilities are upgradeable, including her shoes, which can be turned into hoverboots.
The manor changes its layout slightly during each run, but the general layout seems to remain the same. The first section has a store, an upgrade room, and a boss fight – which is always the same boss – then you can go either left or right into the next area where there’s another shop, another upgrade room, and another boss. There are two bosses to choose from depending on whether you go left or right, and while they switch sides randomly between runs, it seems like the order of the boss fights is static.
Though the demo ends after defeating the second boss, it seems like you can either double back to clear the side you didn’t choose, or continue on to the next part of the house where you’ll have two more bosses to pursue. With all the effort put into making Victoria’s weapons and upgrades feel unique every run, I’m disappointed at how static the layout of the house seems to be. It’s true that a lot of roguelikes make you fight bosses in a specific order, but I was surprised that Eyes in the Dark doesn’t have a random pool of boss enemies depending on how far into the run you are, similar to The Binding of Isaac, which is the best comparison for the style or Eyes in the Dark’s boss fights. As you kill bosses and return to the Manor’s entrance, you’ll be able to unlock a variety of permanent upgrades like starting equipment and additional items that can be found throughout each run.
Eyes in the Dark was first announced earlier this year at PAX East during Gearbox’s Main Stage Show (featuring illusionist Randy Pitchford) but it’s being featured this week as part of Steam Next Fest. You can download the demo on the Steam page until June 20 and take as many runs through the first part of the manor as you’d like. Eyes in the Dark is launching exclusively on PC (Steam and EGS) on July 14.
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