It’s hard to think of a period in the entire history of the videogames industry when indie gaming has been as popular as it is today. Perhaps with the exception of the early days, when developers consisted of a group of friends creating 8-bit games in their bedrooms, there truly hasn’t been such a large indie scene since. With the advent of smart phones and tablet devices, it has never been easier to pick up and play in today’s gaming landscape.
Recently, another hugely popular gateway into alternative funding away from the big triple A studios has been Kickstarter, a website where fledgling companies pitch their products to the public. Each pitch has a set target, allowing people to donate any amount they like if they come across a promising product.
InterWave Studio’s side-scrolling Dark Matter is just one of thousands that has asked for support on the website, and regardless of the questions of quality that arise from such ventures, Dark Matter is one that definitely shows promise.
Set aboard The Endeavor, you play as the ‘Ensign’, a female crew member who has awoken from 70 years of cryostasis to find the crew has disappeared and all that’s left to keep you company are hordes of parasitic aliens and a slightly creepy AI.
The second you emerge from the stasis pod, you’ll wonder if InterWave gave the decrepit spaceship the wrong name, as Dark Matter more than just recalls the tense atmosphere of Ripley’s nightmare aboard the Sulaco in Ridley Scott’s Alien.
But don’t be discouraged by the familiar premise, as Dark Matter is shaping up to be a prime example of how good a game funded through Kickstarter can be. If you’re a fan of Nintendo’s Metroid series or even some of the retro Castlevania games, then you won’t need much encouragement to try out Dark Matter, as it follows very closely in the footsteps of the adored ‘Metroidvania’ style of gameplay.
The preview that we were offered showed, as mentioned earlier, that the game takes place entirely aboard the Endeavor, with each area of the spaceship split up into separate zones. Various alien species litter the now deserted corridors of the derelict ship, which all have differing quirks such as shields and explosive bodies.
One minor irritant with the enemies which needs to be addressed is the bullet sponge nature of many varieties, which, whilst surmountable makes them extremely tiresome to kill when you only start out with a pistol.
There are other weapons available, but even with these; each parasite still takes a beating before it falls. There’s also a crafting system available which, whilst still rather basic in the preview build, enables you to craft different ammo types and health kits with salvage dropped from enemies. It won’t take much to run Dark Matter on maximum settings either and the game is easily comparable with the similar Shadow Complex (in terms of visuals and gameplay), released a few years back on Xbox Arcade.
Even with the above being true, Dark Matter still has some glaring issues that need to be addressed before it’s ready for release. Most notably of all is the already mentioned difficulty levels which are largely due to the erratic aiming system.
In addition, animation and platforming precision feel, and look rather clunky and buggy to the point where the Ensign will occasionally attempt to climb ledges without any input from the gamepad or keyboard.
However, InterWave has reassuringly stated that all of these issues are currently being worked on and will hopefully be rectified for the full release. In addition, the game is still in the very early stages of development, so the studio has more than enough time to resolve such issues and if they can keep their promises, Dark Matter will definitely be a game to look out for when it releases on Steam.