It’s really too bad that Our Darker Purpose didn’t hew more closely to the obvious inspiration it takes from Binding of Isaac. Whereas Our Darker Purpose is a slow, often repetitive, and sometimes tedious grind to somewhere yet to be determined, Binding of Isaac has a sense of snappy pacing and steady progression. It routinely doles out weird new treasures. But Our Darker Purpose can barely be arsed to spare an occasional juice box for a few points of healing. It’s enough to make me wonder if Our Darker Purpose is trying to keep me back because the end isn’t done yet. Is this an early access game that wants me to play the early bits over and over, or is it really this, uh, deliberate?
After the jump, no, you may not have another.
The character progression during a game is satisfying enough, with cutely dark literary references when you level up and the possibility of really powerful power-ups that’ll break your heart to lose when you perma-die. I fondly recall tossing out sheets of paper like powerful buckshot that one time I played and almost got to chapter two. But the unlockables between games that mark your overall progression are doled out so slowly and they’re so often of such little use that they’re more of a chore than a reward. Am I really supposed to fight the first boss over and over and over again, trying not to take any damage, only to unlock that? That? That’s what I get? I fought Frothy the Dragon one hundred times and that’s what I get? And am I really supposed to dump so many precious credits into a mysterious schoolmaster’s tip jar in the hopes of unlocking something, when so often I unlock nothing? I suppose there’s no other way to spend my hard-earned gains.
And I can’t understand why a game that plays like this — it’s basically a twin-stick shooter — wouldn’t have controller support. Is it just because Binding of Isaac doesn’t have controller support? Clack clack clack, goes my keyboard. I haven’t used my arrow keys this heavily since the pre-mouse days of Doom. It doesn’t help that this is such a sluggish game even in terms of movement and shooting. Again, Binding of Isaac’s zippier pacing would have helped.
The reason to play Our Darker Purpose is for a hopeful sense of what it might eventually become if the developers at Avidly Wild Games can make it less ponderous. Because it looks and sounds great, with scads of insidious Victorian style where Binding of Isaac has only its weird coarseness. In Binding of Isaac, a crudely drawn and lumpy headed child is locked into a basement. But Our Darker Purpose comes from the pencil-drawn orphanages of Edward Gorey, from the streets where children fall into drainpipes, from the shadowy corners where they’re consumed by mice, done in by thugs, and dead of ennui. This is a world populated with Gashlycrumb Tinies in spirit, if not name. The clockwork dragon, clawed chandelier, and ravenous giftbox are so much more than Binding of Isaac’s crude nightmares. They’re intricate and sinister. And who is that ghost child? And why do the sacks talk to each other? These mysteries deserve a better game.