Games

'2Dark' Is Not Too Dark

In 2Dark, a cartoon aesthetic quickly alters the gravity of what would otherwise be some very heavy subject matter.


2Dark

Developer: Gloomywood
Release Date: 2017-03-10
URL

2Dark is about child murder.

Of course, this isn't made immediately clear from the game's description on Steam:

2Dark is a stealth adventure game developed by Frédérick Raynal, the pioneer of survival horror games and creator of Alone in the Dark®. Make your way through the lairs of psychopaths, unravel intrigue where madness mingles with horror, and, above all, save the kids!

“Child murder” is probably not an especially marketable phrase, which is fair enough. I don't recall the content of the 2008 Angelina Jolie vehicle, Changeling, being described using such a phrase either, much, perhaps, to some viewers' eventual surprise.

Curiously, I assume that most players of 2Dark wouldn't be immediately likely to describe the game using this phrase either. The game is indeed a stealth adventure game that concerns guiding a detective around various environments in order to rescue abducted children. The implication of the game is that these children will become the victims of a group of psychopaths who intend most often to kill them. However, the aesthetic of the game doesn't necessarily support the darkness of its content, making it easy to disassociate that content from this specific subject matter. This is because the game most often looks like a cartoon.

As a result, its violence is presented in an almost silly (though still macabre) manner, with retro looking 16- or 32-bit graphics supporting what would otherwise be a very grisly set of scenes if presented in some hyperrealistic fashion.

Instead, the game embraces an almost comic grotesquerie through its look and even its presentation of its characters. The villains in the game, the “level bosses”, are such excruciatingly unlikely people that it is hard to take them seriously: a clown who wants to train children to serve as an animal act in his circus, a woman who desires to collect (and transform) children into dolls, a doctor who plans to sell the organs of young children, or a gangster that wants to train children to fight one another as an absurd form of blood sport. Oh, there's your “average” hillbilly cannibals in there somewhere, too.

Such absurdity removes the game from any kind of real footing in anything close to reality, as do the cartoonishly drawn cutscenes and other images in the game that represent the psychopaths and their nefarious deeds.

What this game, and others like it (perhaps, indie classic Limbo, for example), demonstrate is the power of aesthetic presentation to shape the tone of artistic material and to unseat it from its moorings in reality. Horrific violence against animals, for instance, becomes the subject of laughs when presented within the Saturday morning stylings of the cartoon worlds of Loony Tunes. Or, perhaps, this approach to horror and violence merely reveals the roots of the kind of disassociation that comedic aesthetics, especially those found in slapstick, can provide (The Three Stooges immediately comes to mind).

I don't know if such comedy can arguably provide a form of catharsis from the real world and its evils, especially since catharsis is a term traditionally associated with tragedy. But then again, 2Dark, the grotesque, but still cartoonish and outlandish game and its world, probably plays more often like an absurd and unlikely tragedy than a slapstick comedy ever could anyway.

The game sounds sick, but it probably doesn't look that way.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.