Alone, with your dog, in the dark
With a classic, mono-chrome Game Boy look, Into the Dim sets its old-school tone from the outset. Combine this with solid turn-based gameplay, and you have a fun free-to-play experience in which every level feels like a constantly evolving combat puzzle.
In to the black and white
I really wish I knew how Into the Dim would have been received were it released on Nintendo's Game Boy back in the early 90’s. It looks perfect, with its simple sprites and background all matched brilliantly to its retro-monochrome style.
It isn’t just the presentation that marks it as a game out of time, however, because everything - outside of its free-to-play elements - could easily have been produced in the grey handhelds era.
You play as a young boy armed with a gun, who is chasing his dog. The young pup leads you on an adventure deep into the dungeon beneath your town, and slowly your journey reveals its mysteries.
All of your turn-based movement is controlled via four arrow buttons at the base of the screens, allowing you to move around the grid based dungeons easily. If a move cannot be made, then the button is grayed out – so there is never any confusion about possible routes.
If you are close enough to a skeleton, spider, or other enemy you can choose to punch them rather than move. Alternatively, if you see a distant foe and don’t want to wait, you also have a gun to pick them off at range - use this sparingly though, because ammo is limited.
Every time you move or attack you use a single action point, and once these are exhausted you pass the turn to the dungeon’s monsters. Each floor's layout is fixed, but the enemy placement can change - a dynamic that allows for an interesting puzzle element for you to master.
The deliberate level design is used fantastically to make some bespoke stages and puzzles that play with the formula - such as timed stages and areas in which a treasure is hidden behind complex block conundrums.
In one area you even get to play as the dog, which is particularly challenging. Taking the same movement and action formula, the game removes your ability to attack and only gives you one heart with which to navigate the dungeon. Very hard, but also a rewarding way to make you think differently about the mechanics.
A missing classic?
Into the Dim is an interesting mix of turn-based dungeon crawler and puzzle game, with a great look and lots of twists. It isn’t overly long, but it is constantly challenging and fun. Plus, you can play it all without having to pay a penny.