‘DarkBase 01’ Review – Old School Style Without the Style

Platform : PC

Developer:   Solarstormstudio        Publisher:  Solarstormstudio

Genre: Shooter, Arcade

Top-down old school shooters have always had a unique niche market. The old school style offers up a nostalgic experience and something different to many AAA style games we see these days. DarkBase 01 follows this design, but unfortunately it doesn’t offer anything new or unique gameplay.

You play as Jason Phoenix, a military science officer who has been reassigned to an outpost called DarkBase 01. Unsurprisingly, something seems wrong about the base and Jason decides to investigate to find out what happened. It’s a simple enough story starting point to begin your descent into the labs. When you enter the building an A.I informs Phoenix he has been locked in the base and can’t get out until there are no more xenomorphic signatures. These creatures are the main and only enemies you encounter but don’t offer much of a challenge.

DarkBase 01 continually reminds you about the necessity for survival, but the developers seemed to have a very loose definition of survival. Survival games have their own little mechanics which define their style of survival games, typically that revolves around small amounts of ammo or health packs. DarkBase 01 definitely does not follow that path, instead littering the maps with health packs around every corner and a gun which has infinite ammo. It means the game has very little survival mechanics, as you are continuously healing and are never in fear of running out of ammo.

Infinite ammo though isn’t too much of a drawback though for this style of survival as the game would be unplayable if you were to run out of ammo. This falls in part to the fact that there are literally no other weapons throughout the game. It definitely feels like it would have aided in the monotonous and tedious gameplay as your game time consists of just holding down the mouse button as long as your ammo goes, infinite. It was quite ironic in one of the sections in which Phoenix picked up a leftover note from the lab technicians in the armoury. It detailed how all of the weapons were gutted from the armoury, yet the floor was covered in a layer of machine guns.

Each level follows the same premise, shoot lots of enemies, grab the coloured keys and access the elevator. There isn’t anything that changes throughout the maps in terms of enemy difficulties or puzzles. It’s certainly a mechanic which would have offered up a new layer of gameplay to enjoy as puzzles would break up the repetitive map styles. There are a variety of enemies but they mainly just have different appearances.

No enemy is stronger than the other but it definitely picks up pace throughout the levels in terms of quantity of enemies. Instead of finding one or two in a room, you can find about five or six coming from every direction. It did make it a bit more enjoyable to play but there is a bug which makes these encounters very frustrating. Whenever an enemy comes right up to you, or you to it, there seems to be some sort of force field which blocks you from damaging the enemy. The xenomorph can still hurt you while bugging your character out at the same time which got frustrating throughout the game.

There are a few must-have mechanics to a game which DarkBase 01 seems to have either forgotten about or felt they didn’t need for some reason. You are supplied with a mini-map in the top right corner of your screen but it doesn’t indicate where you are on the map. It took me a bit to realise I could use the “human” bodies scattered around the maps to get a general idea of where I was, which in a way made it a bit unique. I feel like it would have benefited with revealing the minimap as you explore the areas as many times I had forgotten where I had already been and in turn spent way too long backtracking through the same stuff.

There also isn’t the option to mute the game audio, or even turn it down. The Judge Dredd style music was enjoyable at first but it ends up getting as tedious as the game itself. Often I found myself creating the “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, OI OI OI” chant with my gun to entertain myself as I wandered through the map.

DarkBase 01 doesn’t offer up anything memorable or different, and it feels like a simple flash game on a browser. It has the structure of an old school swivel shooter to satisfy those who love arcadey type games but beyond that it drops off. It would have been cool to see some different weapons and puzzles which can hopefully be implemented through patches or even a new game but until that happens, you could spend your time better.

The Good –

  • Old school shooter
  • Quantity of enemies makes it fast paced

The Bad –

  • Nothing new
  • Gameplay can get tedious
  • Lack of variety throughout maps
  • Stuck with only one weapon

The Score : 5