So…. take the Binding of Issac, then tweak the story and art style until it’s something you’d expect from, say, a Series of Unfortunate Events. You’d have today’s discussion piece: Our Darker Purpose.
The story goes as such, in the Edgewood Home for Lost Children, Mr. L had 3 students he trusted: Regan the beautiful, Goneril the strong, and Cordy the quiet. Mr. L left for the administrator’s office one day, leaving the students to really behind each of the 3, the beautiful to Regan, you get the idea. When it became apparent Mr. L wasn’t coming back, the students began to run amok, starting with killing the quiet students, then spilling into the halls with the other classes, the teachers apparently vanished into the ether. Wow, that got dark fast.
The player takes control of Cordy, who miraculously survived the attack but is now on her own in the nightmarish Edgewood orphanage.
The atmosphere in general is something I really like, dark as it is. It gives up the BoI “in your face” gross-out horror in exchange for a more subtle, read-between-the-lines sort, especially as you read the Orwellian depictions of the school prior to the breakdown of its society. Oh, and the desks and chairs talk sometimes.
Anyway, you go room to room, shooting enemies, picking up tokens, fighting bosses that reside on each floor. All very similar to BoI. That said, the gameplay still works, and the game’s own style sets it apart. There are also new additions, such as level-up bonuses, and the ability to roll away from attacks. The upgrades and items have amusing flavor text as the Administrators mock your attempts to survive. On top of this, you get some choice in which stage you challenge next, each option having some modifier for it, such as smaller levels, or everyone taking more damage from attacks. Better yet, you get more credits for braving tougher environments.
After you die, and you will die, you lose your upgrades from that run. That said it’s not all bad. Any credits you’ve acquired (separate from tokens) can be used to permanently unlock other power-ups for Cordy. You can also throw credits to the Guidance Counselor, granting more passive buffs. We’re seeing more and more roguelikes offer some benefit that persists between lives, and I’m loving the trend. Mainly because I am terrible at said games and need every edge I can get. Also, it makes the game more accessible to those who wouldn’t normally play entries in this genre.
There’s a couple rough spots, such as the difficulty of angled shots, underwhelming upgrades and the bosses. The bosses are hard to hit thanks to somewhat erratic movement and take just a little too long to kill. Half the level-up bonuses are generic percentage bonuses, and they don’t do much to distinguish themselves. In BoI, your character got some noticeably changed depending on what upgrades you found. Here, you always look the same.
Overall, I still enjoyed the game enough to recommend it, especially for any roguelike fans in the audience. The combat is tense, the environment is engrossing, and who wouldn’t love the concept of thrashing bullies with fireballs and chalk?
Our Darker Purpose can be found on steam for $15. Also, if you’d rather just have more Binding of Isaac shenanigans, the remake is also available there for the same price. Either way, have fun, and try not to take it personally when you die.