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Games for the weekend: Dark Meadow

Games for the Weekend is a weekly feature aimed at helping you avoid doing something constructive with your downtime. Each Friday we’ll be recommending a game for Mac, iPhone or iPad that we think is awesome enough to keep you busy until Monday, at least.

Dark MeadowOne of the first computer games I ever played at home was Zork.  It was a text-based game that guided the player through a narrative of obstacles and challenges. Then came PC/Mac (s aapl) games like Myst and more recently Silent Hill, a visually stunning variation on the same storytelling theme that also included the mouse and visuals. Now, there’s Dark Meadow on iOS (on sale for $0.99, normally $5.99).

Dark Meadow 1

With Dark Meadow, the genre of story-based games heads to a new level with touch controls. The graphics are visually stunning, and there’s something about actually holding the whole game in your hand that somehow psychologically connects you more personally to the story.  To complete the immersion, I recommend using a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones. Don’t think this game hangs its hat on the fact that it uses the Unreal graphics engine; it’s the unfolding mystery, witty and surprisingly narrative, and rich media that make this game difficult to put down.

Dark Meadow 2

Game play can at times get to be a little tedious, as must restart from the beginning every time you die. You keep your accumulated stats and items, but have to make you way back through the game world to where you died.  Some of the tedium also comes from the fact that the game’s navigation is on rails, meaning you have a set path and can’t freely explore.

But again, those aren’t the game’s most alluring features anyway.  In-game, you’ll find yourself seeking out a quiet place to unravel the mystery more often than you will a crowded hallway with in which to fight monsters.

The great part about Dark Meadow is that it steers clear of the puzzle or physics-based formulae that most iOS games seem to opt for.  It’s great to see not only some diversity on the iOS gaming platform, but diversity done really well.  Dark Meadow will likely prove one of the landmark gaming experiences that helps drive a gaming platform like iOS into greater maturity.

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