dARk: Subject One

dARk: Subject One Review (iOS)

dARk: Subject One is unique horror augmented reality experience developed using Apple’s ARKit technology. The horror story takes place at your own house. Please note that this review might contain spoilers.

You play as test subject called subject #03. You have been given a mission to recover a lost colleague in a dangerous unknown parallel world. The only entrance to this world is through a portal.

3D Table, chair and a lamp in the dark
Nice lighting effects.

This is a very short experience, which takes a few minutes to finish.  The first time I’ve experienced a portal effect in augmented reality was in Alice in Wonderland AR quest. I have to admit that it was a really magnificent and unique experience.

dARK: Subject One is quite different. The game doesn’t draw an opaque scene around you like in Alice in Wonderland AR, it just paints it with a semi-transparent dark scene. I could still see the room around me, but it became very dark. The game adds objects to the scene which the player needs to interact with. This effect was designed to make the unknown world as a parallel universe, which I believe this is the reason for the semi-transparent setting.

3D boxes one on top of the other in the dark
The game features very minimal interactions.

I asked myself whether this type of game if fun to play in augmented reality? I like traveling from portals in AR, but I found myself preferring the opaque setting like in Alice in Wonderland AR much better than this one.  The whole experience seems scrambled and unclear. There was no prelude that connects you with the story, just a few lines of someone connecting with you via some kind of a communication device.

Major spoiler ahead: Reading the notes didn’t tell me anything about what’s happening. After picking up some notes by clearing a body that fell from the ceiling and moving some boxes, I found myself against standing in front of a table with a sign that tells me to turn around. I turn around and I see a scary looking human being (or whatever it was) covering the entire screen. A few seconds later the game ends.

The spoiler is over.

This actually reminds me of those videos that my friends gave me to watch many years back. I was supposed to concentrate, stay calm and suddenly a witch appears and scared the hell out of you. This was trendy back then but no one uses this cheap jumpscare trick anymore. The whole experience felt exactly like that but with a poor storytelling experience and an ending that seemed to be inspired by The Belair Witch Project movie.

3D human body in the dark, dARk iOS game screenshot
Where this body came from?!

When I finished it I asked myself: “What happened here exactly?”. I really couldn’t answer that. I wasn’t moved, wasn’t immersed and definitely didn’t fill scared. I did like the atmospheric visuals, the lighting effects, and the background music. However, the whole package didn’t end up to create a compelling horror experience. I am not saying that it’s not possible to create a compelling horror experience in AR. dARk: Subject One just didn’t do it for me. I don’t even have another game to compare it to because this is the first time I tried a horror game like that in augmented reality.

I think that these type of horror games are more suitable for virtual reality or with AR glasses.  Even if it the experience was good, how exciting could it be playing it on a small screen of an iPhone? I’ve played many horror games in VR and I can definitely tell you that this type of experience will be much more immersive and thrilling in VR.

Overall, I left the game with a big disappointment. On the positive side, it’s nice to see developers trying out different types of AR experiences. It might work for you better than it worked for me and you might enjoy it.  I am not saying that it’s really bad, but it just feels more like a concept idea than a complete well thought-through experience.

You can download the game from the App Store here.