The first DreadOut game was as fascinating as it was frustrating; genuinely horrific, yet occasionally downright horrible. For every great idea, there was a more dubious one; for every well-executed moment, there was a decidedly crappier one. Hell, even the quality of the graphics sometimes seemed to belong to two very different games. Now, I could also mention a certain slightly infamous debacle involving said graphics - something to do with 64 bits "temporarily" switching to 32 bits, and somehow never finding its way back - but I'm willing to let bygones be bygones and do my best to review Keepers of the Dark, allegedly more of a "standalone" game than a full-blown sequel, on its own merits. Having said that, comparisons to the first game will of course be inevitable.
Ask anyone who had mixed feelings about the first DreadOut what their major issues were, and you're bound to get two resounding answers. Firstly, there was the fact that every time you died, you ended up in a "Limbo"-like place, whereupon your character would slooowly get to her feet, before you were forced to even more slooooowly run toward a light to return to the land of the living. I'm sure it was a nice idea on paper, but in real-world execution, it was painful and repetitive to say the least. Well, I'm sad to say that this brilliant idea has gone nowhere. They have admittedly added a bit more interest value to it by putting in a series of ghostly "vignettes" (depicting scenes from the first game) which you can investigate to net an Achievement, but this is amusing only the once, and doesn't change the fact that you'll still be doing an awful lot of tedious running toward that annoying, swirling blue light, just to earn the privilege of appearing in precisely the wrong place in the boss-fight you just died in...meaning that you'll no doubt be visiting the land of Limbo again in no time.
And speaking of boss-fights, just say the words "scissor ghost" to anyone who played the first game, and you'll not only witness a violent tensing of the neck muscles, but also be privy to the second most common complaint the first game received. Simply put, this was one of the longest, hardest, and downright shittiest boss-fights known to Man. And it occurred a quarter of the way through the game! Public outcry was adamant that the fight should be made easier, but such complaints somehow fell upon deaf developer ears. So here we are, two years later, and the great minds at Digital Happiness have decided to give us what? An entire game FULL of boss-fights! (Should they have a single team member specifically responsible for "quality control", that person should be summarily drawn, quartered, and fired as quickly as humanly possible.) Now sure, none of the boss-fights in Keepers are quite as anger-inducing as the infamous "scissor ghost", but a couple certainly give it a run for its money. A quick note to aspiring game developers: Please, make some effort to understand what goes into a good boss fight before you go basing an entire game around them. One such poorly-executed sequence can do enough damage to a game. A whole stinking plethora of them just reeks of stupidity.
The problem with Digital Happiness is that they only know how to live up to one half of their name. Or in other words: They don't know how to make a game "fun". Scary, yes. Intriguing, yes. Maybe even a teeny, tiny bit compelling. But "fun" and Happiness are two things which seem destined to never quite meet. I would love to see another DreadOut game, but only once they've taken the time to rethink things a bit, and rebuild their design approach from the ground up. Don't just take the worst aspects of the first game and turn them into a hastily-made, ill-advised spin-off. Here's to the next installment being rebuilt from the ground up, with heavily rethought mechanics and game design. There's the potential for brilliance here. I look forward to that potential one day becoming a reality (even if the devs have officially announced that they're taking a wee break from the franchise for now...and probably for the best, methinks).