It was only a little while ago that we reviewed Happymagenta’s Tomb of the Mask (our review), and that review quickly made it clear just how much we here at iFanzine ravenously adored that game. As such we had rather high expectations going into Happymagenta’s retro Game Boy inspired outing: Into the Dim (out now, free), even if the app’s lack of bright colors didn’t quite live up to the developer’s name nearly as well. While certainly a decent game in its own right, you’ll soon learn how — thanks to some rather aggressive IAP-based decisions — Into the Dim wasn’t exactly able to achieve the same levels of excellence previously witnessed within Tomb of the Mask.
The premise is that you’ve just chased your dog past a bunch of wanted posters for various animals that recently went missing in your neighborhood, so it’s probably not a good idea to let your own pooch get too far ahead. This jaunt quickly takes you through a mysterious opening in the poster-filled fence, which in turn leads you to an bizarrely huge — yet dimly lit — underground dungeon in the midst of your otherwise modern city. Now you’ve got no choice but to explore these creepy catacombs if you ever want to return safely with your canine friend, which is why it’s a very good reason you — for reasons I can’t really fathom — already have a gun preloaded with powerful silver bullets.
Into the Dim is a turn-based strategy game — set in a place with poor visibility (hence the title) — where you can take a specific number of actions, after which it won’t be your turn again until all the other monsters in the place have first used up their own allotted moves. You begin this adventure with three moves-allowed per turn — a maximum potential of three health-points — and a gun capable of holding five silver bullets, all of which can naturally be increased later on (either with coins found in-game, or purchased via IAPs). Additionally each of the various enemy types will have a specific amount of health-points and moves-allowed (which can be seen at any time by tapping them), and some may even have other special properties (which can only be discovered through trial-and-error).
During each of your turns you may either move a single square, punch an enemy standing directly next to you, or fire your gun in any of the four cardinal directions (using up a bullet in the process). Both your gun and fists will do precisely one heart of damage whenever they hit something, with your gun — should it strike something — additionally revealing the existence of an enemy well beyond your limited-vision. Furthermore — for reasons I’ll soon discuss — you can always forfeit your remaining moves at any time you so desire, which results in the app immediately switching over to the monsters’ turns.
The next thing you’ll need to know about Into the Dim’s gameplay is how things are cranked to unforgivingly-hard right out the gate, with players being able to easily go from full-health to totally-dead within only a single turn. This is because the first enemies you’ll encounter — the skeletons named Yorick — get precisely three commands per turn, and you only begin the game with the ability to sustain a grand-total of three full attacks. A player can’t both approach and fully pummel Yorick to death within the same round — as they also have three hearts — meaning that ending a round standing next to one is assured death, as such players must quickly learn to force the Yoricks to chase them.
Enemies aside — each of whom usually drop coins upon defeat — the dungeon is also filled with various treasures and puzzles to track down, which upon completion can reward players with bullet refills — health refills — or even oodles of coins. Generally I found these puzzles to all be entertaining, although I wish the game contained far more of the lock-pick puzzles — which easily could have been their own game — and less block-pushing. One item worth noting at this juncture is that you’ll need to watch an advertisement in order to reset the block-pushing puzzles if you mess up; although this isn’t inherently a problem on its own, this becomes a touch messed-up for reasons I’ll cover further down.
Once you finish a level — which requires you to first find the key locking the exit — you’ll then have the opportunity to either spend your coins on refills (although you can also grind earlier stages for ammo and health chests), plus upgrade your various capacities. Although it’s quite common in the mobile-gaming scene for capacity-upgrades to take a certain amount of time before they’re finally applied, in order to encourage players to pay a “rushing fee”, Into the Dim manages to take this unsavory affair a whole step further. Here you’ll find there’s actually two separate countdown clocks for each and every purchased upgrade, and the second clock — which itself has yet another “rush” option — only begins when you reopen the app after the first countdown clock has finished.
This results in upgrades being 100% guaranteed to be absolutely unfinished whenever you finally come back, even if you’re away for more than twenty-four hours beyond what’s needed, and can be profoundly annoying for anyone not living on their iPhone. This is to say nothing of the fact that in order to acquire these upgrades you’ll either need to IAP-style pony-up for extra coins, or repeatedly grind earlier stages, as there’s no way you’ll survive some of the later challenges without having upgrades under your belt. Between grinding earlier stages in order to afford upgrades — and then waiting for those upgrades to be slowly applied — it’ll often feel like you’re spending far more not having fun, than progressing forward through the game’s otherwise mechanically fun premise.
Which is to say nothing of the fact there’s actually a devious IAP-option that doesn’t aid you whatsoever, and will only serve to increase the game’s already existent coin-grinding slog. Like many other mobile games there exists an option here to permanently remove ads; but using it not only means you’ll no longer be able to watch ads for free coins between levels, you’ll now also have to pay 10 coins instead to reset those block-puzzles. You additionally have a single-chance opportunity each dungeon-attempt to revive yourself — via watching an advertisement — back to life with a single heart, which sadly also ends up becoming replaced with Into the Dim asking for 10 of your coins instead.
Although I didn’t personally experience this deviously-malicious trap, numerous reports exist online — from those not nearly as fortunate — warning others to not avail themselves of this utterly pointless IAP-option.
With all the heavy-handed IAP-greed you’ll run into while playing Into the Dim, it’s actually a touch hard to believe this game truly came from the same people who produced the amazing Tomb of the Mask. Perhaps they’ve done all this because you can easily finish the game — fully upgraded — in less than four days, all without ever paying out a single cent along the way (which is something I actually did). In my opinion Happymagenta really should’ve just charged an upfront price-tag for Into the Dim, rather than having all of that coin-grinding — stacked upgrade clocks — and duplicitous IAPs.
Which is ultimately a crying shame, because when I wasn’t grinding earlier levels — or religiously watching my iPod (thanks to their stacked upgrade clocks) — I was genuinely having fun with Into the Dim’s strategic turn-based game play. They even mix everything up with a special — and ultimately brutal — premise on every fourth level, many of which are some of the most memorable portions of the app’s overall experience. Sadly that otherwise brilliant package — which only lasts for sixteen brief levels — has been ground down to a pathetic-crawl, all thanks to some very wonky and heavy-handed IAP-greed.
So feel free to grab Into the Dim if you’re willing to deal with all of the aforementioned issues, as it’s quite likely you might have fun, but that will still do nothing to change the fact this game could have easily been far better with just a few simple changes.
Into the Dim is a turn-based strategy-game from Happymagenta, the same people responsible for the well-received Tomb of the Mask, which stars a young boy exploring an inexplicable dungeon he found in his town, all in hopes of saving his canine friend. Although the game is a mechanically fun — as well as challenging — experience in its own right, the IAPs featured within are brutally aggressive (which is truly saying something, seeing as how you can finish this app — without ever spending a cent — in just four days). Into the Dim would have been far better served if Happymagenta had just charged money for it upfront, still — if one has the patience to slog through a metric ton of duplicitous upgrade clocks, as well as constant grinding — then there’s still some fun to be had here.