Do you remember the old Choose Your Own Adventure or Fighting Fantasy books from years ago? If so, you will get a huge nostalgia hit from Themeborne's new title in their 'Escape the Dark' series of games; Escape the Dark Sector!
As a fan of Themeborne's previous game Escape the Dark Castle, I was really looking forward to seeing what Escape the Dark Sector had to offer. Swapping the fantasy aesthetic of their previous game for a sci-fi setting, Escape the Dark Sector is set on a space station where the players assume the roles of a crew trapped amongst aliens, cyborgs and ship malfunctions, which they must overcome to escape and win the game.
The game is a co-operative game for 1-4 players, and it takes literally minutes to learn. Each play through can last between 30-45 minutes and the players must work together to traverse through the space station to achieve their goal and escape. Teamwork is vital in this game, because if one player dies, everyone loses!
The game plays very much like a Choose your own Adventure story, but instead of jumping from page to page to progress the story, this is done by cards which are selected from randomised decks at the beginning of the game. Building your story deck of cards is as simple as choosing four cards from three preshuffled decks, each of which is an 'act'. (Everyone knows any good story is told in three acts.)
Once the story deck is ready, it's time to face whatever terrors await in the darkness. One aspect I really enjoyed of this game is the addition of ranged attacks as well as the melee option. Having the choice to stay back and pick off enemies from a distance before moving in to finish them off is a really nice mechanic and a welcome addition. This added another element of excitement and danger to an already thrilling setting.
Having a team strategy also makes gameplay engaging and fun for all the players on how they decide to tackle some of the obstacles. With an option to have more powerful attacks at the expense of some health, another element comes into play.
I will say this though, don't expect an easy ride. This game is tough. Not in a brutalise and demoralise the players kind of way, but in a 'One more go' way. Unlucky rolls may be the undoing of a team, and it rarely feels unfair, but just gives you the determination to try again. With that in mind, the difficulty level maybe a little tough for younger players.
It would be unjust of me not to mention the spectacular artwork that has been done for this game, as with Escape the Dark Castle, the black and white pictures evoke more of the nostalgia of the 'gamebooks' that I mention at the beginning of the review and really capture the essence of years gone by. This retro styling may not be to everyone's tastes with the monochromatic style, especially if you are used to brightly coloured visuals, but I feel this fits the mood of the game perfectly.
For even more game immersion, I'd recommend picking up the soundtrack for Escape the Dark Sector, as it enhances the mood and adds another element to the entire experience.
In summary, Themeborne have done it
again with their winning formula. A tight and engaging game, with
masses of atmosphere and replayability. Even after several playthroughs with an
analytical mind, I'm really struggling to find many negatives with
Escape the Dark Sector aside from the difficulty level being a little on
the high side.
I think Escape the Dark Sector will make a good opener to any game night, and is worth checking out and seeing for yourself, because I can't praise this game enough. I don't think this review does the game the justice it deserves.
You can order Escape the Dark Sector direct from Themeborne's website - https://www.themeborne.com/escape-the-dark-sector
Disclaimer - Themeborne sent a copy of Escape the Dark Sector to me for review purposes, however this review is based on my own copy which I backed through Kickstarter. I have not been paid by Themeborne or any associated parties for this review.