Close your eyes and think back to the late 80’s era of metal music. Picture every album cover, poster, and movie you saw that had to do with all things creepy and metal. Now imagine someone has taken that style of art and melded it with a point and click adventure game about survival and mor(t)ality. This is exactly what OhNoo Studio has done with their game Tormentum: Dark Sorrow. Drawing heavily on the works of H.R. Giger and Zdzisław Beksiński, Tormentum offers a terrifying, yet beautiful, world to wander through, where everything seems both alien and organic.
There’s very little in the way of animation in Tormentum, and that actually makes it feel a bit like a classic flash game. Sadly, the art is the main driving point of the entire experience, and once you’ve scratched the surface of the wonderful visuals, you’re left with lackluster puzzles and a very minimal storyline.
You play as a mysterious hooded figure in tattered robes who awakens to find himself (or herself?) trapped in a metal cage flying through the air. Thankfully, you weren’t the only one captured, and a large rat man explains that you’re headed to a large castle from which no one ever returns. The guards residing there seek to purge you of your sins and cleanse the evil in your soul through various means of torture and subjugation, but since you’ve lost your memories, there’s no explanation of what makes you evil or why you’ve been chosen to be purified. The only thing you remember is a large statue of a woman on a hill.
What information you do gain is delivered in a cut and dry manner that makes all of the NPCs you encounter along the way extremely interchangeable, and though you are offered choices throughout the game that will affect the ending, there’s no real drive to choose one over the other. Do you kill a woman in a cage at the behest of a jester, or no? You’re given very little reason or explanation for the choices you’re faced with, so your decisions seem ultimately frivolous. Though you could replay the game to make different choices and get the different endings, there was little incentive to do so.
As a veteran of the point and click genre, I felt like Tormentum was patronizing me – as if perhaps it didn’t actually want to be a game, it wanted to be an art gallery. While most point and click adventure games will plop you in an area, give you an overall objective (such as “escape the giant scary castle”), and leave you to figure it out, Tormentum grabs you by the head and pushes your nose into each step of the puzzle so you’re sure not to miss anything. Do you see this thing on the floor? No? Here, let me add a giant glow effect that will pulse so you don’t miss it. Many times, the NPCs will tell you exactly how to solve a puzzle or move on to the next stage, taking away much of what makes these sorts of games intriguing. Some puzzles even have scraps of paper nearby to show you how to solve them. Time and time again I found myself with all the pieces of a puzzle I’d never come across, simply by clicking anything that would glow or looked vaguely important. There’s little to nothing that draws the player into the story or connects them to the people and creatures they encounter.
To be fair, all the elements of a good game are there, and Tormentum: Dark Sorrow could easily be an amazing adventure, albeit with less hand-holding and a more focused writing team. All the foundation points are there, but without any elaboration it just feels like you’re getting a CliffsNotes version of the bigger picture. Still, if you’re looking for a point and click game that won’t require a lot of heavy thinking and will help you unwind after work, Tormentum would be a good choice. Lean back, sip your drink of choice, and take a trip back to the era of classic metal as you enjoy the stunning visuals and eerie music.