Whenever I hear about a new indie roguelike, I can’t help but roll my eyes initially. It’s not because I don’t like the genre. On the contrary, Rogue Legacy 2 is one of my favorite games of the year and I’d argue Hades might be the best game of the entire decade so far. It’s just that the genre has been done to death at this stage and I’m always left wondering how many more ways it can be pulled apart.
Eyes in the Dark once again proves that game developers are much more creative than I am. The new Gearbox-published title is immediately notable for its striking black-and-white art style. What makes it really shine, though, is its flashlight-based combat, which helps it stands out among a crowded genre. It may not stand side-to-side with some of the best modern roguelikes, but it’s a bright idea worth checking out.
The game takes place in 1922, with the young Victoria Bloom visiting her grandfather’s mansion. Aesthetically, it’s a little all over the place. It’s presented like a silent movie with dialogue cards during cutscenes, but it has a modern cartoon art style and a fairly standard soundtrack you’d hear in any other roguelike. The only thing that really emphasizes the setting is its black-and-white palette, which is as distinct as it is functional.
The core premise of the game is that Victoria’s grandpa is kidnapped by bugs, so she must head into the ever-shifting manor and save him. Her only weapon is a flashlight, which can be aimed with the right joystick if you’re using a controller. Whenever she enters a new room, it’s cloaked in a thick black fog that dissipates as you aim at it, revealing the enemies hiding within.
The flashlight essentially acts like a gun, damaging any enemy in its beam. Victoria can acquire different bulbs during each run, which changes how the beam of light shoots out. Some shoot damaging bubbles of light instead of a horizontal beam. Others shoot out in a burst of sparks, like a shotgun blast. It’s a clever spin on the twin-stick shooter that replaces bullets with light patterns.
The game’s roguelike (or “rogue-light,” more accurately) elements are all fairly standard beyond that. You’ll collect upgrades that alter both your flashlight and your side weapon, a light slingshot. The goal is to beat a bug boss in each of the mansion’s nine zones, gradually unlocking new areas. There’s a bit of progression too, as each run grants you knowledge points that can be spent on permanent perks and new upgrades. It’s easier than most roguelikes I’ve played and has a lot of visual repetition, but none of that detracts from the creative design ideas on display here. I’ve had plenty of fun over the past week testing out builds while booting up quick runs on my Steam Deck (it’s a perfect game for the platform thanks to its controller layout).
If you’re hungry for a fun roguelike that brings some neat twists to the table, Eyes in the Dark is worth checking out. Between its striking visual style and its clever flashlight combat, it’s one of the more inventive new releases to drop this summer, even if it just winds up being a flash-in-the-pan curiosity in the long run.
Eyes in the Dark is available now on PC.