The Y button has never been my favourite. Since earning disdain as the melee button in Bad Company (I could never get to it in time) it has steadily earned a modicum of respect as a reliable but unglamorous workhorse that lets me switch weapons or look at something interesting but it has never truly excited me. Well all that has changed as in Dark Void Fun starts with a Y. One press of the little yellow underdog triggers a powerful jetpack that instantly launches the hero into the direction he is facing at full speed. His arms and legs flail about as he adjusts to the sudden acceleration and the sudden change in movement looks and feels incredible. It’s easy to miscalculate as a slightly wrong angle can send him head first into a brick wall but it adds dangerous thrills and slapstick head trauma to an already impressive manoeuvre.
This is my favourite part of the game which is telling in itself. When one take-off animation is the high point you can probably guess that the rest is fairly medicore and that is what we have here. The rest of the game is a fairly generic cover shooter although the jetpack enables a novel vertical aspect that means you can boost up to higher platforms and drag enemies off ledges leg first. The story involves a WW2 pilot and his inevitably kidnapped lady sidekick who are drawn into an alternate world (the void in question) while travelling through the Bermuda Triangle. He encounters other lost humans that either worship or fight an alien race that seems to be indigenous to the world they have found themselves in. Sadly it stops at being a great premise and the idea that all those mysteriously missing people have been taken into an alternate would could have been a lot more fun. Glenn Miller DLC would have been incredible.
We all know that a great main character can really hold a game together but, again, Dark Void stops at the ideas level as after some initial mild surprise the protagonist gets to the business of laser-blasting baddies with very little adjustment. In fact I can’t even remember his name although I am pretty sure it’s only one syllable like Brad or Will or something, clearly one syllable is one too many.
It sounds like I am down on the game and in a lot of respects it fails to meet it’s potential but it does have one very strong thing going for it and that is the simple joy of movement. It seems like a trivial thing but that heart-stopping blast into the sky really is worth digging this game out of the bargain bin. Subsequent controls can be a little fiddly but being able to immediately stop in mid-air, hover, shoot up a few enemies behind cover and then jet off into the sky is truly exhilarating. It seems a shame that there are so many titles like Dark Void that are ignored when they are not only perfectly fun games in their own right, but are also a solid stepping stone to a potentially accomplished sequel. I am pretty sure nobody is going to pick this licence up which is a real shame and it will have to sit alongside Project Eden, Stubbs the Zombie and Herdy Gerdy as a flawed implementation of great ideas.