Darkest Tales - Take everything you think know and turn it on its head. (Review)

  Imagine a world in which Red Riding Hood is a vicious murderer, the Genie tricks you into making him rich, Jack and the Giant live in ahem...


Imagine a world in which Red Riding Hood is a vicious murderer, the Genie tricks you into making him rich, Jack and the Giant live in ahem…harmony, and Gepetto is the puppet. This is the world that Darkest Tales introduces. The game takes fairytales as we know and love them and introduces them in a whole new, very twisted light. Hide your children folks, because this isn’t the kind of story you grew up with.

What is it?

Darkest Tales is a side-scrolling platformer that falls into the ‘metroidvania’ category. 


Gameplay (Plot overview, Game Type):

You play as a teddy bear who is awakened by a ball of light. The light asks him to help rescue Alicia, their owner, from demons who have infected the dream world in her mind and made her sick. The angry, grouchy, abandoned teddy bear doesn’t really want to participate because he felt neglected by Alicia, but as Lighty - the ball of light who leads you on your quest - calls him out on his BS, he reluctantly agrees to go along. 

The game starts you out with some basic platforming commands. You jump over obstacles, drop through platforms, and follow Lighty as she leads you forward. Our main character, Teddy starts with limited skills, abilities and weapons. As you progress through the levels, you will get double jump, grapple, and more - but for now, you’ve got nothing. The game does allow you to backtrack at later points to try and collect additional skills and level up.

Don’t be fooled - this is what I like to call a ‘precise platformer’. It’s very exacting, with little room for error, and sometimes there are long stretches where you don’t have access to a save point and have to restart if you fall or fail. 

The graphics of the game are really pretty with a soft aesthetic to them, despite the often gory and rough content of the world.

The levels vary based on who it’s focused around (Jack, Red Riding Hood, Little Mermaid, Captain Hook, Pinocchio, etc) and there’s definitely a different feel to each section. They do a great job in making the environment feel like it’s alive and…hostile. While I say it’s ‘pretty’, I mean the graphics themselves are well done - the devs use their power for evil to distort a lovely world into gruesome - it really drives home the twisted fairytale aspect. There are moments that are downright gross.

The game does not have heal potions but instead introduces a self-heal option early on. This is incredibly helpful as you progress through the levels, but the animation takes a long time and if interrupted, the heal will not complete. This makes it especially hard to find lulls long enough during moments of intense fighting or boss encounters to try and keep health topped off.

Additional mainline skills are gained throughout the playthrough which make it easier to get access to other areas (double jump, throw, block)

The sound is really well done, and I appreciate that the characters are all voiced. There are minimal accessibility options but it does offer subtitles - that are not always accurate to what is being said. The main character’s name is pronounced multiple ways in the voiceovers. I do give them credit for having a fully voiced game, but some of the voicing decisions didn’t seem to fit with the characters. Although the voice grew on me, the chain-smoking teddy bear didn’t initially sit right with me. 

There are two kinds of mirrors you’ll interact with in the game. There are domed mirrors which act as save/checkpoints; they give you access to your menus, which you cannot access at any other time. If you die, you respawn at the most recent domed mirror you touched, but upon crossing them they do not heal you. 

There are also shattered mirrors, which are teleports to other areas or within the level, but don’t really provide any utilization until the game is complete and you are backtracking to collect. 

Hazards are also not as visually distinguished as they could be. Initially I thought glowing red was bad, but this changes as you go through the game for other colors too, like Green and Purple. Example: This green is not OK to touch.

Initially, the levels are self-contained, go from left to right with slight path variations, and fight a boss at the end. Around 3 levels in, they change the style of a specific area to have multiple sub-zones in one, larger level. This would have been great but the game didn’t offer any indication as to which route to go, and certain pathways were not accessible until new skills were acquired (like flying). 

The menu is inaccessible during gameplay which creates both a problem of not being able to assign new abilities when acquired, and also creating soft-locks where you may need to swap to different abilities before a boss fight and you can’t get access to a save point to make the change. 

Without spoiling anything, the way the game ending comes to a strange conclusion that felt very rushed or tacked on. 

In the beginning of the game, you’ll have the option to select your difficulty. I chose medium, and the difficulty spikes were all over the place. There were fights I couldn’t get past at all (Here’s looking at you, Sleeping Beauty), and then there were some that felt too easy (like some of the final fights). It definitely did get harder the further you went to the game. It however didn’t feel like a slope but more like a rollercoaster. On one of the final bosses I accidentally glitched through its body and it couldn’t hurt me. I did most of my damage from there. The technical bugs and flaws did this game no favors.

Presentation (How game looks, feels, sounds)

The animations for the game are 2.5D and while they look really great there is also difficulty distinguishing visually what is part of the foreground, background, and what’s interactable. This created many issues during our playthrough, most notably dying on things that looked like they were part of the background, getting stuck and not realizing that part of the background was able to be used as a jump, or lastly falling down a large portion of a vertical level trying to jump to a platform that was part of the background. 

I played through the game with a controller, and the controls were not complicated. The main controls were attack (X), heavy attack (B), jump (A), Magic (LT), Throw (RS), Heal (LB), Grapple (Y). 

There were definite issues with the behavior and responsiveness of the buttons, which is one of my biggest concerns with this game. There were areas where I got stuck or completely had to replay things over and over because of inexplicable glitches. For example, there was an area where you are being chased by Jack’s Giant and you have to do timed platforming throughout a level. 

There were no checkpoints throughout the platforming, and the responsiveness of hitting jump, jump, was about 50% successful. Initially I thought this was a problem with my controller, so I actually swapped in another controller only to discover this was a game issue. I also took issue with the ‘throw’ system. In the middle of a frenzied fight or boss encounter I’d try to throw my weapon and it wouldn’t respond at all. It was almost as if there was an invisible stamina bar for weapon attacks that if it were low, you could not use the throw ability. It was absolutely infuriating. Speaking of platforming sections, there were areas where the rotating platforms wouldn’t line up properly or the timing didn’t make sense and you’d have to take a hit just to brute force forward. 

I also noticed that there seemed to be either an overabundance or lack of save points, they definitely could have been balanced better. 

There is a leveling system. As you kill enemies you acquire XP that eventually gains you a level. Each time you level up the game will allow you to choose a new ability. The abilities can be incredibly helpful to your forward progression, but you have to work your way down multiple trees in order to unlock things. The game will stop you from going down trees until you progress further in the story. I really wanted to build down the heal tree and it made me keep putting points into ranged attacks and charged attacks until it would unlock further options down the heal tree. By the time I finished the game, I had about half of the skills unlocked. I presume that you are expected to unlock the rest as you go back to try to 100% each area. 

There were also Skill/XP orbs hidden throughout the levels which are required to be collected to 100% the game, and gave Teddy additional abilities that made the game easier. In my playthrough I found a few that I felt were truly critical, such as 50% less mana to heal and 50% more xp from enemies. It’s worth mentioning XP gains were extremely slow, so this was a huge help. In my playthrough, I unlocked 4 of 6 skill slots, and found about ⅔ of the available skills. When a skill was found, either the pop-up on the screen was accidentally bypassed or stayed on entirely too long. Whichever one you didn’t want to happen it would do. 

I’d like to take this moment to mention that 100% the game seems to be an ugly prospect. I went through and replayed three separate areas, checking every path, utilizing every skill, finding all I could. One of the areas I was not able to get past 88%, which tells me I’m missing two hidden orbs. I went through the whole level again and increased to 88.2% but could not tell you how I got an additional 0.2%. Another level I got to 99.5% and clearly found all the hidden orbs, but I could not tell you how I was expected to gain another 0.5%. The game gives no indications, has no map, and all you can do is your best guess as to what it wants from you. 

Along with the difficulties in the button responsiveness I really felt like the game struggled technically. My PC has high specs, and I had to drop the quality back twice in order to make it playable due to frame drops, and even when I did there were specific areas that always encountered frame drops when I passed through them. 


Final Thoughts: The game had strong potential that is marred by poor button responsiveness, bugs, and technical issues. 

Achievements: I played 12.6 hours, and completed 33/41 achievements. Most of the missed achievements are defeating an enemy in a specific way, but one of them was to acquire a weapon I missed completely. As there is no achievement for 100% the game, I feel like the remainder are totally achievable. 

Game Information

Title: Darkest Tales

Website: https://store.101xp.com/en/games/thedarkesttales

Developer: Trinity Team

Publisher: 101XP

Release Date: 10/13/22

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

Review platform: Steam

Price at launch: $24.99 USD

ESRB: T for Teen; Blood, Violence


About the Writer: Kyleia is an avid Xbox fan and achievement chaser. She is an Ambassador Community Champion & has a love of all games with a burning passion for indies and nautical adventures. She can often be found streaming indie games, achievement hunts, building crafts, playing cooperative adventures or sailing the seas on https://twitch.tv/Kyleia. You can also find her discussing indie games on Xbox Game Pass on the Destination Indie. Destination Indie can be found on Twitter.com/DestIndie, or if you’re just looking to say “hi” you can find Lish at Twitter.com/Kyleia.


xbox 5053856577064409135

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