Before the rise and fall of Angry Birds, Rovio produced a number of Java phone games, of which the shining jewel (or most tenebrous void?) was undoubtedly the Darkest Fear series.
Hybrid survival horror puzzle adventure games with a genuinely haunting atmosphere, the Darkest Fear games all use a top-down isometric perspective as you navigate the map and static or lightly animated photobashed cutscenes.
The primary puzzle mechanic ties in with narrative themes of (literal) darkness and light as you use illumination puzzles to safely traverse each area, save other inhabitants from a mysterious virus, and confront what nightmarish monstrosities may lie waiting in the dark.
There's also a bit of light sokobanning as you punt crates and rocks around to clear paths, and a handful of action sequences. Although some of these involve more dodging than you might necessarily like, they're rare and the games' difficulty curve is generally pretty casual.
The first game begins at a hospital that has been plunged into an eerie darkness. Thomas Warden is summoned to Grim Oak hospital by his wife, a doctor there. He finds the place shadow-haunted, deserted by its staff and, soon, haunted by hideous monsters. At a couple of key points, your choices and the equipment you carry make a difference to how the plot unfolds and who you can save.
Set five years after the first game, Darkest Fear 2: Grim Oak gives you more monsters to evade and more light sources to take advantage of. There's greater emphasis on object puzzles, giving a light adventure game vibe to the proceedings. You finally get to leave the hospital and explore the town of Grim Oak. Graphics are more varied and the world is relatively open, giving you some choice in the order that you explore in.
The final instalment, Darkest Fear: Nightmare, introduces a second playable character who must cling to the darkness for safety as fervently Warden must keep to the light. You can switch between them to tackle puzzles suited to their unique skill-sets, and, as the overarching series narrative concludes, a total of 15 different endings can be achieved. This third entry in the series uses some particularly nice lighting effects and has generally more polished graphics.
Although the first installment was available on iOS for a while, the J2ME editions can safely be regarded as definitive. You can and should treat these as successive chapters of the same game.
Although they deal with horrific themes and bear a Mature rating, the stylised graphics leave most of the unpleasantness to your imagination.
The entire series combines a sometimes janky, yet atmospheric, plot with gratifying puzzles, solid level design, and excellent use of their target devices' limited graphical capabilities. They play nicely on modern Android devices thanks to J2ME Loader.
You can still watch the 2006 trailer for Darkest Fear 3 on the official Angry Birds channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_9G2Z86XtM
Download Darkest Fear – https://phoneky.com/games/?id=j4j48955
Download Darkest Fear 2: Grim Oak – https://phoneky.com/games/?id=j4j50535
Download Darkest Fear 3: Nightmare – https://phoneky.com/games/?id=j4j38391
Play on Android/derivatives with J2ME Loader via F-Droid (https://f-droid.org/en/packages/ru.playsoftware.j2meloader/) or Google Play (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ru.playsoftware.j2meloader&gl=US).
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