Dark & Deep – Early Access Preview

Dark & Deep - Early Access Preview

I was intrigued when Matt messaged me one day with a mystery game code. 

“I saw this and it reminded me of you,” he said. 

Immediately I was filled with dread. Our lovely Player 2 editor doesn’t send me codes “just because”, and I have done enough Sadistic Santa podcasts to know that any code from Matt is usually bad. 

So it was with great trepidation that I started ‘Dark & Deep’ by Walter Woods and Here Below studio. From the cover art I knew I was in for a scary horror game (my absolute favourite she says with dripping sarcasm) so there was nothing else to do but buckle down and get through it. Like a brave little soldier, I turned on all the lights in my house, grabbed a blanket and a stuffed animal, and faced the horrors that awaited me.


Set for release on Steam in August, Dark & Deep is a cosmic horror puzzle game that bends the boundaries between sanity and reality. You play as Samuel Judge, an avid listener of the conspiracy podcast ‘Dark & Deep’, who gets drawn into a world of mystery and horror. Plunged into peculiar and terrifying landscapes, the aim of the game is to navigate your way through puzzles and unravel the mystery around you. Despite the many, many horrors that are out there trying to rip you to shreds, the only weapon you’re able to use against them is a magical picture frame.

Yep. You heard me.  No guns. No big baseball bats. No giant spikey ball on a chain. You get a picture frame.

In a battle between ‘the embodiment of darkness and horror’ vs ‘dude who listens to podcasts’, I know who I would bet on as the winner (especially if the person controlling the podcast listener is me). That being said, the magical frame provides an interesting mechanic, and when creatures with scary faces and big claws are coming to gut me, I’ll take anything that can help make them disappear


Reminiscent of Project Zero (that scary Japanese horror game Matt also made me review) where you used the camera to see ghosts and banish them, the frame in Dark & Deep provides a similar function. It allows you to find and see hidden objects (and not-so-hidden creatures of doom and despair) which help you get through the levels unscathed (mostly).

Woods has opted for less of a ‘hand holdy’ style tutorial and instead gone for a ‘try not to die while you figure it out’ system of gameplay. Other than basic control elements, the game won’t guide you towards the answers you seek, instead providing basic tasks or warnings for you to heed in order to progress. One such warning was “Don’t fall in the water” so of course the first thing I did was have Samuel yeet himself into the water as quickly as he could. 

I regretted it.

Confronted by a foul, rotting creature with protruding bones and hollow eye-sockets black as a void, I quickly realised that if Dark & Deep warns you not to do something…you probably shouldn’t do it.

Dark & Deep utilises the artwork of late French artist, Gustave Dore to inspire the landscapes of the different levels. The unique art style lends itself excellently to the surreal and terrifying story being pieced together throughout the game. And though the graphics aren’t the selling point of the title, it’s a testament to Woods & the studio that they’re able to create such a thrilling, scary atmosphere with such a monochromatic and retro-style aesthetic. 


Dark & Deep does an excellent job of building suspense and horror throughout its levels, and this is largely due to the excellent sound design. Throughout the parts I played, there’s this constant noise of something just over your shoulder, and being able to hear the creatures of the dark without seeing them definitely makes for a terrifying experience. In some parts where exploration was needed, I’ll admit I actually removed my headset so I could do it in silence because I was getting that freaked out. Yes, I’m a weenie, what are you gonna do about it?

Being in early access, Dark & Deep has its share of bugs and friction points. My biggest gripe was how often I got stuck in terrain, and with checkpoints few and far between, it was annoying to have to go back and replay bits. However, this is to be expected of an early-access title, and with two months until launch, I’m confident these niggles will be gone before the full release. There’s also a Feedback option in the main menu of the game, which is a great sign that the devs want the feedback and will take it on board and get it fixed. 


Dark & Deep is a great example of the creativity and ingenuity that can come out of an indie game studio. The passion of Woods & Here Below studio can be seen throughout, and even though I spent the whole time stuck in a perpetual ‘fight or flight’ I can definitely appreciate the thrilling atmosphere the game achieves. 

Dark & Deep officially launches on Steam in August 2024.

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