DarkPark – Stay in the Dark – Immersiv Experience
This review is also available in: Deutsch (German)
Vlaardingen / 2 – 6 players/ price: 95 – 50 Euro per player /
Location: Oliver van Noortlaan, 3133 Vlaardingen, Niederlande
Date of Play: 19.06.2021
Language: Dutch and English
The new year started with a real bang. Dutch operator DarkPark announced on New Year’s Day that a “terrifying new experience” would be coming in the spring. After the pandemic-related postponement and various teasers via social media, we booked our ticket directly for the second weekend after the opening. The key data of the game already sounded promising in advance. With a playing time of 2.5 hours and a 4,000 square meters playing area, it was clear that great things were in store for us.
DarkPark is for me one of the highest quality providers in the Netherlands. All rooms are worthwhile and absolutely immersive. With The End, the team has created an unforgettable adventure, which is also in our top 2019 list. Accordingly, our expectations were high with regard to the latest project. Whether Stay in the Dark was able to fulfill them and whether the admittedly high price is justified, you can read here.
Shortly before the game started, we received the first information about the secret location and the story. The video is a clever cryptic introduction to the story. Even when we arrived at the location, we didn’t really know what to expect. DarkPark cleverly uses this to build up suspense in advance.
Stay in the Dark
Your breath catches in your throat as suddenly footsteps sound on the stairs you were hiding under. You see someone slowly coming down, the person turns around and walks towards your hiding place. She gropes in the darkness, her hands reaching for you and her face coming closer and closer to yours. Her hollow eyes look right through you. While you almost bite your tongue to keep from making a sound, the same words keep running through your head: “Why the hell did I come here?
The game begins here already with the arrival at the location. The special thing about this is that it is a real industrial setting, so the story was written to match the location and is thus transported absolutely credibly. We were picked up at the large entrance gate and were already in our roles from that point on.
As the game progresses, it becomes completely dark, light, loud, quiet and, above all, dramatic. DarkPark also evokes a range of feelings in Stay in the Dark, from fear, courage, stress to serenity. These feelings are generated by varied industrial settings and tasks. The interplay of light, sound and fog is really completely on point here.
As announced on the homepage, the game will be accompanied and dominated by an actor. Please note that you might be slightly touched and isolated. The actor plays a central role for Stay in the Dark, so you should get involved with what happens. You should definitely be well mobile and free from vertigo to meet the game’s requirements.
Stay in the Dark mixes the approaches of an immersive theater with the basic ideas of an escape game. Even though it was announced as “terrifying”, we did not find it to be absolute horror. We would rather classify the game as a psychological thriller, which is scary in places, but doesn’t go too far. The effects used increase over the course of the game and lead to surprises that we have never seen before, especially due to the large playing area.
The story already starts with the email announcement in the run-up. During the game, the story is further told through visual details. DarkPark deliberately refrains from written and verbal communication in the form of the now familiar diary entries or radio play elements. Therefore, despite the hustle and bustle in the room, it makes sense to pay attention to the small details in order to penetrate the story.
The finale was dramatic – really dramatic. The impressions for us players were overwhelming and, after a hectic chaos, we were excitedly watching the acting interlude, which we rewarded with applause for our actor at the end. The show effects were definitely more than successful.
Experienced players will find some Easter Eggs in Stay in the Dark and will recognize the experience as a side story of an already known story.
Stay in the Dark does without any hints during the game. We, as players, were left to our own resources, so that the way we played was the determining factor for reaching the end. All in all, these are tasks where external help would only make sense to a limited extent. Therefore, not having a gamemaster definitely made sense and ensured the immersive nature of the experience. However, this also led to the fact that we as a group left the industrial site again after only 2 hours (including a long de-briefing). Therefore, it is better to enjoy the full game time instead of hurrying.
A lot was demanded of the actor physically within the playing time. These were not simple jump-scares, but physically demanding acting performances that were perfectly timed. In combination with the sound and lighting effects, a great show was created.
DarkPark could definitely convince us with the latest project Stay in the Dark. The use of the industrial backdrop with the high-quality produced use of sound and light was unique for us so far. All in all, Stay in the Dark is an elaborately staged and immersive experience that mixes elements of theater, escape room and horror maze. If you are looking for a puzzle room, you are definitely in the wrong place. Contrary to the announcement, the scare factor is in the upper, but still moderate range for us, so that Stay in the Dark is also bearable for non-horror fans.
Certainly, the high price may be a discouraging factor at first. However, when you put the effort of the professional production as well as the long playing time into relation, the price is justified. Get involved with the story, act quietly in the dark, and you’ll have an experience you’ll remember for a long time.