Shadows everywhere. The cold seeps through your bones. You light the fire. You feed it branches and twigs and wood chips - anything that will burn. Embers splutter and hiss. The room begins to warm. There is nothing else that can be said or done. You stoke the fire and wait.
A text-only, browser-based title, A Dark Room stands as testament to the fact that less can most certainly be more. In the beginning, you're given nothing more than the option to stoke a nascent flame. There is no explanation as to why you're in the eponymous space or who you might be. You, the room, and the events that follow are simply part and parcel of a world that you may never ever completely understand
While the idea of repeatedly hitting a button that says 'stoke fire' and waiting for a bar to tick down may not seem immediately appealing, A Dark Room makes that initial drudgery more than amply worthwhile. At some point, a hypothermic stranger will stumble onto your fire and collapse in front of it, delirious from the cold. Once they've recovered, the game will begin in earnest.
That's all you're getting out of me. Much of the appeal of A Dark Room lies in discovering exactly how it builds onto itself, growing from a repetitive set of motions into a full-fledged adventure. Inversely, as expansive as the world eventually becomes, the delivery never loses its spartan approach. Exposition is sparing. A Dark Room seems to delight in hinting and teasing at what lies behind the curtain. The controls follow a similar pattern. They never really diverge from the original formula: click on box, reap feedback.
The best part about A Dark Room is, arguably, how easily it fits into your daily routine. Unlike most games, A Dark Room demands very little outside of being assigned a tab in your browser. Whenever you want to play with it, it'll be there, quietly chugging along in the background.
A Dark Room has something that many big-budget games lack: the ability to surprise. And not in the 'agh! A video of bloody, screaming woman just popped up on my browser!' sort of way either.