Tokyo Dark tells the story of a detective seeking her missing partner, and what the desperation of her search does to her mental state—at least if you play it that way. Tokyo Dark offers a lot of leeway with how players navigate its adventure game puzzles and moral quandaries, letting players choose how they wish to move forward.
Tokyo Dark accomplishes this with the SPIN system. This tracks four traits: Sanity, Professionalism, Investigation, Neurosis. These traits create a general path through all of the player’s decisions, awarding deducting points based on what they do. Refusing a drink can earn the player a few points in professionalism, but shooting off locks in the police station will deduct them. Asking the same person for information too many times may increase Neurosis, reflecting the player’s desperation to find an answer.
Depending on the point levels of these traits, decisions will open or close to the player and new events may play out as they increase or decrease. A lower Sanity may bring more supernatural occurrences to the fore, while a heightened Investigation may help a player find better clues that will lead to alternate routes to solving the case.
These result in a story that feels entirely your own. My version of Ito, the protagonist, started off desperate: pulling guns on people, threatening potential witnesses, tampering with investigations, and taking drinks where needed. Over time, I watched these choices tarnish Ito’s career while providing little help in investigating, so I then came at things with a more professional approach. I took time to answer questions, considering a more professional response. I was kind to witnesses and wanted to help.
The game’s narrative shifted as I altered my approach, and in the end, it felt like I told my story within the game’s world. While this same kind of appeal can be seen in many Telltale Games, Tokyo Dark’s story shifts felt more immediate due to watching the SPIN meters rise and fall and seeing the story change more within that single game rather than over several titles.
And it was a delightfully dark world to tell it in. Tokyo Dark’s vision of the streets and countryside of Japan is a bleak, neon-soaked place of lost souls. Shadow figures flit by as Ito delves through the country’s underbelly, meeting many downcast people throughout her journey to tie together a satisfyingly twisted narrative of supernatural, and entirely natural, misery. The style is very satisfying, although some character models seem a little too simple compared to others.
Tokyo Dark offers a powerful player experience, having them solve the crime on their own terms, whatever those may be, and deal with the consequences in immediate, unsettling ways.