Tormentum: Dark Sorrow: A twisted take on Layton

March 17, 2015


Tormentum: Dark Sorrow is the game you get when you mix the aesthetics of Dark Souls, the puzzle-solving gameplay of Professor Layton and some basic moral-decision-based branching paths, wrapping it in a point-and-click adventure. If this sounds like an absolutely insane combination, that’s because it is, but it works so well. The style drew me in immediately, and the puzzles held my interest throughout the entire experience. The game feels a bit too easy and ends a bit too soon, but the fact that I wanted to keep playing more after the credits rolled only serves to signify the fun I had throughout the short and memorable journey.

The gameplay of Tormentum focuses on exploring richly detailed hand-drawn environments, clicking on items and using those items in various places to unlock puzzles. The puzzles consist of basic logic problems that involve things like sliding puzzles, rotating images into place and pressing buttons that flip lights on and off.

The game has a great pacing; you aren’t repeatedly solving the same types of problems, and the constant flipping between environmental challenges and logic puzzles keeps things feeling fresh. The various areas are also small enough that, when you pick up an item, you almost always have a good feeling of where it should go. Without heavy hand-holding, Tormentum is able to expertly guide you through the non-linear areas, minimizing frustration.


The shining element of Tormentum, and the thing that will most likely draw new players to the title, is its art. Tormentum uses backgrounds and animations that feel almost like a watercolor painting brought to life, but the setting is dark and disturbing. There are depictions of torture, mutilation and demonic imagery, and while the actual content being shown may make you want to look away, the beauty with which it is depicted will make you want to keep your eyes glued to the screen. There aren’t really many games that take on this sort of subject matter, with I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream a notable peer. Worried that the visuals may just be “too much?” Put those fears to rest. Tormentum is very aware of its subject matter and toes the revulsion line, but never crosses it.

The game is broken down into three “acts,” and each act is self-contained. My only real complaint with Tormentum is that this segmentation, while helpful in guiding the player, also makes the game a bit too easy. I never once got lost while exploring or questioned what to do, and while I prefer this over an adventure game that is overly obtuse (there are no rubber chickens with pulleys here), I do like the opportunity to explore and discover more than Tormentum expects or even allows.


The logic problems also suffer from this dumbed-down difficulty, as they never caused me to stumble for more than a moment. What I needed to do is always immediately apparent, and then doing it never leads to any complications or surprises. Part of the thrill of puzzle games lies in the euphoria that stems from solving a complicated challenge. I never struggled hard enough in Tormentum, and so instead of the satisfaction of a challenging crossword, I had the let-down of a simple connect-the-dots puzzle. I loved the three hours I spent and don’t knock the game for being short, but I do wish it had demanded more.

There are numerous moments throughout Tormentum when you have to make what amounts to a moral decision. In each of these moments, there are clear “virtuous choices” and “evil choices.” The game progresses in a roughly linear fashion regardless of the route taken, and it isn’t until the very end that you discover the ramifications of the choices that you made. In this way, Tormentum encourages multiple playthroughs, as the ending you receive can vary and, after beating it once, you learn exactly what you need to do to achieve the ending you want.


The lack of difficulty doesn’t signify a lack creativity, however. One of my favorite things about Tormentum was seeing exactly how the different puzzles were laid out, mainly due to the aesthetic of the world. Despite the fact that it was obvious that I needed to ring a bell at one point to progress further, it was still interesting to see exactly how ringing that bell opened up the next area. Tormentum has an incredible level of polish, and the game’s design is very well thought-out. Every moment in the game fits the overall tone of the world, and actually witnessing each new moment became my primary motivation to continue moving forward.

Tormentum feels very different from other games in its subject matter and tone, while still maintaining familiar and fun gameplay. It may not have been enough to hold my attention mentally, but it more than made up for this visually, and the gameplay was fun enough to keep me engaged throughout the short playtime. Tormentum is definitely twisted and at times downright gross, but it’s gross in a really pretty sort of way.

Pros: Amazing art style, varied environments and gameplay
Cons: Lack of challenge, linearity trumping discovery

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.