A Dark Room

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A Dark Room
A dark room logo.jpg
Developer(s)Doublespeak Games, Amir Rajan (iOS)
Publisher(s)Doublespeak Games, Circle Entertainment (Switch)
Designer(s)Michael Townsend
Genre(s)Online text-based role-playing game
Incremental game[1]

A Dark Room is an open-source software role-playing text-based game originally published in mid-2013 for web browsers by Canadian indie studio Doublespeak Games. Later that year, it was released in the App Store for iOS devices. In 2014, a prequel entitled The Ensign, which provided more insight into the world and its characters, was released for iOS.


A Dark Room was created by Michael Townsend and released for browsers on June 10, 2013.[2] According to Townsend, the game was designed to tell its story entirely through environmental cues, rather than relying on exposition and dialogue.[1] In July 2013, Townsend released the source code of the game on GitHub under the open source license MPL 2.0.[3] Soon, Townsend was contacted by developer Amir Rajan, who asked for permission to adapt the game for iOS.[1][4] Amir ported the game to iOS using the RubyMotion mobile toolchain,[5] and released it on the App Store in late 2013.[1] From 2014 onwards an Android port of A Dark Room was being worked on, which was finally released in 2016.[6][7]


The game begins with the player awakening in a cold, dark room after a mysterious event.[1] Initially, the player can only light and tend a fire in the room. As the game progresses, the player gains the abilities to collect resources, interact with strangers, start a village, and explore the world. As the game progresses, the type and quantity of resources and exploration available increases.[8] According to The New Yorker, "What follows is a strange hybrid, part mystery story and part smartphone productivity software...the game evokes the simplest text-based computer games of the nineteen-seventies while stimulating a very modern impulse to constantly check and recheck one's phone. It's like a puzzle composed of deconstructed to-do lists."[1] The site added, "You can begin to see a structure emerge from the fragments, but where that structure will lead you remains impossible to predict, and so the compulsion to keep pressing little word buttons grows stronger."[1]

Critical reception[edit]

Review score
TouchArcade4/5 stars[9]

TouchArcade gave the game a rating of 4 out of 5, writing, "It's a strange little thing, to be sure, but I'd definitely recommend A Dark Room to people who appreciate off-beat RPGs, fans of experience-driven games, or really anyone looking for something a little bit different from usual."[9] Slide to Play rated it 3 out of 4, commenting, "It may not seem like much at first, but if you stick around long enough, it's easy to fall under A Dark Room's spell."[10] 148Apps gave the game 3 out of 5, writing, "A Dark Room may have plenty of longevity and may be genuinely intriguing, but its interface feels undeveloped in its iOS iteration."[11]

The New Yorker explained, "When A Dark Room was first released on iPhone, at the end of 2013, the game was listed in a number of Best of the Year lists, including those published by Forbes, Paste, and the gaming site, Giant Bomb."[1] The app "rocketed to the most-downloaded spot in the App Store's games section in April and stayed there throughout the month".[1]

Engadget praised the game's surprise ending, writing that "...it's definitely worth the time it takes to find it."[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Thomsen, Michael. "A Dark Room: The Best-Selling Game That No One Can Explain". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2014-07-14. Townsend was happy to share his work with Rajan. "I want to kindle the creative spirit in others," Townsend told me over e-mail. "My games are open-source because I want people to learn from them, or use them to build their own things."
  2. ^ "A Dark Room released". Doublespeak Games. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  3. ^ "A Dark Room goes open source". Doublespeak Games. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  4. ^ "A Dark Room on iOS". Doublespeak Games. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  5. ^ "RubyMotion Success Story: A Dark Room". RubyMotion Blog. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
  6. ^ a-dark-room-android-entering-private-beta
  7. ^ "A Dark Room is now on Android!". Blog.doublespeakgames.com. 2016-07-11. Retrieved 2016-09-20.
  8. ^ Alexander, Leigh. "A Dark Room's unique journey from the web to iOS". Gamasutra. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  9. ^ a b Musgrave, Shaun (3 June 2014). "'A Dark Room' Review – Surprising Things Can Be Found In The Dark". TouchArcade. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  10. ^ "A Dark Room Review". Slide to Play. 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2016-09-20.
  11. ^ Our Review by Lee Hamlet on March 31st, 2014 (2014-03-31). "A Dark Room Review". 148Apps. Retrieved 2016-09-20.
  12. ^ Wehner, Mike. "You should spend some serious time in A Dark Room". Engadget. Retrieved 19 October 2015.

External links[edit]