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The Shaft: Descent into Darkness

The Shaft: Descent into Darkness


Developer: Kastchey The title screen.The title screen.
Released: 2018.08.04
Genre: SciFi
Graphics: Pixel art / 2D
Perspective: Third person
Gameplay: Point-and-Click










Sgt Reed is descending into darkness, more specifically a shaft leading to an abandoned underground facility. His task is to find and activate the power source and access the facility for some reason which is never revealed. There is also a huge glass wall between the shaft and the facility, why exactly it is there is never revealed either. Things don't go smoothly as Sgt Reed is left hanging in the air with deadly looking items below him and no way to go back up. There also seems to be some strange moss-like growth down there, the origin of it unknown.

The player is kept in the darkness for a lot of things. The game starts with the protagonist being hanging in the air, and the game ends when he finds his way through one of the doors on the other side of the glass, with a message indicating that the story might be continued some time in the future. The reason for entering the facility is never explained, nor is any question that the player might have regarding the story. Clearly there would seem to be some bigger story somewhere, but the game is an isolated escape room kind of scenario, where the player can make up whatever kind of story is fitting for the very few details given in the actual game.

The starting point of the game.The starting point of the game.
As can be expected, the game is very short, at least until the hinted continuation comes, if ever. There is a suprising amount of depth in the gameplay, and not just referring to the game taking place underground. Many of the puzzles are multifaceted in the sense that simply using an object in some place doesn't do that much, the sequence to get things done is a bit longer which is not necessarily something to be expected from a game that is for all practical purposes a one room game, even though there are two or three rooms in the game, depending on how one counts them. There is also a surprising number of inventory items in the game. Some of them are never used, but most of them actually are.

The game has a brilliant way of letting the player know what to do next, without giving any solution away. This is something that has been in the genre for decades, in theory, but highly underused in actual game design in most games. This helps the player to focus on at least thinking the right next step, even if the solution is not necessarily obvious. Many of the puzzles and their solutions in The Shaft are quite logical, although a couple of them leave kind of wondering whether what was needed was really the most plausible thing to do. After some more complicated puzzles the very last one is actually too straightforward, leading the player to wonder was that really it. The message about the story being possibly continued later on smoothens this a bit, but the way the game ends in the reviewed version (3.1) is a bit disappointing nonetheless.

Sounds are a bit underused in the game. There is no voice acting, and the game doesn't have much sound effects or music. These could improve immersion greatly given the context of the game which is approaching light horror. Graphically the game is quite alright, with the pixel art being nice to look at and all objects being clearly recognisable as what they are. Animation could use a small improvement, as there seems to be some glitches with it, but nothing that would spoil the experience. Gameplay mechanics are very simple and straightforward, left click to do something, right click to look at something. There are a couple of items that don't generate any response when trying to combine them in the inventory, which might be a bug or not, otherwise everything works as expected.

For the short while that the game lasts, it's surprisingly engaging. Because the puzzles are a bit more complicated than one would expect to see, finding the solutions is also a bit more rewarding, and trying to make some sense of the situation gives some additional appeal to playing. This is also the game's weak point, since there's no lead-in to the story and the narrative really doesn't go anywhere or conclude, there's not much to make a difference between a random collection of puzzles and The Shaft. Fortunately there is some difference, and it is in favour of this game. Whether the possible continuation of the story would make the game better, remains to be seen. As what it is now, it is like a snack between meals.

The door is locked.The door is locked.



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