Darkest Fear 3: Nightmare

Halloween is almost here, but nowadays most people are less worried about ghosts and ghoulies than about the ASBO-flouting local yobs going trick-or-treating with menace.

Still, until someone comes up with a game based on shoving fireworks through letterboxes, we'll stick with the spectres. And following hot on the rotting zombie footsteps of Resident Evil: Confidential File 1 is Darkest Fear 3, the latest incarnation of Rovio's atmospheric survival horror adventure.

Although the plot follows on from the previous games, you don't need to have played them to grasp what's going on. Thomas Warden's daughter Helen is turning into a 'dark monster'. Your job is to find four ingredients for an antidote – the responsible parenting alternative to blowing her brains out with a silver bullet then incinerating the corpse.

The result, like previous Darkest Fears, is a top-down adventure that focuses on logic and puzzle-solving rather than combat. However, the big change is that you control both Thomas and Helen, alternating between the two by pressing the '0' key.

They have to work together to progress through levels. Thomas can only walk in lighted areas – he loses health if he strays into the shadows – while Helen can only skulk in the dark. However, both characters can alter the lighting by flicking light switches, carrying torches, and even deflecting light using strategically-placed mirrors.

Most levels rely on clever manipulation of light sources to ensure both characters get to the end. Meanwhile, Helen can slide under doors and push heavy objects around using her monster powers.

Switching between two characters to solve puzzles is an established gaming concept, going right back to Head Over Heels in 1987, but it's rare enough on mobile to still feel fresh and original. It works well here too, bar the odd cock-up when as Helen you flick the wrong switch and plunge Thomas into darkness, and vice versa.

Besides tweaking the lights, there's plenty of box-shifting and trigger-triggering to be done to open doors and figure out a route through the levels. In that sense, Darkest Fear 3 borrows liberally from console adventures like Tomb Raider. There's a good tutorial system too, which sees monks lurking around the levels to give you advice when you encounter a new object or situation.

Like its predecessors, Darkest Fear 3 is superbly atmospheric. The graphics are gloomy and slightly oppressive – even on your mobile screen – with eyes blinking in the shadows, and monsters scuttling away whenever you shine a light on them (although if they have nowhere to run to, they evaporate in a satisfying puff of dust). Stumble on a corpse, and you get a genuinely creepy subliminal black-and-white flash of monster faces.

Without wishing to sound like a big girl, Darkest Fear 3 is one of the few mobile games I'd hesitate to play after dark, if I was alone in the house. On a device with a two-inch screen and dodgy audio capabilities, that's no mean feat.

There are criticisms. Every few levels there's a boss to face, where the game shifts into real-time combat, as opposed to the more considered puzzle-solving of the other levels. It doesn't quite work, and the fact that Rovio has included instructions on how to beat each boss in the game suggests it knows this too.

Meanwhile, some levels can be a mite repetitive, relying on you trying, dying, trying again and getting a bit further, dying, and finally completing the level once you've memorised how to get through it. On the upside, the ninja difficulty setting reached midway through the game will give hardened gamers plenty to get their teeth into.

Add to that a tuned scoring system that rewards you for walking the fewest possible steps in a level, a bonus level if you play well enough, and even a secret mini-game based on Pong, and in Darkest Fear 3 you've got a survival horror game that'll keep you playing well beyond Halloween.

Darkest Fear 3: Nightmare

Better than Resident Evil? Darkest Fear 3's atmospheric blend of exploration and puzzle-solving gives it the edge
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