Clocked

‘Dap’: the Australian indie game that makes you wonder if you’re still in a trance

Dap is a Aussie psychedelic horror game that seamlessly weaves trippy elements into an immersive, otherworldly experience that really makes you wonder: was it all just a dream?

Melting Parrot – a two-person development team based in Melbourne – is in the midst of creating Dap, a psychedelic horror, action and adventure role-playing game. It may sound like an ambitious mouthful, but here’s the thing: it works.

At PAX in 2020, the talented individuals making up Melting Parrot, Iris and Paul Anstey, showcased the premiere snippets of the upcoming dream-like title. And let me tell you, it doesn’t disappoint. From the trailers to the actual demo, Dap is proving itself to be an unforgettable experience that will constantly linger at the fringes of your mind.

Dap

Straight into a different realm

Dap appears to present stages of its lore through chapters. And similar to a well-written mystery novel, the questions begin almost as soon as you initiate the gameplay. In the first scene, aptly titled Prologue: the Dream, you see a Dap – the name of the adorable, ghost-like creatures that you play as – plummeting through a pitch-black expanse.

Not only is the past a mystery, but the environment too, leaves one wondering what we’re doing. Us spectators see the Dap crash and subsequently wake up in an isolated, leafy alcove. From then on, players are on their own as they navigate their way through the game – both physically and mentally.

Bits and pieces are gradually revealed to the audience, but since the demo only takes you past Chapter 1 and a tiny part of Chapter 2, much is eagerly awaited.

How do you get started?

Despite selling itself to have trippy, psychedelic elements, the controls are actually quite simple. While there was an option to view the controls in the title screen, you don’t really have to familiarise yourself with them before you get started.

Instead, take the plunge – quite literally, I might add, since players start the game by falling through space – and the game will guide you with prompts as you progress.

Just for clarity’s sake however, here’s a quick summary of all the controls for the PC version:

  • A, W, S, D: rudimentary, as we all know these keys are for moving around.
  • Spacebar: use this to dash if you need to make a quick escape – or if you just want to walk faster.
  • C: a light tap will instantly craft you potions.
  • Q: click this to consume said potions.
  • E: it has various uses, but the game will prompt you so not to worry.
  • F: the ‘f’ here stands for ‘fire’, so you know what to do when you need some light.
  • Left-click: spam this to launch some basic attacks… or just to cleave through the plants you need in order to craft.
  • Right-click: this summons a blinding light that will strike down more powerful enemies.
  • Shift, 1 and 2 keys: follow the sequence to talk to interact with fellow Daps!

Your cursor also acts as a lamp, as its white, glowing body will be the main guide for your journey into the unknown. Light versus darkness seems to be a significant motif in this game, as some enemies clearly tainted in dark colour schemes lurk in various parts of the forest.

As for the items, players will constantly come across mushrooms and red plants, which you can cut through in order to collect enough items for crafting health potions and fires, respectively. No need to worry about the scarcity either; the forest is abundant with them.

For the most part, all these controls work well and are intuitive, although if you suddenly encounter trouble, some may be bothersome. Summoning a spiritual attack, for instance, is powerful against the lesser enemies such as the bats, but you’ll need to hold on to the right-click button to charge enough energy to counter more powerful, speedier opponents.

Dap

The art

Dap mainly uses pixelated graphics, giving it a surreal but retro feel. Only the Dap creatures are airbrushed, further emphasising their ethereal existence in the game world.

Meanwhile, the rough texture of the environment and characters appropriately match the jittery atmosphere the game evokes. But the movements aren’t all rigid. Some of the ferns, for example, wave smoothly as if they’re being softly blown by the wind.

The colour scheme used in each stage do a wonderful job of setting the tone for players. A bright, yellow-hued forest opening that makes you believe that everything is okay quickly transitions into a sinister subsequent area, filled with luminous dark purple and blue shades.

However, art alone wouldn’t render this game an immersive experience. The music and sound effects play an equally important role, and the duo at Melting Parrot have nailed it. In some of the calmer regions, a soft choir can be heard throughout. If you’re playing with headphones on, it goes one step further.

There you have it… for now

Since the game is still technically under development as only the demo has been released, there’s obviously going to be some technical fixes needed. While this review was based off the PC version, some players reported that their dimensions weren’t configured properly on the PS4 or larger screens.

What’s more, you’d best be cautious about exploring too far. While it may seem tempting to thoroughly inspect the intricately drawn stages, be careful not to get stuck, as players may accidentally progress through the game without being able to visit previous areas.

Regardless, if you have an hour of free time on the weekend and are keen to try out some games made right here in Australia, give Dap a go. It’s a short but immersive experience that will leave you with high expectations for the finished product.

Although there hasn’t been an exact release date announced yet, Dap is expected to launch sometime in 2021. You can get started by downloading the demo via Steam.