A Hand in the Darkness // Initial Gameplay Thoughts

Welcome to Queer Fudanshi. Let’s Talk. In this post we’re going to talk about my A Hand in the Darkness initial gameplay.

A Hand in the Darkness is a visual novel from Spain about an all boys boarding school during the British Edwardian era. In addition, the game has something extra interesting to offer in that it will not only have an English version, but also a Spanish one.

The story follows Alex White, the youngest member of a large family and hence always rather overprotected, into his new stage in life moving to an exclusive boarding school, St. Michaels, during the Edwardian era.

There he will meet some friends: the always cheerful and helpful Monty, the shy and clever Rick, the snob and troublemaker Damian. But he will also face an unexpected danger.

And perhaps, who knows? He will even find true love. It’s up to you to decide if Alex will reach a happy ending or will leave St.Michaels with a broken heart… or maybe even worse.

My Thoughts Before Playing

A Hand in the Darkness is a new visual novel that was originally a kickstarter. I found and backed the kickstarter just a day or two before it successfully ended (which is why I never brought it up on the Weekly Update).

Honestly, I expect my first few hours into the game will be fairly simple. The game seems very bare bones, so I expect it’ll fly by quickly. Let’s see.

This is my A Hand in the Darkness Initial Gameplay.

*Warning: This game continues detailed sexual situations in its text, so this post has been tagged as NSFW.

Where to Buy or Play the Free Demo:

Itch.io ($10)

The Talk (Spoilers Ahead):

At a first glance A Hand in the Darkness struck me as a very simple game. Simple artwork with a simple and cookie-cutter setting and setup. Honestly, the game didn’t prove me otherwise.

There’s nothing wrong with the game, but there’s nothing new or exciting about it either. That said, I was interested while I was reading/playing and the story at least included a mystery to give the game some life.

Adding to that, the CG backgrounds and character sprites are pretty basic, but they don’t distract from the story. The thing that does distract, in a good and bad way, is the music.

I loved the music at first. There were some great songs that played, though I noticed that if you stay in a certain section before the next song transitions sometimes the current song won’t continuously loop. The silence that follows because of that is especially awkward.

The problems only stack from there sadly. It seems the creator got too carried away with having lots of music. In fact, I don’t think a song ever repeats in difference scenes. Plus, there was one scene where my character, Alex, went with his roommate Damian to the school kitchens and a techno song came on. It was weird.

Lastly, the actual story itself was just ok so far. I enjoyed my time with my romantic option, more on that in a second, but the main story was either just bland or slightly interesting.

It goes by quick. In fact, the story just jumps right in and keeps you moving from there, which with only 15 hours of gameplay it would have to do. As for the mystery, it’s about a mysterous attacker out to get my innocent main character. The mystery doesn’t seem harrowing enough to entertain or challenge Sherlock, but its enough to entertain me for a minute.

Damian

As for the romance option that I chose to pursue, I went for the bad boy Damian. That also reminds me that the three romantic options are pretty stereotypical too. The shy academic, the nice guy, and the bad boy. Even the main character is the innocent uke we’ve all read too many times.

Anyway, just like with No, Thank You the start of the game seemed to push me in the direction of nice guy as a “starter route.” That said, I like doing my own thing and Damien interested me more than Monty, so I tried to go for him instead.

From there it was an emotional rollercoaster. The game starts with an attic prank set up by Damian which made me question whether he’d be worth it. That said, I kept on, for some reason, and later found a redeeming quality in the character when he defended my honor. He’s one of those, “Only I can tease him” type of guys.

Flirtations and sexual scenes flew from there, including and introductory scene with him and his female sex buddy. I respect the story for having that straight sex scene. That added to the legitimacy of Damien being bisexual. Often characters are stated as “bisexual” but then limit them to one gender. Showing Damien enjoying his time with a girl or a boy adds to his character.

The romance between Alex and Damian carried on from there into more sexual scenes (I’ve reached 3 over all not counting the straight one with Damian’s girlfriend). All of which were very well written and count as good erotica (but not as good as Lost in the Snow of course).

Not a Good Pair

That said, there were more things that ruined the Damian storyline for me. It was later that the character did something so messed up that I’m still thinking about it now as I write this blog post.

He told Alex that he would talk about their sexual interaction and get him not only expelled but sent to jail. Back during this time in England it was illegal to be gay. Gay men, like Oscar Wilde and Alan Turning, were arrested for being gay because it was “indecent.” To make such a horrendous threat ultimately ruined the character for me.

Adding to that, his conversation about his father’s expectations reminded me that the two probably wouldn’t work out in the long run. This is a story about schoolboy love, but once they graduated they’d not only live apart, but they’d be ruled by the regulations of their society and parents.

Often at the end of romances there’s a “and they lived happily ever after feeling,” but just halfway through the story I already feel like they’re destined to split. That puts a sour note on the romance side of this game.

In Conclusion

With only 15 hours of gameplay and three romance options, I’m assuming each romance gets about 5 hours each. Hopefully anyway. If so, I’m about halfway to 3/4ths of the way through Damian’s storyline.

It was fast, it was naughty, and it ultimately made me not like Damian as a person so well. That said, it wasn’t a waste of time. The mystery held my attention, Damian was interesting (and frustrating), and I wish to eventually see how both end.

When I finish playing the rest of the game, who knows when, I will update you on the rest.

My rating for my A Hand in the Darkness initial gameplay is 3 stars out of 5. What’s yours?

Extra Thoughts

  • I loved the first CG of the stained glass windows.
  • I also loved the music that played during the infirmary visit at the start of the game.
  • These guys honestly don’t seem like they’re about to graduate and go to college.
    • Was the graduating age at 16 in early 20th century Britain?
  • I didn’t realize this was happening in Britain until Alex mentioned Oxford and Cambridge. Silly me.