Since I prefer iPad to iPhone gaming, I was skeptical about how much I'd enjoy Emilly in Darkness. However, the platform ended up being minor inconvenience thanks to Emilly in Darkness' existential, noir-dripped narrative.

Our titular heroine finds herself in the middle of a forest, and before she can assess the situation she is gunned down by an assassin. Presumably dead, Emilly enters a darkened netherworld (which may actually be Hell), and as she progresses into this new world she attempts to find the identity of her killer. Hand-drawn cut scenes with a cinematic bent are always welcome in my book, and the ominous dialogue also adds to the game's bleak outlook.

The gameplay is straight-up old school action, as a virtual joystick found on the left side of your device moves Emilly around, and two buttons on the right side are used to access her various weapons and skills. Her main power is to use her own blood as bullets to kill any creature she faces along the way. On a visual level, having a stream of red droplets fly across a sea of black brings a bit of color into all that darkness. Since I'm a natural coward, I love shooting down my adversaries from a distance, but it's actually smarter to use this ability sparingly. Emilly will eventually run out of her own blood if you liberally shoot it all over the place, and if that happens you'll be in trouble for a few moments. A couple of blood packets found in each level will help you restock your supply.

To complete each stage, Emilly must find a key that will continue her journey. Although her health meter slowly regenerates, fighting different monsters can sap her strength. It's also important to watch every passageway you enter, since a few of them are spike-filled traps that will instantly kill Emilly. Once she dies again, you're given the choice of continuing to the last save point or quitting all together. It's hard to leave a game that mixes a little levity amidst all the doom and gloom.

The strength of Emilly In Darkness lies in its unique storytelling and perfectly crafted visual design. It's a game that will have you under its spell from the get-go, and it wouldn't surprise me if you complete the game in one sitting. The action itself isn't anything out of the ordinary, but if you want to get your adrenaline pumped pushing buttons and jumping from place to place, just go play an endless runner. This game has enough ambiance and thematic moxie to keep me interested, and whether she is alive or dead, the always courageous Emilly is simply unforgettable.

Store Link: Emilly In Darkness for iPhone | By ME2 Studio | Price: $1.99 | Version: 1.0 | 107 MB | Rating 9+

8.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating