By Geoff Keighley
August 16, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Unfair or not, Nintendo has a reputation for creating rainbow-colored game worlds seemingly lifted from a Lucky Charms ad. So this ominous M-rated game comes as a surprising but welcome departure. An ambitious project by any measure, the Lovecraftian narrative unfolds across a series of playable vignettes. These chapters involve a dozen characters (all teetering on the brink of insanity), including a Roman centurion and a modern-day maiden investigating her grandfather’s death. Darkness spans two millennia, yet even as characters and scenery change, the adventure gameplay stays focused on puzzle solving and zombie-slicing combat. Pay close attention to each character’s sanity meter: Once it depletes, the game breaks down the fourth wall and mind-bending horrors ensue… THE ASSIST It’s easier to deck enemies if your weapon stays enchanted during battle. THE LAST SHOT With a cinematic feel and the trappings of a supernatural thriller, this sleeper hit — along with the recent Resident Evil release — is happy evidence that Nintendo is growing up.