THE DARKSIDE DETECTIVE
DEVELOPER SPOOKY DOORWAY PRICE $ 12
As if the promise of paranormal/police, adventure game vignettes wasn’t exciting enough, The Darkside Detective has music by Ben Prunty, the composer for FTL. In fact, he recently Skyped into my Interactive Media class to tell us about the music he was making for Darkside Detective’s museum. (And now you are aware I have friendly and professional dealings with one of the developers.) And yes, the spooky music was engaging, but not distracting, supporting the extraordinary aesthetic presentation. This was invariably lovely to look at, listen to and read.
You begin with six police files, two of which are selectable. Each are small adventure games which McQueen and his goofy partner, Dooley, must complete so you can progress. As Darkside Detectives, they deal with ghosts and the occult. Cases start simply, with a girl being abducted in strange circumstances. Later, one takes you into the Darkside, where you’ll meet all sorts of confusing versions of familiar people. Hilariously, one adventure is even set inside the police precinct and you start to understand the politics of the detectives’ position.
This is not to suggest the storytelling is, in any way, serious. In fact, it’s unrelentingly ridiculous. The library in particular is full of books like, “Turning Duct Tape into Pants. Making your nethers sustainable,” and “Guylight. The heartbreaking tale of a girl who
falls in love with a reverse vampire,” followed by more jokes about duct tape and reverse vampires. The perpetrators of crime will tell you they’re guilty before you’ve even asked their name. The victims will ignore you entirely and somehow even Dooley will fail to acknowledge your clever problem solving.
That this is broken strictly into six, small slices makes puzzling really transparent. It’s easy to understand what needs to be done and you can set about doing it in a way that never feels overwhelming or silly. Getting stuck is like, “I need to complete this goal. I know of eight rooms, have five objects and two people to speak to, this is achievable,” rather than, “I have no idea how to start solving this or what to do next.” I was unable to progress for probably about five minutes over the entire game and the forward momentum was refreshing.
Does the “small” aspect to puzzling and presentation mean the designers are learning how to make adventures? No. In fact, there are so many tropes and genre-referencing moments that I somehow finished up feeling like I’d played a redux of every adventure game in existence. Meeting the ghost of Enid Blyton even reminded me of the “strict British boarding school” adventure games I used to plan on paper, when I was a child. That’s not embarrassing, is it? This is something we all did, right?
Overall, I was left with the impression of The Darkside Detective being meticulously planned and crafted. You may only have a limited window into a detailed world, but the story is engaging and coherent. It’s not strenuous and is fun to play alone or with the family. I’d recommend this for fans of the genre, as well as newcomers, because I’d personally like to play more adventures where frustration isn’t the only way to feel clever. Much like the “coffee break” games I’ve reviewed this year, see this as six, bite-sized treats to enjoy in spare moments.
I finished up feeling like I’d played a redux of every adventure game in existence