*DISCLAIMER: THIS COPY WAS PURCHASED AND WAS NOT PROVIDED BY THE DEVELOPER/PUBLISHER*
A point and click mystery adventure, developed and published by Spooky Doorway, and further published by Maple Whispering limited. Released back in 2017, and available on PC, Mac, and Nintendo switch. Here is the steam page blurb before we dive in: ‘Join The Darkside Detective, Francis McQueen, as he investigates the bizarre, the supernatural and those missing cat cases that keep getting dropped on his desk.’
Now I have to admit, when I was first handed this game to review, I wasn’t super zazzed about it from a first glance. My previous experience with point and click adventures of old, had left me feeling cold - as a child of the 90’s, I’ve played my fair share over the years. Most of them have common pitfalls of droll dialogue, uninspiring scenes, and questionable item collection. However, as soon as I booted Darkside Detective up, it was quick to change my mind and entice me in, placing a chloroform rag over my doubts and sitting me gently in a chair, to be revived by a beautiful synth soundtrack, and some brilliant storytelling. Let’s get to it!
Darkside Detective’s story is broken up into 6 main cases, and 3 bonus ones which open up later in the game. Each one offering its own monster-of-the-week flavour as you try and solve the weird and wonderful paranormal goings on in the dreary city of Twin Lakes. Playing as Detective Francis McQueen, and joined by your sidekick Officer Patrick Dooley, it’s up to you to work the beat of the Darkside Division, and expedite the cases that fall outside the boundaries of normal police work. This sends you looking for missing children, exploring spooky libraries, travelling to parallel dimensions, tracking down powerful occult artefacts, casual conversations with lake monsters, sneaking past hordes of zombies, and so much more. The game is driven by its fantastic writing, and never for a second takes itself seriously, filled with puns, one liners, fourth wall breaks, and references that kept me chuckling well into the antics. The conversations you have with the other characters, objects and surroundings gives you clues on what you need to do next, where you need to go, and what you have to find. None of this is voice acted, so brush off your reading glasses and get stuck in. Everything is described and really helps set the scene of each individual setting, as well as the overall view of the city and it’s occupants - if you enjoy a good rummage through bins, this game has you covered. Each case taking around 20 - 40 mins to solve, the whole game clocks in at around 3 - 4 hours (or slightly longer if your as dyslexic as I am), which fits quite nicely into an evening or two’s gaming sessions, if you’re looking for a brief escape into something different. It keeps up a snappy pace, and cases never last too long to lose your attention.
This is a point and click adventure, so there aren’t tons of mechanics to wrap your head around. After you select your case from the title screen, you are submerged into the story and greeted by the scene, which you can navigate by selecting doors, hallways and street corners you would like to pass through, or by selecting people or objects you would like to interact with. Most of the game falls upon the duty of finding, using or delivering items you find in the world to progress the story, some of these items have to be combined with one another to provide ingenious solutions to problematic incidents, or it could be a case of just finding a wrench to unbolt a panel. All of them are single use (with a couple of cheeky exceptions for optional achievements, or to woo the completion-ist in you to dive back into certain cases to pick up the breadcrumbs of witty banter you missed). There are a few puzzles sprinkled throughout your stay in Twin Lakes, however, none of them are too difficult - some are very basic, and I found them rather satisfying to solve. But to be completely honest, these are here to simply enrich the experience, the crux of this game is to follow the story that has been set out by the developers, and with good reason to - it’s fantastic.
Graphically this is a pixel art game, so if your not a fan of using your super high resolution 4K monitor to admire cubes of colour - this isn’t your wheelhouse. I’d like to say that considering that, it’s pixels with depth, everything is nicely shaded, and scenes - however static at times, have nice subtle animations (be that running water, or a flickering candle) keeping them alive. The quality of this game lies in the story, soundtrack and humour. The graphics feel more like a skeleton to frame your imagination on - characters are faceless and items details are basic, or a brief flashback to pixel art games that have come before it. It did set the tone for the scenes, and was often referenced in jokes. Pretty in it’s own way, if your down for the pixels.
Oof, that soundtrack, if you like synths with a slight 80’s moody atmospheric vibe, you’ll like this. Ben Prunty (who also created the soundtrack for FTL: Faster Than Light) did the music on this, and it’s stunning. From the use of grumbling decayed low end that elevates the drama through twisted strings, to softer moments of acoustic instruments ethereally chirping along soothing echos, the music fits the feel of each individual encounter. It ties everything together, with its use of synth, piano, strings, bells and more effects than you could shake a stick at - it immerses you into the feel of the world, and one of the reasons that this was a delight to play. Clicking on objects triggers sound effects, from creaking doors to shuffling through draws, and it all pools together for a fantastic audio experience.
As I hope you can tell, I was pleasantly surprised by this game. It is short and sweet, but it was packed with everything you could want from brilliant story: a soundtrack that slaps, a tale filled with intrigue and some cleverly crafted moments, with bursts of humour that kept me seeking the next punchline. The Darkside Detective isn’t a game to rush through, it’s like sitting in a comfortable chair with a good book, wanting to be whisked away, into a world that doesn’t take itself seriously no matter how perilous the danger. If this sounds like your cup of tea, and you fancy something different to what your used to, I urge you to give this game a try.
|Platforms:||PC | PS4 | Xbox One|
|Price:||£7.49 | €8.61 | $9.74|
|Story Completion Time:||3 Hours|
|100% Completion Time:||5 Hours|
|Humours, light-hearted trip into the paranormal. Great storytelling!||Some of the item combinations didn’t feel like they made sense, and could get lost easily if you missed something small.|
|Laid back point and click that facilitated a wonderful story.||I encountered one or two bugs that stopped the background sound between scenes, these were very rare, and in bonus content.|
|Scenes were clear, and all elements tied into make an enjoyable experience.||Some scenes had massive detail into their background, whilst others lacked this, and some puzzles felt like a rushed tack on to add something else.|
|Arbitrary Final Score|
Review by Peter
The Darkside Detective is available now for PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch for, £7.49/$9.34. Thank you to developers Spooky Doorway for providing the assets used in this review. Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.