Game Review: Dark Fall

Have you ever been up early in the morning, while the moon is still out, & felt the sudden urge to immerse yourself in something scary?  That’s how I felt the other day.  And while I had several terrifying games to choose from, like Condemned: Criminal Origins (which I will get around to playing), I didn’t feel like dealing with something as stressful as fighting roving bands of psychopaths.  So, instead I downloaded a game I’ve had in my Steam files for a while; Dark Fall.

Not to be confused with Darkness Falls.

Not to be confused with Darkness Falls.

Dark Fall (or Dark Fall: The Journal) is a horror/adventure game where you play as yourself.  The game begins with you getting a phone call from your brother asking for your help.  He’s been doing surveying work at an abandoned train station in England &, based on what he says on the phone, something is very wrong.  The message ends with him pleading for you to come before he states that there’s something outside calling his name, & he stupidly decides to open the door.  Upon arriving, you’re quickly greeted by the ghosts that haunt the station, & learn that someone has unleashed an amorphous evil from beneath the inn.  Now it’s your job to find a way to seal the entity & free the ghosts trapped.

Never trust bathrooms in horror anything

Never trust bathrooms in horror anything

Dark Fall is a point-&-click adventure game where you explore the station looking for clues.  The spaces are filled with scraps & clues, as well as items to aid you in overcoming various obstacles.  No other controls are needed for the game, with the exception of a few instances where you type in questions as you speak to spirits.  The main goal is to collect all the incantation symbols to seal the entity Dark Fall back up, but naturally these are hidden behind various definitions of doors with obscure “locks.”

Narrative: Overall, I’d call the plot of Dark Fall average.  The story is mostly delivered through reading various notes & diary entries, which might turn some people off.  But the stories are interesting, & each entry shows the personality of the person it’s related to.  However, a lot of the time, especially at the beginning, I felt like I was getting fed multiple storylines that didn’t have much to do with the overarching plot.  But these different threads do all tie together in the end.  I just wished the information was paced out a bit better.  Their connection isn’t really seen until the last third of the game, & before that it’s tempting to just gloss over everything as extraneous details.  Color text, as it were.  Another problem I had was that the order I found the entries seemed odd.  This might be more related to the order I solved the puzzles or explored the station, which is good from an open-gameplay perspective but perhaps not the best way to drive a cohesive story.  For example, the aforementioned journal I didn’t gain access to until the last bit of the game.  But I suppose it does lend to the air of mystery.  So in summary, the plot is enough to compel you through the game, but came feel a bit scattered.  Score: 3

I'm sure in 2003 this was hi-tech

I’m sure in 2003 this was hi-tech

Mechanics: The gameplay is old-school point-&-click.  You have no free movement.  Even just moving around a room requires you to click in the designated area.  Fortunately, it never devolves into a pixel hunt.  Not everything is selectable, but everything that is selectable is a real thing.  There’s a nice variety of puzzles & obstacles to overcome.  Of course there’s the standard locked doors (one of which requires using the old “pock the key out of the lock” mechanic), but others require a bit more thought.  Twp puzzles I particularly enjoyed was decoding the secret messages & breaking into the ghost hunters’ computer to read their findings.  That being said, some of the puzzles can be very obtuse, & often I found myself with all the pieces, but unaware that they related to the current puzzle.  I also think this game could’ve benefited from having files or some way to keep track of the clues you’ve found.  Definitely the sort of the game the requires you to keep paper on hand.  Otherwise you’ll be backtracking to remember an important clue.  Also, while I have no problem with a game that doesn’t have the player in actual danger, I would’ve liked to see more from the Dark Fall entity.  Despite being talked up as stalking me, I never felt its presence during the game.  Not even in the final area.  In summary, functional point-&-click controls but some obtuse puzzles.  Score: 3

Nothing this spectacular actually in-game

Nothing this spectacular actually in-game

Aesthetics: While not on the same level as more modern horror games, Dark Fall’s greatest strength is in its atmosphere.  Dark Fall isn’t a shocking game, but the sort that leaves you constantly tense.  Both the sound design & lighting really add to this feeling.  Lights flicker, shadows fall across cameras, & the hotel creaks.  One scene that I remember vividly was when I first entered the second floor of the hotel, the lights in the hall went out one by one as the music swelled & I couldn’t move.  The whole time I was saying, “No.  No.  No!  I will not stand here like an idiot while paranormal things happen.”  The game, as a whole, excels at showing the story.  The little details in the rooms really get you immersed in the setting.  There’s no real music, & the voiceacting is okay.  I’m no expert on British accents to say anything to their authenticity, but nothing stood out to me either way.  Overall, despite being somewhat dated, the atmosphere is spot on.  Score: 4

Replay Value: Limited.  The game is fairly short, depending on how quickly you can solve the puzzles, & there isn’t much reason to play it more than once.  Score: 2

Breakdown

untitledOverall Score: 3

Final Word: I doubt Dark Fall will sway non-fans of the genre, but for those who enjoy adventure games heavy on the atmosphere & puzzles, it’s an enjoyable enough purchase for its low price.  If nothing else, I’m looking forward to playing its more recent sequels.

– GamerDame

Title: Dark Fall (Dark Fall: The Journal)
Console: PC
Rating: T
Developer: XXv Productions
Publisher: XXv Productions, The Adventure Company & Darkling Room
Release Date: July 1, 2002

Leave a comment

Filed under 3, Adventure, Horror, PC, Reviews

Game Review: White Haven Mysteries

One morning last week I had a bit of time to kill, so I decided to download a hidden object game titled White Haven Mysteries.  Depending on how good you are at understanding adventure game logic, hidden object games typically don’t take long.  I’d had this one on my Steam wishlist for a while, as the storefront page promised “a unique horror experience.”  And because I could think of worse ways to spend a dollar on a dark, quiet morning, I decided to give it a shot.

Why can't we ever go somewhere nice?

Why can’t we ever go somewhere nice?

In White Haven Mysteries, you take the role of an amnesic young woman who wakes up in front of a creepy abandoned building.  A young girl who seems to know you beckons you inside.  You quickly learn that the building used to an asylum/research facility, & that it isn’t as abandoned as it seems.  The doctor who ran the facility lingers still, with an unhealthy interest in you, going so far as to poison you.  Now you have to uncover your memories of this place while searching for the rest of the antidote before the poison drives you insane.

Did someone leave the window open?

Did someone leave the window open?

White Haven Mysteries functions as a combination of point-&-click adventure game & hidden object game.  You comb through the various sets looking for things to interact with.  Sometimes you’ll have to complete hidden object puzzles, where you’re required to find all the listed items to earn a key item you need to progress.  There are also a few proper puzzles scattered about.

Narrative: At best, the story is passable.  It serves to give you a purpose for being at the asylum & giving your character motivation to continue forward, but for most of the game I barely registered it.  The game actually did a far better job of revealing the backstory of the asylum & what had occurred there than it did telling me about my character.  The articles you find scattered about pace the history well, & slowly you gain an understanding of what happened.  Unfortunately, not as much effort went into the main character’s history.  Sure, a few scraps hint at who she is, but not enough.  And the ending came way out of left field.  Up until the final scene, I had kept up with what the notes hinted at.  The woman had been a patient, the doctor’s pet subject, & sent away when the lab came under scrutiny.  But the twist revealing who the little girl & doctor we’d been seeing was just one stretch too far.  Not only that, but the game just sort of ends at that point.  The truth is revealed & then… nothing.  The game ends, leaving me wondering what happened after.  Did she stay?  Did she leave?  So overall, just a very basic story that leaves no lasting impact.  Score: 2

And I thought my workplace was cluttered

And I thought my workplace was cluttered

Mechanics: In broad terms, there’s nothing wrong with the gameplay.  You click on things, & you pick them up.  Classic HOG standards.  For an adventure game, the logic required to pass obstacles is pretty grounded.  No really far-fetched solutions, although sometimes the path to get what you need can be a bit convoluted.  For example, at one point you need to find a statue head, which requires a key to get into the shed, a poker to get the statue’s head out of the furnace, & a hose to cool the head off.  But in a way, I kind of like that.  It makes you think about how you can use the items you pick up, & makes it satisfying when you have that Eureka moment.  Unfortunately, a lot of the obstacles come down to just finding X-number of items to unlock the next area.  There are a few proper puzzles in the game, & while I give the developers credit for the variety, none of them are challenging.  For instance, there’s a rhythm-based cooking puzzle where you have to select the ingredient as it appears on the bottom of the screen in time.  Or the last puzzle, which involves memorizing switches on a grid… or at least should have, had the game not held my hand & simply marked the switches after I found the solution.  Mostly, I felt the game missed a lot of opportunities.  There were several unique moments or ideas that were used once & never brought up again.  One section in the beginning (with the cooking puzzle I mentioned) was set up as a hallucination, which would’ve been a novel mechanic.  After all, we’ve established the poison is driving her crazy, so why not have more hallucinations to navigate?  But it’s never brought up again.  The game also drops the ball on being scary.  Despite some good atmosphere in the beginning, there’s only one really scary bit.  Yeah, it’s a jump scare I saw coming, but it was still well-done & exciting.  But then nothing scary ever happens again.  So overall, there’s nothing really wrong with the mechanics, but there’s nothing memorable.  Just a lot of missed opportunities.  Score: 3

Out for a midnight stroll

Out for a midnight stroll

Aesthetics: Both the art style & musical direction do a good job of setting up an eerie ambiance.  It’s dark & oppressive, & filled with whispering voices.  The scenes are nothing but still images, with the occasional moving bit to make them feel more alive.  The backgrounds are nicely cluttered, lending to the feel of the place being long abandoned, but not so much so that you’re not drawn to areas you can interact with.  Some of the animations on the characters seem a bit off, though.  Very uncanny valley.  The music, as I said, fits the mood, although it can get repetitive if you’re in an area for too long.  The voiceacting is okay, the few times there actually is any.  I mostly remember that the main character’s voice made me think of someone actively trying to change how their voice sounds.  So overall, a decent presentation.  Score: 3

Replay Value: Very low.  I can’t see anyone, even those who enjoyed the game, playing through more than once.  There’s no real reason to.  Score: 2

Breakdown

UntitledOverall Score: 3

Final Word: While not a bad game, White Haven Mysteries is fairly unmemorable, even as hidden object games go.  I doubt it’ll turn skeptics on to the genre, but fans of HOG might enjoy it if they can pick it up on sale.

– GamerDame

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6BHAbaaH8Y

Title: White Haven Mysteries
Console: PC, iOS
Rating: T
Developer: Gogii Games
Publisher: Strategy First
Release Date: April 17, 2014

1 Comment

Filed under 3, Hidden Object, PC, Reviews