Category Archives: 3

Lost in Dark Fall: Lost Souls

One day, I will stop harping on games not numbering their sequels properly.  But that day is not today, as despite the number being plastered all over the in-game menus, including the shortcut icon, Dark Fall: Lost Souls gives no indicating that it is in fact the third in the Dark Fall series.  And you might notice should you check previous entries that I have only played the first Dark Fall game.  Thankfully, while the games seem to share a universe, they don’t follow a connecting story, meaning this is only an annoyance.

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Poor naming notwithstanding, what is Dark Fall: Lost Souls?  Despite not being directly related to the previous Dark Fall game I played, it takes place in the same abandoned train station.  But this time, instead of you being called out by your brother to investigate some strange happenings in the English countryside, you are an Inspector, haunted by a crime you couldn’t solve.  The kidnapping of a little girl, leading to the Inspector’s disgrace when he assaulted the only suspect, who was later cleared of the crime.  Just as ghosts haunt the old station & hotel, unable to move on, so too is the Inspector trapped.

Dark Fall: Lost Souls follows in the vein of its predecessors in that it is a point-&-click puzzle game, where you wander between static images, finding items to collect or interact with in hopes of overcoming some obstacle.  As you continue your search for little Amy’s fate to absolve your guilt, you begin to suspect she might still be alive.  Or at the very least trapped with all the other ghostly tennants.  Soon, you find yourself traveling to the past to put these tragic souls to rest in hopes of uncovering the mystery.


ss_583b1d65bc2e8f261e54eb9e6822ef1db001dac0.1920x1080Narrative: To be completely honest, I felt the narrative was very disjointed.  It simultaneously felt like there was both too much plot & yet not enough resolution.  The basic idea is that the Inspector is trapped in the station until he can uncover what happened to Amy.  Well, as she’s a ghost, it’s obvious what happened.  But it’s never fully explained, other than hinted at some supernatural shenanigans.  Maybe she killed herself?  Maybe some other ghostly girls were trapped the same way?  And even the spooky elements aren’t well explained.  There’s no real explanation given to what this “Dark Fall” is.  Maybe it’s elaborated on in the previous games?  But having played through the first, if it was explained, it didn’t leave much of an impact if I can’t remember it.  It just comes across as a hand-wave explanation.  A magical mcguffin.

And I have to say, I found the Inspector rather dense.  I’m expected to believe this guy solved crimes, & he can’t tell the see-through girl is a ghost?  At no point does it come across that he has the slightest clue what’s going on.  I get that he’s supposed to be obsessed with the case, but he just comes across as incompetant.  While the twist as to why he’s actually there was predictable, I did like the way it was presented.  Some of the puzzles are timed, & failure in these puzzles is nicely interwoven into the story.  There’s no Game Over, except perhaps at the very end, & there’s a reason why.  It’s been done before, but it was a nice touch to add storytelling through the mechanics of the game.  Doesn’t take away that the Inspector’s an idiot, though.  And how did he get there in the first place?  I think it’s supposed to be implied that Amy trapped him, but nowhere is it explained how he… became trappable in the first place (trying to avoid specific spoilers).

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy parts of the narrative.  I did enjoy the sections that involved going into the past to relive memories of some of the trapped souls.  Their stories were interesting, even if they didn’t really tie into the greater narrative, short of them being trapped.  And while the logic behind giving the dead rest in the present being able to change the past is a bit iffy, it was still fun to see the changes in the world.  Sadly, as I mentioned, these portions don’t last long, & only come about half way through the game.

Overall, while I enjoyed putting some of the ghosts to rest & the reasoning behind no Game Overs, the greater narrative felt disjoined, confusing, & lacking a real conclusion.

Score: 3


431632-dark-fall-lost-souls-windows-screenshot-party-inviteMechanics: It gets the job done.  It’s hard to mess up point-&-click adventure games, & Dark Fall: Lost Souls does what it sets out to do.  The puzzles are definitely the meat of the game, & I’d say overall do their job well.  While mostly it comes down to finding the appropriate item to use on the next obstacle, I did like that a lot of knowing where to go or what to do next mostly came down to observation.  If you read all the papers & pay attention to your surroundings, it’s hard to get lost.

There’s a nice variety to the types of puzzles you have to solve as well.  One of the most standout moments for me was having to turn a light on & off to illuminate phosphorescent pupae to see which one has a key inside.  And again, the sections that involved going into the ghosts’ past were a lot of fun.  I wish there was more than three, but I did appreciate that all three played out differently.  The first involved selecting appropriate dialogue trees to calm the ghost down based on the random items in her room.  The second involved checking constellations (a sign of a good adventure game is when I have to write things down — I keep a notebook on my desk for such situations).  And the third involved helping stage a play.

There were also more tactile puzzles.  By this I mean they revolved around responding to specific prompts in real-time in the game.  I believe all of these moments were when you’re directly interacting with Amy.  One game was Red Light-Green Light, & you have to listen for audio clues to know when to turn.  One was Blind Man’s Bluff, & you have to try to grab Amy as she runs by.  The third wasn’t a game I’m familiar with, but it was still fun.

The only real complaint I have about the mechanics was having to backtrack for scissors.  Scissors, you ask?  Yes.  You need scissors to kill “life leeches” in certain points, but the scissors may break.  You can never run out, but it was a pain to have to keep going back for more.  Remember, this is point-&-click, so there’s no teleporting option.

Overall, while simplistic in terms of controls, the puzzles in Dark Fall 3 challenge the observation skills but always make sense, & have a nice variety to them.

Score: 4


Aesthetics: While the graphics aren’t necessarily the greatest, the game maintains a solid atmosphere.  The still images that make up the environment are suitably dreary, dark, & decaying.  The sound design also goes a long way in building a sense of tension.  Ghostly whispers, floorboards creaking for no reason, the hum of static on the broken television… even though there’s no real fail state, it certainly doesn’t feel like it.  I highly recommend playing with headphones.  There were moments when it felt like the sound came from right behind me, giving me chills.  Going back to one of the puzzles I mentioned before, there’s a room that when you first enter is completely dark, but you can hear buzzing & an odd, wet squishing sound.  Turning on the lights revealed a room full of slimy pupae all over the place.  And while I’m not a particularly squeamish person, or afraid of most bugs, the sound alone made the room a very uncomfortable experience.

Score: 4


Replay Value: Low.  There isn’t much reason to play Dark Fall 3 more than once.  It does have two different endings, but because this is based solely on your final decision, all you have to do is save before entering what is obviously the final room & redo your decision to see it.  Nothing changes during repeat playthroughs, except the specifics of certain puzzles.

Score: 2

Breakdown

Untitled

Final Score: 3

Last Word: At the end of the day, despite some good atmosphere & interesting puzzles, Dark Fall: Lost Souls is just too forgettable for me to recommend to all but point-&-click enthusiasts.

– GamerDame

Title: Dark Fall: Lost Souls
Console: PC
Rating: T
Developer: Darkling Room
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Release Date: November 13, 2009
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Filed under 3, Adventure, PC, Puzzle, Reviews

Game Review: Syberia II

Unlike the previous adventure game series I just concluded, I actually remember exactly what happened when I played the first Syberia years ago.  In comparison to the Still Life series, Syberia’s story is pretty self-contained, which can certainly be to a game’s favor.  Even if I don’t remember every single character’s name, I remember what happened &, most importantly, where the game left off.

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Syberia II picks up almost immediately after the events of Syberia.  In the first game, we played as Kate Walker, an attorney from New York, who travels to Europe to finalize the takeover of a toy factory, only to learn that the owner has just died, & that a brother no one knew she had is now heir, meaning Kate must track him down to go through with the deal.  Thus begins Kate’s strange journey through automatons and half of Europe as she follows Hans’ trail.  At the end of the first game, Kate meets Hans, now an old man, & they begin the final leg of their journey to find Syberia, a mystical land far to the north where mammoths still live.  Thus their journey concludes by the end of the game.

As with Microids other games, Syberia 2 is a point-&-click adventure game with a few puzzles thrown in for good measure.  As one might expect, traveling through the frozen wastes of Russia is no easy task, & numerous obstacles arise that only Kate seems inclined to solve, either by collecting the right item to unlock progress or reading clues in the area to solve some mild puzzles.


20170909121948_1Narrative: Although the first Syberia already had a pretty tightly focused story, Syberia 2’s narrative is even more self-contained, which I appreciated.  The story, settings, & events that unfold are more cohesive & coherent.  I remember in the last game a strange interlude with a creepy guy who made us bring him a retired singer because he was obsessed with her, resulting in Kate blowing up the factory for them to escape, only to return to her train to find Hans.  Talk about a series of unfortunate events.  But Syberia 2’s plot is more focused, & the problems that arise during it make sense, & seem very natural.  For example, the game starts with Kate’s train having to stop for coal, & she ends up tricking some local thugs for gas to power the coal shoot generator.  Given that these thugs seemed a little too interested in her train, it doesn’t come as a surprise later when they steal it & Kate has to chase after them.  Similarly, it’s not a surprise when Hans gets sick (because he’s an old man in the arctic), so it makes sense that Kate has to seek medical aid from the local monastery.  This also means that the few characters we interact with have a real presence in the game.

The only odd thing is a little subplot involving Kate’s boss in New York sending a private detective to track her down, hoping to bring her home, because they clearly think she’s crazy.  It’s implied this happens because Kate’s mom is hounding her boss, which any proper mother probably would do.  My problem with this subplot, however, is that it goes nowhere.  We never see the detective.  He has no point in the story other than relaying what we already know to the family.  He even gives up the chase half-way through, thus having absolutely no impact on the story.  I feel like the developers were trying to build tension, like we’re supposed to be concerned Kate’s being pursued.  The cutscenes certainly look foreboding, with everyone standing shadowed & faceless.  But we know she’s not in any danger because they just want her to come home, being naturally concerned about the physical & mental well-being of a New Yorker running off with a crazy old man in search of a place that might not exist into the arctic.  So the entire thread feels pointless.  I feel like they either should’ve had the detective actually be an obstacle, or not tell us who he works for & just leave us paranoid about a guy following us around.

But, overall, Syberia 2 has a tight story that never loses sight of its goal & the story it wants to tell.  I know a third game came out earlier this year, but personally, I feel this entry did a good job of wrapping up the story.

Score: 4


20170907182755_1Mechanics: I’m running out of ways to describe point-&-click controls.  They work.  I appreciated the run mechanic, as there is quite a bit of backtracking.  I liked that items leave your inventory when they’re no longer useful.  And I appreciated that the icon would indicate when a selected item wouldn’t work for a particular puzzle.  It really saved a lot of time from randomly trying everything.  I would just see the interact icon crossed out & move on.  I also never felt there was a time when I didn’t know what I was doing.  Even if I didn’t have the items I needed to progress, I usually knew what my goal was.  And there were no great leaps in logic, meaning I generally knew what an item would be used for, & everything made sense.

That being said, I did have one, at times, significant problem.  While generally what you can interact with is obvious due to subtle visual cues, there were a few times when I had to pixel hunt because nothing stood out.  And most frustratingly, at one point I had to look up a video because I knew what I was looking for but couldn’t find it.  Turned out the item in question had a very small hitbox, & looked completely like the rest of the background.  That did annoy me, but that only happened maybe twice in the entire game.

Overall, besides a few irritating pixel hunts, I thought Syberia is the perfect example of point-&-click puzzle solving done right.

Score: 4


20170909122314_1Aesthetics: Syberia 2 originally came out in 2004, so the character models are a bit dated & jankey, but not distractingly so.  The cutscenes fare bit better, although I couldn’t help laughing at times at their stretchy faces.  There were a few uncanny valley moments, especially with more bombastic expressions.  The backgrounds have an appealingly soft watercolor look to them, making me think of the paintings on postcards.

The voiceacting was decent, although there were a few suspect accents, & the actually acting felt reasonably natural.  The music all had the same soft quality as the backgrounds, subtly adding to the slower pace of the story.

Score: 3


Replay Value: Low.  I can’t see a point in playing the game more than once, as there’s nothing new to be seen on a second playthrough.  And you can watch the cutscenes after you’ve unlocked them if you really want to experience the story again.

Score: 3


Breakdown

Untitled

Overall Score: 3

Final Word: With its focused story, reasonable logic & streamlined mechanics, I think all but the most jaded gamers will find some enjoyment in this slower-paced adventure game.  It’s not long, & will leave players satisfied in the end.

– GamerDame

[youtube+https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA64GHJNyuc]

Title: Syberia 2
Console: PC, PS2, XBox, Android, iOS, PS3, 360, Switch
Rating: T
Developer: Microids
Publisher: Microids
Release Date: March 30, 2004

 

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Filed under 3, Adventure, Mobile, PC, PS2, PS3, Reviews, Switch, xbox, XBox 360