Tag Archives: video games

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.

Dark_Fall_Lost_Souls_cover

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
Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 3, Adventure, PC, Puzzle, Reviews

Game Review: Okami HD

Readers from the earliest days of this blog might recall a rare rant post on how the Wii’s motion controls sucked & clearly weren’t intended for calligraphy writing.  The game in question was the Wii version of Okami.  Thanks to the HD re-release on current consoles, including an upcoming release on the Switch, I purchased an entirely new copy in the hopes that using a regular controller would make the game easier.  And shock of shocks, it actually did, thus continuing to prove motion controls are little more than a gimmick to entice new gamers.  Not only did I breeze through levels that had previously given me trouble, but I was able to complete the game.

220px-OkamiNTSCcoverFinal

In Okami, you take the role of Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess, incarnated as a wolf.  Your job is to vanquish the darkness that has taken control of the land of Nippon with the help of your Celestial Brush, allowing you to literally draw on the canvas of the world.  Initially your task focus’ on slaying the eight-headed dragon Orochi, who was mysteriously released from his prison & demanding human sacrifices.  But later you uncover that Orochi was the just a pawn to something much darker.

Okami’s game style is very much inspired by The Legend of Zelda games, where you travel through various locations & dungeons earning new ways to advance.  But whereas Link picks up new weapons & items, Amaterasu unlocks new brush techniques.  The Celestial Brush is your primary tool in the game, allowing you to pause the world to draw various designs, resulting in different effects.  For example, you can slash foes by making a short, straight line across them, or you can creating a massive fireball by drawing an infinity sign.  As you travel, you’ll bring light & life to the dying world, earning Praise by creating miracles & leveling up your Godhood.


Narrative: Despite being heavily rooted in Shintoism, foreknowledge isn’t required to understand & enjoy Okami.  The game does a good job at building its world, so even if you don’t know a thing about Japan it won’t matter.  It essentially functions as any other fantasy realm.

okamiI’ve heard many claim that the game feels twice as long as it needs to be, & while I do understand where they’re coming from, I felt that the actual ending of the game is much more satisfying.  You defeat Orochi about half way through the game, only to learn there’s something bigger on the horizon.  Some people might find that frustrating, as up until that point there’s been no indication that there was something more, but the further you progress, the more you realize there are answers to questions you didn’t realize were there.  The closest thing I can compare it to is in the first Mass Effect game when you spend most of the game chasing after Saren, only to realize that he wasn’t the most dangerous threat.  Only Okami finishes its story in a single game.  In the end, all the characters have a proper conclusion.  And the ending nicely concludes the overarching themes of vanquishing darkness & restoring humanity’s faith in the gods, which was ultimately what lead to the problems in the first place.

All the characters are nicely quirky & memorable, & I felt the plot, for all its bouncing around, paced itself very nicely.  It felt like things unfolded at a nice pace.  And while Amaterasu is a classic silent protagonist (being a dog & all), I have to give Clover Studios credit for managing to give her a personality despite literally not being able to speak.

Overall, while a bit it may seem needlessly long to some, I felt the story was very engaging, characters were interesting, & the conclusion was satisfying.

Score: 5


90a30a48860806e141f3c2c1dba0716b1510147048_full-1Mechanics: The biggest unique selling point of Okami is the Celestial Brush.  Back when I played the game on the Wii, I found the controls a bit frustrating given that the brushstrokes need to be fairly accurate to accomplish what you want.  And while I did still experience some issues with the game registering my strokes, I am happy to report that it worked a million times better using the traditional PS4 controller than the Wii-mote.  On paper you’d think the Wii would be better, but using a regular joystick worked sufficiently well.  The process is actually simpler than it sounds, as bringing up the canvas pauses anything going on in the world to give you time to find the right angle.  It’s a lot of fun to see basic shapes create massive changes in the world or damage enemies.

Combat as a whole is pretty fun & fast-paced, & best of all sometimes avoidable.  Some encounters you can’t escape, typically when they’re introducing a new type, but in most of the overworld encounters are indicated by “demon carpets” floating around the level that you can just avoid if you’re not in the mood.  You can also attack with weapons, as your ink isn’t unlimited, & while there are only three styles of weapons, you’ll find yourself using all of them depending on the encounter.  That leads to another aspect I enjoyed, which was the boss fights.  I liked that they all played out differently, with specific strategies revolving around the brush strokes you have at the time.  Just learned how to create wind?  Here’s a flaming skeleton cow that you can only hit once you’ve put the fire out.  Just learned how to harness lightning?  Here’s a boss who will obligingly hold a metal sword in their mouth while storm clouds dot the sky.

However, I did have two main gripes about the combat.  One is that, for a lot of the bosses later in the game, fighting them is a waiting game.  You end up just dodging their attacks until they do the one thing that leaves them vulnerable.  I know this is how a lot of bosses work in these Zelda-style games, & usually this only applies for the first stage of the boss fight, but it’s still a little frustrating.  Secondly, the combat only really works when you’re facing a few enemies at a time.  Generally this isn’t a problem because most fights are one-on-one or up to three.  But the demon gates… oh the bane of my Okami existence.  The Demon Gate Trials are an option side mission where you must defeat several ways of ramped-up enemies in a succession of fights.  It gets very chaotic very quickly, especially in the later levels when most enemies have only specific weaknesses.  Or, y’know, they pit you against multiple ramped-up versions of a boss.  Granted, these fights are entirely optional, but you have to complete them to earn stray beads to get an item for New Game+ that’s essentially turning on God Mode.  I guess I would say it’s less a problem with the combat itself, & more just hating the trials.  They get ridiculously hard, & you can’t leave the arena to get more supplies or you’ll have to start from the beginning again.

Other than that, I enjoyed most of what the game had to offer.  I liked how you level up your Godhood by earning Praise by helping out people & creating miracles.  The side missions are varied enough, though I disliked the races & digging champ minigames, though with some strategy (& eliminating the Wii-mote) they were tolerable, optional, & not numerous enough to be more than a momentary annoyance.

Overall, while later enemies can be a bit cheap & tedious, & Demon Gates are suitably demonic, I found Okami’s gameplay to be a refreshing take on an old formula.

Score: 4


Okami_HD_ScreenshotAesthetics: I really, really love the style of this game.  The art direction in phenomenal.  The art style is a unique mix of woodcut, watercolor & cell-shading.  It looks like a moving ink painting, which fits the themes of the game perfectly.  Personally, I’d rather use a game like Okami to showcase what HD should be rather than something more realistic.  It’s an absolute treat to watch the world turn vibrant with each bit of progress you make, truly making you feel like your restoring beauty into the world.

The music is also very nice, fitting the Japanese themes.  I liked that all of the main characters you interact with have their own themes, which all fit their personalities perfectly.  And while I can’t speak to any voiceacting, as everyone speaks in meaningless noises, the animations do a good job of showcasing what the character is tying to emote.

Score: 5


Replay Value: Moderate.  It’s entirely possible to see everything there is to see in Okami in a single run, but it’s definitely the sort of game that can be enjoyed multiple times.  Once you beat the game the first time, you unlock New Game+ which brings over all your experience & most of your items.  There’s also the challenge of finding all the stray beads to earn the String of Beads, which when equipped grants invulnerability, unlimited ink & 10x damage, meaning I’m going to have a lot of fun stomping enemies the next time around.

Score: 4


Breakdown

Untitled

Overall Score: 4

Final Word: Although there are a few annoyances later in the game that prevent it from being perfect, Okami is a tragically underrated game that shines as an example of being uniquely beautiful & compelling.  Hopefully with all the HD re-releases, adventure game fans will give this one a shot, though preferrably without motion controls.

– GamerDame

Title: Okami HD
Console: PS2, PS3, PS4, Wii, Switch, PC, XBox One
Rating: T
Developer: Clover Studios
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: April 20, 2006

Leave a comment

Filed under 4, Action, Adventure, PC, PS2, PS3, PS4, Reviews, Switch, Wii, XBox One