The Darkside Detective is an 8-bit comedy adventure game, in the vein of classics such as Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle. From the outset, it was clear that this game would be full of sharp humor and clever references.
At the core of the game stars Detective Francis McQueen, who is paired with Officer Dooley. Over a series of six small episodes, the two of you are tasked with solving occult mysteries and crimes in the town of Twin Lakes. The game plays easily–you click left, right, or on doors and stairs to move between areas, and click on people and objects to interact with them, including Detective McQueen himself. It is what you do within your environment that equates to what you get out of the game.
For example, most key items are obvious, but much of the writing and detail goes unappreciated if you do not click on even the most mundane of objects, such as flyers and bathroom stall graffiti. McQueen and Dooley provide funny commentary, and their banter is often gold, with McQueen as the intellectual and Dooley as the, well, dunce. With each episode, or “case,” the mysteries get progressively weirder, and longer as well. The puzzles are not too easy nor are they too difficult and one even reminded me of Bioshock‘s hacking minigames. For fans of adventure games, you will feel right at home. Newcomers will have no issue solving the puzzles, as well.
Perhaps my favorite part of the game, beyond its visual aesthetic, was the writing — I laughed at loud at more than a few puns and observations, as well as some of the more clever references.
However, given how the game is entirely text-based, some dialogue can seem to drone on. Fortunately, you can skip entire conversations and do not have to sit through anything you would rather not. As you can see, the text is also rather nicely colorized for each character and includes their portraits, which adds some pop. While the art style is retro, it never feels dated. The use of color is appreciated, and the style adds to the classic detective feel of the game as a whole. It is safe to say that The Darkside Detective would not be the same game if it had chosen to adopt a different art style.
I will also note that the soundtrack aided greatly in creating atmosphere. The electronic notes and cues never distract, but instead, complement the visuals and story. It is clear that time and effort were spent composing these sounds. I am considering buying the soundtrack and adding it to my playlist of writing music.
While the game took me about 2 hours to complete, that does not mean I did not have fun doing so. In fact, the way the game is broken up is quite nice. Each episode is rather short and is playable when you have a small break or time between classes, as I did. However, beyond hunting for secret achievements–I unlocked half of the twenty total achievements–there is, sadly, little replay value. That said, if you know what you’re getting into, as I did, this should not be negative. You can go back through any case after you have completed it if you so desire.
The developers have not done much since release, though prior to it they released a browser-based “mini case” that plays exactly like the main game. The game is a little over a month old, so this may change in the future.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with The Darkside Detective. The writing, visuals, and atmosphere were all on point, and only a few bugs occurred throughout my time playing it. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys classic adventure games, or who wants a break from the norm.
The Darkside Detective is available on Steam for $12.99.
The product, The Darkside Detective, was given to us by developer Spooky Doorway. This does not affect the outcome or final score of the review.
The Darkside Detective
Windows, Mac OS X, SteamOS + Linux
The Darkside Detective, though short, more than makes up for the length with clever writing, great pacing, and an excellent score.