You know, it’s been many years now since I first thwarted the plans of Evil Purple Tentacle in the 1993 comedy classic – Day of The Tentacle. Many blood moons since I first ended the scourge of LeChuck in The Secret of Monkey Island, and an unfathomable number of microwaveable macaroni and cheese dinners since I first accompanied Sam & Max on their crime filled caper as they Hit The Road. Never-the-less, these games have had a profound effect on me as a consumer, and have left me with an unquenchable thirst for the Point & Click genre ever since, and all the irreverence and brilliant comedy that it has to offer.
It’s very fortunate for me then that we have developers like Spooky Doorway out there a quarter century later still producing Point & Clicks at this level, ensuring that what makes this genre so great is kept in tact, suitably resulting in me sitting in my pants and playing the entirety of this little gem in one sitting, because it’s fucking brilliant.
You kick the game off as Detective Francis McQueen, the undervalued Twin Lakes government employee hopelessly dedicated to the paranormal and strange, single-handedly heading up the underfunded Darkside Division and its weird and unexplainable case files. To aid you on your perilous quest is your right hand man and adorable bonehead – Officer Patrick Dooley – who aside from not being one of the sharpest tools in the shed also happens to be one of the funniest point & click characters I’ve ever seen. You’ll love him like a thick kitten.
The game thrives on its pop-culture awareness. If you’re a fan of anything remotely cool, you’re going to find something here that you recognise. Twin Peaks, X-Files, IT, Gremlins and even my beloved Day of The Tentacle just to name a few all make appearances or lend their theme to this 6-part, perfectly digestible collection of mysteries. However, this game doesn’t solely rely on fan satisfaction to reel in the cheers. The writing is absolutely superb. These are clearly people that are fans of what they’re satirising. They’re total geeks and they know it, which is probably why I enjoy every reference and quip so much, because so am I. Very rarely did a joke seem cheap and easy, and the game constantly had me actually laughing out loud, which as I grow older I find is harder and harder to do. Because I’m dead inside.
The gameplay is typical of the Point & Click format with a few successfully implemented mini-games thrown in. You’re posed with one supernatural mystery to solve per level. These mysteries are each set in their own unique area of Twin Lakes which is inhabited by an array of distinct and delightful characters and creatures, all with their own sets of dialogue that will either help or hinder you on your mission – from otherworldly train conductors to zombie gangsters, you’ll be testing yourself as you try to figure out how they fit into your narrative. You’ll collect a number of unique items along the way; each can be combined with the environment, other items or the NPC’s themselves in order to achieve your goal.
The game is around 3-4 hours long, which may seem short; however the game actually doesn’t have any spoken dialogue or movement, which I think is a blessing in disguise. This allows you to read through dialogue quickly and also move between all interact-able scenes instantaneously, which results in the time you waste doing essentially nothing being cut down to a minimum. So really it’s fairer to say that the game is 3-4 hours of killer content. It’s had the filler cut off, and it’s all the better for it.
The game’s difficulty varies as you progress, but is never too hard on you. All the solutions are close at hand, and although I was stumped every now and then for 5 minutes or so, there’s nothing that had me pulling my hair out as I frantically Googled solutions. The Darkside Detective is the perfect adventure for point & click newbies and veterans alike, providing plenty of challenge for the former and a boat load of laughs for the latter. One of the most frustrating elements of a bad point & click is making the solutions to the puzzles overly complex or illogical. Especially for those of us with busy schedules, a shorter game with logical puzzles is vastly preferable to some maddening 20 hour game where you feel unfairly punished for not being able to work out that you’re supposed to combine a squirrel with a toaster and throw it at a bus. Darkside has none of that bullshit, and I say Amen to that!
“The Darkside Detective is the perfect adventure for point & click newbies and veterans alike”
The other very notable success in Darkside that has to be commended is the soundtrack, compliments of Ben Prunty, a name you may recognise as the composer behind the FTL and Starcrawlers soundtracks, both of which will be remembered very fondly by their fans, but have been toppled by this latest effort. Clearly inspired by the Stranger Things soundtrack, Ben has crafted the perfect accompaniment for setting the supernatural and mysterious tone of the game, and leaves us feeling perpetually curious as to what will happen next.
If I was to have anything negative to say about this title (and there is very little), I would argue that the difficulty curve of the game was a little off. Out of the 6 levels, I found 3 and 4 to be the most difficult, which left 5 and 6 to feel underwhelming in comparison. I would also like to see some relationship development between some of the characters. Officer Dooley and Detective McQueen had a great rapport, but there were many others in the police force that although seemed great characters on the surface, didn’t quite have enough time to express what they were all about. In future, it would be nice to see McQueen develop some of his inter-personal relationships, particularly of the romantic disposition. I’m confident McQueen has a lot of love to give.
“This is by far the most instantly enjoyable point & click I’ve played in the last 10 years.”
But these are small quibbles, and this is by far the most instantly enjoyable point & click I’ve played in the last 10 years. It’s doing just about everything right. What some may call short, I call focused, and although I may desperately wish there were more levels to play, I’m ecstatic that Spooky Door have produced what they have in the way they have, and I’m more than confident enough in this game’s success that I’d wager we will see more from Detective McQueen and Officer Dooley in the future.
Check out the official trailer below, which is vastly more persuasive than my words could ever be. The Darkside Detective is available now for PC, Mac and Linux on Steam and GOG, and for a limited time only with a 23% discount at the time of writing. Get it while it’s hot, Crashers!