Dark Fall II: Lights Out

 
 

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   XXv Productions

Publisher:    The Adventure Games Company

Released:  2004

PC Requirements:   win98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium III 450 MHz or better, 128 MB system RAM (256 MB recommended), 24x CDROM Drive (or PC DVD Drive), SVGA graphics card or better with 32-bit color (32-bit color at 800x600), DirectX 9 compatible sound card

Walkthrough

 

 

Additional Screenshots

 

 

by Jenny100

Dark Fall 2: Lights Out

Dark Fall 2: Lights Out is the second game from independent developer Jonathan Boakes. The story in Lights Out was inspired by events described in the poem "Ballad of Flannan Isle" by Wilfred Gibson, wherein three lighthouse keepers mysteriously vanish without a trace. The Adventure Company's original box design for the game had the title "Dark Fall: Lights Out," but the final design says "Lights Out" and in much smaller letters, "Prepare For What Happens After Dark Fall." I'll be referring to the game as "Lights Out" for the rest of this review, though outside of North America it may be published as "Dark Fall 2" or "Dark Fall: Lights Out."

The year is 1912 and your character, Benjamin Parker, has accepted a job mapping the coastline near the harbor town of Trewarthan. Initially he feels the work is beneath him, until he notices that for some reason the lighthouse on Fetch Rock has not appeared on any previous maps. For reasons he won't explain, Parker's employer, Robert Demarion refuses to discuss the lighthouse. The mystery deepens as the lighthouse mysteriously stays dark the following night, despite the thick fog that has descended. Where are the lighthouse keepers and why haven't they tended the light? Demarion summons Parker and sends him to investigate. In the course of unraveling the mystery, Parker finds himself exploring the lighthouse and surrounding area in four different time periods. He is haunted both by whispers that beckon him forward and by ghostlike apparitions that warn him to get out while he still can.

The stories of Lights Out and the earlier Dark Fall: The Journal are not directly connected. One of the characters from the earlier game, Polly White the ghost hunter, makes a brief appearance. But it is not necessary to play the first game before enjoying the second.

Puzzles

Puzzles consist mainly of finding evidence of what might have happened at the lighthouse and discovering the means to get into boxes, cabinets, locked rooms, and other places you haven't explored yet. Some clues are well hidden and you must go through several steps in order to gain access to them. Sometimes you must search for symbols or designs that are scattered around various unlikely places. Artistic skills are helpful or you may want to make a save whenever you find a likely-looking symbol so you can go back to refer to it when necessary.

There is quite a bit of what many would consider pixel hunting, both in searching screens for clues and in locating movement cursors. This adds considerably to the difficulty of the game. You can miss important clues if you miss seeing a cursor change in some dark corner or other. I definitely consider Lights Out to be a more difficult game than the previous Dark Fall, not so much because of the difficulty of the puzzles themselves as because of the difficulty of locating the clues. Even without the pixel hunting aspect, the gameworld is much larger and clues may be found in any of the four time periods. The means by which you travel from one time period to another suits the supernatural aspect of the game and offers more puzzling opportunities because you can't always get back by the same way you came.

There is also a bit of reading to be done, some of which fills in the backstory and some of which contains clues for solving puzzles. Most of the print and handwriting was not difficult to make out. But there is one location in the game where you must read small white print against a black background, and I found it difficult to read because some of the letters were grey rather than white and appeared blurred or smeared.

Controls

Lights Out is a first person point-and-click game, with mostly static screens and no panning. The control system is almost identical to that of the first Dark Fall. The cursors used for moving around, turning, interacting with objects, and using inventory are the same. Inventory appears along the bottom of the screen and is always visible. As with the first game, you click an inventory item in order it use it, and it will be used where appropriate. Usually the "action" cursor will indicate where an inventory object can be used, but I noticed some areas where no action cursor appeared, such as the area where the glasses are found. Though movement isn't difficult, it is easy to miss areas. The cursor to move forward won't necessarily be in the same part of the screen as in the previous screen. And there are some areas where the nodes for movement branch at an acute angle and it is easy to miss one of the branches. So you must be very meticulous when searching areas for the first time. Just because you can't access an area from one node of a branch doesn't mean you won't be able to access it from an adjacent node, and there may be more than one part of the screen that has a "forward" cursor.

Saving

The save system is very similar to the previous Dark Fall game, except the words Save, Load, and Quit are clearly written out at the upper left of the screen instead of being three circular icons at the upper right. On my Windows 98 system, the default folder for saves is the Lights Out folder itself, though you can create your own folder to put your saves in. On my Windows 2000 system, the default folder for saves was the My Documents folder, but again you can browse around and create a separate folder for your saves wherever you want them. Whenever I started the game, I'd have to browse to my save folder to open my last save, but after that the game would remember where the save folder was for the rest of the playing session. Saves are small .txt files and you can make as many of them as you want. When loading a save, it may not restore you to the exact same spot where you saved, but it will be very close by.

Options

There aren't any. And in my opinion the game could certainly have used a subtitles option. In the first Dark Fall game you could toggle subtitles on or off with the F1 key, but that didn't work in Lights Out. And there is no indication in the manual or readme that a subtitles option exists. There are no volume controls either, though for most of the time this is not a problem.

Graphics

The graphics are in 32-bit color and 800x600 resolution. This is an increase in resolution from the first Dark Fall game, which played at 640x480. So graphics are a bit more detailed, as you'd expect. The viewing area is slightly smaller than in the first game, with wider bands at the top and bottom of the screen. The palette used is very muted, which adds to the disquieting atmosphere but can make it hard to see things. It's even more muted and monochromatic than the previous Dark Fall. In many areas, the colors resemble an old photograph, with everything in shades of grey or brown. Details of the environment are well researched and I particularly enjoyed seeing the ancient appliances and tools that people might have used back in 1912. The reflections on the glass that you see when you're at the top of the lighthouse are beautifully rendered and there are many other details that add realism and character to the game environments.

Animations are used sparingly. Once in a while I'd notice a window light up with a flash of lightning. One area had smoke rising from a cooking fire. Some locations have water animations in areas where you walk near the ocean or marsh. There are two places where you can cause water animation yourself, by clicking on the water. It moves differently depending on where you click on it, which is sort of fun to play with. One thing that seemed a little strange was that the patches of fog you see at night would never move. The lack of seeing the fog slowly drifting along made the visuals appear more static in those scenes than in other areas where you'd expect things not to move.

Sound

Background sounds were used effectively. There were some areas where the overall background sound was silence, with the occasional scuffle, rattle, creak, crunch, banging, footsteps, or other unexplained noise. When you're near a machine, you may hear it running. Sometimes you'll hear ocean sounds if you're walking near the shore. These may be the sound of waves or the sound of water sloshing and bubbling around piers. When you're up in the top of the lighthouse, next to the light, you can hear the wind blowing. When there is a storm outside, you'll hear occasional thunder in the distance.

There was one area late in the game which has an annoyingly loud and persistent hum in the background that caused me to turn the sound off when I couldn't stand it anymore. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be that loud, but it was loud with both the computers I played the game on and they have different sound cards and different versions of Windows. Although there was a reason for some background hum, I can't imagine people living in a place where they had to listen to that all day. Compared to the volume of other background sounds, I think it was too loud. Not only was it annoying, but It obscured some speech I was trying to listen to.

Sound effects for actions were well done and nothing sounded out of place. There was a nice variety in the sound of footsteps made on different surfaces and they all sounded realistic. The noises made when you pushed buttons and operated equipment were also very believable.

Music sounded in certain areas, though it would usually turn off after a while. Sometimes it was eerie, sometimes somber and majestic. Different music was chosen for different locations and time periods. It helped set the mood and was not intrusive.

Voice acting was very well done. Jonathan Boakes has some talented voice actors in his acquaintance. The only real problem I had with the voices was in trying to figure out what the ghosts were saying. This is why I mentioned the lack of subtitles earlier. The ghosts spoke in whispers that were often distorted, with words overlapping one another. Their speech was often very difficult for me to make out. Although it isn't necessary to understand what the ghosts are saying to complete the game, it annoyed me that I might be missing some interesting detail of the story by not hearing them properly. The worst bit was near the end, where I was reminded of the problem with understanding the speech at the end of Riddle of the Sphinx. I really had no idea what was said until someone sent me a transcript. Before that, I couldn't tell whether my character was marooned at the end of the game or not. (The GameBoomers walkthrough for Lights Out now includes the words to this indecipherable speech.)

Installation

Dark Fall 2 installs completely to the hard drive. You don't need the CD in the drive after installing and can put it away for safekeeping. The installer warns you that there are two very large files that may take a long time to install and the system may appear to hang. I found three places where it seemed to hang - at 17%, 23%, and 64%. This happened on both computers. The game comes on a single CD and there is a lot of decompressing that has to be done during the installation. The time it takes to install will vary with your processor speed as well as the speed of your CD drive. On my PIII 750 it took 25 minutes to install the game.

Required Specs (as listed in the game manual and on the box)

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP

Pentium III 450 MHz or better

128 MB system RAM (256 MB recommended)

24x CDROM Drive (or PC DVD Drive)

SVGA graphics card or better with 32-bit color (32-bit color at 800x600)

DirectX 9 compatible sound card

The computers I played it on

Windows 2000 SP2:

Athlon XP 1800+ (about 1533 MHz)

512 MB system RAM

16x/10x/12x/40x Toshiba SD-R1202 combo drive

Matrox G550 graphics card

SBLive Value 4.1

Windows 98SE:

PIII 750 MHz

512 MB system RAM

16x/48x Toshiba SD-M1712 DVD drive

Geforce 2 TI graphics card

Hercules Fortissimo II sound card

Possible Glitches

Some people, including myself, have had problems getting the opening and closing videos to work. I never got them to work properly during the game on the Windows 98 computer. They would start to play and then freeze, either on a black screen or on a still image from the video. Then a few seconds later the game would proceed without showing the rest of the video. With the Windows 2000 computer the opening video would sometimes work and sometimes not. Either it would work perfectly or it would skip entirely. The videos are mpg files and can be viewed outside of the game if this happens.

One glitch that has been reported, which I did not experience myself, has to do with the disappearance of a certain inventory item if you pick it up and then go back to a previous save without saving after getting the item. Apparently this does not always happen, but it's a possibility. The item is not necessary to finish the game. But if you want it and didn't get to pick it up, you can edit your saved game using Notepad or another text editor. Just change the listing in the save file from invfloppy2off to invfloppy2on and save the change and the item should be in your inventory next time you start the game and open the save.

My computers both had their refresh rates changed to 60 Hz when I exited the game. Apparently this doesn't happen on all systems, but you might want to check what your refresh rate is after playing if you're prone to headaches at 60 Hz.

Additional Comments

If you enjoyed the first Dark Fall game, you'll probably enjoy Lights Out as well. The first part of the game, where you're exploring the harbor and lighthouse in 1912, is definitely the scariest, in my opinion. I didn't find the other time periods to be as scary, with the exception of some goings on in a haunted diorama in a non-1912 time period, which is fun if you happen to notice it. Unfortunately once I discovered the nature of the second Dark Fall, there wasn't any real suspense left for me for the rest of the game. All that remained was to solve the puzzles. This was a bit of a letdown from the first Dark Fall game, which managed to maintain its suspense and scary atmosphere until the end. Of course this is only my impression of it and others may have a different reaction. Lights Out is excellent in the detail of its environment. There are many things to look at and interact with. When you explore a person's room or living quarters you get a real feel for the type of person they were. You can see pictures of their friends and family, read their correspondence, see what kind of hobbies they had, and wonder at their choice of reading material and cheerless taste in art. Every once in a while I stopped to think about how a real person from 1912 would have reacted to the situation my character was in, especially after he suddenly found himself in a completely different time period surrounded by objects that would have been totally alien to him.

Recommendations

Recommended for fans of the first Dark Fall game and anyone who enjoys exploring a spooky and atmospheric gameworld in first person point-and-click style.

Overall Grade   B+

design copyright 2004 GameBoomers Group

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