Dark Side of the Moon


Genre:   Adventure

Developer - Publisher:   SouthPeak Interactive

Released:  1998

PC Requirements:    Pentium 166 MHz processor, Windows 95 or 98, 32 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM Drive, 16 Bit Windows Compatible Sound Card, 2 MB Video Card, 150 MB of free Hard Disk space,  Microsoft Compatible Mouse, DirectX 5 or better





by gsd

Dark Side of the Moon

Developer/Publisher: South Peak Interactive

Release Date: 1998

Reviewed: 12/04

Dark Side of the Moon (DSOM) is by the same group that produced Wild Wild West: Steel Assassin and the "not so memorable" Temujin (I'm one of the three people who actually liked that game).  For those who may be put off by a repeat of the problems associated with Temujin, rest assured they were resolved.  While not entirely pain free, DOSM is an infinitely better play.

The game is a first person sci-fi adventure with a very intriguing story.  It was written by Lee Sheldon, a professional TV writer.  So if story is your thing, you will have a much higher tolerance level for the aggravations associated with this game.  Just telling you up front, so that if you care little about story and a lot about feasting on eye candy in an expansive game world, you might as well bail out now.

To The Moon, Jake

You play Jake Wright and the game opens with you aboard a flight to Luna Crysta where you intend to establish title to the claim your uncle Jacob left you in his will.  You meet a couple of other Luna Crysta passengers on board, and after some brief conversation you get the feeling that there's a whole lot to learn about this side of the moon.

Soon after landing, you notice a half-human, half-Cepheid boy (the natural inhabitants of Luna Crysta) hiding from a Security Guard who is chasing him.  Questioned by the surly guard, you instinctively deny having seen the boy.  This is your first clue that the Cepheids are likely to be the underclass of Luna Crysta and subject to rules that do not apply to those of full human status.

The first thing on your agenda is to meet with the head of Brave Hope Mining Company to discuss your uncle's claim and his death.  You are led to believe that your uncle committed suicide and that his claim is worthless; however you are definitely skeptical.  Undaunted, you explore the Brave Hope complex and go through the process of trying to file your inherited claim.  As you nose about, you become aware that a very stringent Brave Hope Security System is the law enforcement agency on Luna Crysta, subject to no higher authority.  As you might imagine, this gives the company a free hand to use excessive force and whatever means necessary to exploit and control the workers.

The more Brave Hope employees you meet, the more questions you have.  You push on, trying to unravel the mystery surrounding your uncle's death and his claim, as well as how the Cepheids are so easily controlled in the mines where they work themselves to exhaustion.  The Cepheid boy (Lonnie) whom you previously protected from the guard becomes your ally, assisting you in traveling the complex without being seen (as they must) and becoming a source of information that you can trust.

As information trickles in, new chapters open about the mysteries surrounding Luna Crysta and the Brave Hope Mining Company.

The story is the thing.  Now to the rest.


This deserves a separate category.

The game world is played out in a claustrophobic game window that only utilizes about 30% of the screen.  That, along with the idea of actively swapping six CDs, first motivated me to immediately uninstall and relegate DSOM to "game limbo," a place on my shelf where flawed games go to rest indefinitely.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) the memory dims and I played it through about a year later.  This time fortunately, because despite the annoyances I really enjoyed the game.

The game window has light bands on the top, bottom and both sides that turn green when you can turn in either side direction or look up or down.  But you really have to be alert to notice the subtle change from drab gray to drab green – it’s especially easy to miss the places where you can look up or down.  Actual movement is directed by a forward arrow in the game window.

Since the game world is less than a third of the screen, there's a lot of room left for other things, and indeed we have them.  There is a figure at the lower left that represents your character.  You dress it in appropriate gear as needed.  At the upper left is your VDA, which receives phone messages and e-mail, and stores scanned documents, etc.  At the upper right is a dropdown satchel which stores your considerable inventory.  The middle/bottom of the screen is used for conversation trees.  The very bottom is your entry to the options menu.


The puzzles are fairly easy and very pertinent to the story and also quite original.  Clues abound and if you pay any attention at all you should have no difficulty.  The one problem I had was finding myself without a piece of equipment I should have purchased earlier.  This was toward the end of the game and I couldn't progress without it.  There was still a way to purchase it, but it was a whole lot more difficult and time-consuming.  So make sure you buy everything you will need early.

I was at times a little frustrated with the inventory because -- after collecting a number of similar items -- some begin to look alike and there were no name tags.  And it's not like these are household tools we're talking about.  Maybe a small thing, but I don't think the inventory needs to be a puzzle in itself.

There is a fair amount of interacting with other characters using a conversation tree, which really involves asking questions until they run out.  It's a main source of gathering information.  Unfortunately, there's no option for responder text and at times I had to replay the conversation because I missed something the first time.

You can die in the game with little or no warning, but the game is kind enough to restore you to the beginning of the event that wiped you out.  The dying is rather appropriate and not overdone.

The one positive about everything crammed on the screen is that it is all very accessible.  You can easily move in and out of your inventory, VDA and save/restore games.  Everything is very intuitive.

And finally, the mega irritant.  The CD swapping.  DSOM comes on 6 CDs and there are times late in the game when the swapping is excessive.  This detracts so much from the game experience, for it is at its worst during critical times when continuity is necessary to maintain the anticipation level the writer has worked so hard to create.  Fortunately, this game has since come out in a deluxe issue which includes both the CD and DVD version.  Just wish it had been sooner.

The game is nonlinear in the sense that although it has a single ultimate solution, the path to the solution can vary.

Graphics, Acting and Script

The game uses the same Video Reality engine as Temujin, but with better overall results because of an improved interface and much stronger story.  The full-motion video (FMV) part is crystal clear.  However, some of the backdrop graphics have a blurred grainy quality to them, especially in transition.

I thought the acting was excellent.  Since we get to see real people up close in video, their facial expressions play a large part.  I thought their expressions were appropriate and convincing, even though a few tended ever so slightly to "ham it."  The voice acting was also excellent.  Probably the least talented was your own, Jake's voice, but it was still pretty good.

The script and writing, in my opinion, are outstanding.  There is a real story with teeth in it at the core of the game, which developed in a timely fashion and with purpose.  The writer slowly leads the gamer down a trail of mysteries that become ever more complex as we delve deeper into the game.  It's definitely a page turner and I found myself playing into the night just to see what happened next.

The music is well chosen and quite good.  When the game ends, even the credits are worth watching (really clever) with excellent music.

The larger problems in DSOM are not a result of developer inattention, for it's obvious a tremendous amount of effort went into this game.  The game window and the multiple CDs are because of the FMV.  (I remember looking forward to Southpeak's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea on DVD; but alas, the game was scrubbed and Southpeak is no more.)

Technical Stuff

Except for an annoying flicker that would come and go (I never found the source) the game played fine for me on Windows 98SE, PIII.  While researching for reported bugs, etc., I did read that people had problems playing DSOM on Windows 2000 and Windows ME.  I wasn't able to get the game to run properly on Windows XP (the text would not install) so the conversation trees were nonexistent.  I don't know if there is a solution to this.

I know there is a DVD version that was released, but I couldn't find any information on how compatible it is with various systems.  However, I strongly urge anyone considering playing this game to check out the possibility of using the DVD.  It surely would eliminate a major headache.

System Requirements:

Pentium 166 MHz DirectX 5.0 (included)

Windows 95/98


8X CD-ROM Drive

16-Bit Windows compatible sound card

150 MB Hard Drive

2MB SVGA Graphics

If Only....

DSOM is one of those games.  Games we play through because they have so many good points, yet all the while we are thinking:  If only I didn't have to look at the game world through a microscope.  If only I didn't have to swap a CD right in the middle of a critical event.  If only I had more freedom of movement.  If only the inventory had name tags and the conversation had a text option.  If only….

But play it anyway.  If only...for the story.

Final Grade: B-

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