Side of the Moon
South Peak Interactive
Release Date: 1998
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
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
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
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
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
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
The music is well chosen and quite good. When the game ends,
even the credits are worth watching (really clever) with excellent
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.)
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.
Pentium 166 MHz DirectX
32 MB RAM
8X CD-ROM Drive
16-Bit Windows compatible
150 MB Hard Drive
2MB SVGA Graphics
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
But play it anyway. If only...for the story.
Final Grade: B-
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