Dark Fall 3: Lost Souls



Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Darkling Room

Publisher:    Iceberg Interactive

Released:  December 2009

PC Requirements:   OS: Windows® XP/Vista™, CPU: Intel® Pentium® IV or equivalent AMD®, RAM: 512 MB RAM (1 GB Recommended for Windows® Vista™), Video: 128 MB DirectX® 9.0c compatible video card, Hard Disk: TBA, Sound: DirectX® 9.0c compatible sound card, Other: Mouse, keyboard, speakers. 


Additional Screenshots





by flotsam


After a few years, Mr. Boakes is back, much to the delight of his many fans. Dowerton is also back, the hotel and railway station being the scene of the first of the Dark Fall games. And the dark is back, replete with all those many things that hide within it, and creep around, and might or might not actually be there.

I reviewed the first game when it was being burnt on an ordinary looking CD and sent out by Jonathan himself. I said at that time that if it wasn’t the creepiest game around, then I didn’t know what was, and that quote was then featured on the box of the subsequent commercial release. So I confess I have a soft spot for Dark Fall, and I was particularly impressed by The Lost Crown, his ghost hunting extravaganza. So what to say about Lost Souls, the first game Jonathan has released since then?

First up, it’s prettier than the original, more detailed in its graphics and more colourful in its scenes. Which makes it more gruesome, but more of that later.

It also leans more to the horrific and the macabre, rather than the creepy. Creepy is still there, but I would describe this as a horror adventure, which is not a label I would have attached to the first game.

Which is good, because more of the same never quite does it for me in the same way, and I like horror.

Except that in this regard it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. The horror elements made for a squeamish moment or two, and some of the settings - especially when the light flicks on, illuminating a previously dark area - were morbid, even grisly. But I didn’t feel horrified, and it overwhelmed the creepy. There was the odd “boo” moment as an apparition popped into and out of view, and some prickly trepidation as to what might lie behind the next door. But I think overall it lacked the subtlety of the earlier game, and was less by comparison.

Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. It also doesn’t mean you will agree with me. Plenty of people playing this game find it more frightening than the first, for a variety of reasons.


Dowerton remains an atmospheric place to explore, littered with the entropy of abandonment and neglect. It’s not only the buildings that suffer in that way; the lost souls of the title are similarly afflicted. There is a surreal element to many of the rooms – a set of mannequins sitting down to dinner, or a mattress skewered with multiple pairs of scissors. Dust and cobwebs are testament to the time that has passed since it was a lively and operating place of business, as are the cockroaches and empty syringes.

Sound plays a big part. Creaks and groans, giggles and wails, whispers and wind. Hear your heart pound as the adrenalin increases or exertion takes over. Put on headphones, turn down the lights, and immerse yourself. Close your eyes from time to time and just listen – it’s rich and immersive.

The tale too is one which belongs in a place like this. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t played the first game, although it will add a little depth, and may even help build the atmosphere through the sense of being here before. Jonathan’s script is particularly good, a little uneven here and there, but worthy of not being spoiled by even the minimalist divulgement here. Suffice to say that you play a Police Inspector, looking for a small girl called Amy, and things are not at all what they seem.

You do get glimpses of Dowerton’s past splendour, through interactions with various of the lost souls. Helping them will help you, and you will need to move back and forth from the “now” to the past, to unravel what has beset them and to undo what has been done. There are three such guests at the Dowerton hotel, who (to borrow a phrase) checked out long ago but never left.

And then there is Amy. Troubled, and missing. Learn about her as you poke about, play games with her from time to time, and draw closer to what happened, and what will happen. Which will be up to you in the end.

Echo you can learn about yourself.


The puzzling was effectively integrated into the proceedings, and there was much of it, which meant that it was a bit of a mixed bag. I didn’t think it was as open as the first game and, even played on the hard setting, was not that difficult. I generally knew what to do or where to go next, helped along by emails arriving on my PDA. Occasionally I was lost. But as revisiting places sometimes revealed a new development, with certain events triggering new ways forward, being lost never seemed to last very long.

All of which helped the plot flow, and kept the game going, which is, I think, a plus. If it stuttered and stalled through being too difficult, the mood would be punctured and the overall experience deflated.

There is some repetition in the puzzles (you reassemble about five or six torn flyers and posters) and there are some dialogue based games and others that depend a bit on trial and error, although the dialogue games will be less so if you pay attention to your surroundings. Lock picking, however, is simply trial and error. You will use an extensive inventory, although you have a fairly limited number of items at any one time. Icons will of course indicate something needs to be done, and the hotspots are quite generous, a little too much in some cases. I thought that some better delineation between nearby hotspots would have helped on occasion.

You can also find bonus items in the game (finding them isn’t necessary in terms of completing the game), either through a perceptive response to a puzzle or through repetition. The repetitive ones are not my cup of tea; doing something repeatedly in the hope that you might get a bonus seems a little too contrived. I did find three of a stated six, and there might be others.

You can look up and down at every location, and generally turn through 360 degrees. Whilst it can be a lot of clicking - one to look up, another to look down again - it pays to do so, and subtle clues will often indicate where it might be most rewarding. It would have been nice to have had panning with the mouse, but I suspect that requires a much more complicated game engine. Perhaps too Jonathan was thinking of those players who get a little queasy with a free panning environment.

The system specifications are rather humble for a modern-day game, and if you have a bigger system you can tweak the antialiasing and a few other settings. The menu is all accessed through the PDA, which pokes out at the bottom left of the screen, and the inventory is across the bottom of the screen. It may well have unlimited save slots, but as I only used one (which is really all you need), I can’t tell you.


Some conundrums in Lost Souls will lead to your demise, but the game automatically returns you for another attempt. One puzzle is timed, in that a misshapen creature is advancing upon you and you must complete the puzzle before it reaches you.

One thing I would have liked was the opportunity to skip dialogue I had heard. Re-entering the past, for instance, always resulted in the same piece of character dialogue, and there were similar instances elsewhere. Clicking on an object again might also trigger the same response. It’s a small thing, but a thing nonetheless. 

The voice work, with one exception, was generally better than good. Unfortunately that exception was The Inspector, who sounded far too forced and unnatural. The musical score, though, more than compensated. And there are some nice little touches, including the slight bob of the head in your first person perspective.

I did encounter some glitches. In those puzzles where you had to reassemble a torn poster, if I moved a piece too close to the edge of the screen, my curser became frozen and I would have to control-alt-delete my way out. It happened more than once, so I made a point of not going near the edges. I also got a similar lockup on two occasions, which seem to have been the result of trying to turn in another direction too quickly. I suspect if patches can fix these issues, Jonathan will ensure that they eventuate.

Despite my misgivings and the little quibbles here and there, all in all Dark Fall: Lost Souls is an excellent adventure game, worthy of your time and your money. It didn’t rate as highly for me as the first instalment, but it rates more highly than a lot of games I have played. At its heart, it remains in essence the product of one man’s passion, and, along with makers such as Knut Müller and William R. Fisher, giving substance to that passion continues to produce compelling games.


I played on:

OS: Win XP Professional SP3

Processor: AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz

Ram: 3.25GB DDR2 400MHz

Gx card: ATI Radeon HD 3850 512Mb


December, 2009

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