Dark Secrets


Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    DreamCraft Entertainment

Released:  February 2012

PC Requirements:  

OS : Windows XP / Vista / 7 (32 or 64-bit)
CPU: Pentium Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz or equivalent
Memory: 1 GB
Video Memory: GeForce 7800 or equivalent
HDD: 1500 MB





by flotsam


“There’s nothing we can’t face; except for bunnies” – Anya, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Hailing from Sweden, this first person debut from DreamCraft Entertainment is a mixed blessing. It gets top marks for creating a big, open, "go anywhere" world – but fewer marks for most everything else.

The world in question is Calmwood, once home to Arthur, who is back following his father’s death. Theirs was not the closest relationship, and death does not seem to have mellowed Arthur’s feelings. His sister might thaw things a bit, but who is this person calling her “mother”? And why won’t she talk about what she has been doing? Before long, secrets seem to be everywhere.

I like an open world in which you can wander where you will, and pan through 360 degrees. It makes a nice change from the more limited nature of node-to-node progression and a more restricted point of view. The downside is the somewhat lengthy loads when changing locations, but there is clearly a fair bit to load.

It’s a reasonably detailed world too, especially outside in the town, although there is a slight shimmer to the graphics. There is a sameness about some of it that you notice after a while, and only a few of the village buildings are accessible. But in those you can open drawers and cupboards to see what you might find, and turn on taps just 'cos you feel like it.

The character modelling was a bit lacklustre, and character movement even more so at times. Most characters stood still, which was a good thing, as they had a tendency to waggle their legs and slide across the environment when they moved about. This was most noticeable when they turned around to walk away – at one point a character was sliding sideways while shuffling her legs back and forth in a completely different direction to the one she was going. Straight line locomotion was not too bad, but still left a little to be desired.

It reminded me of games made using the Adventure Maker software (e.g., The Filmmaker). I don’t know if that was used here, but much of the design had the same look to me.

“Why should I mourn for a rabbit like he was human” – Donnie Darko

You play Arthur, and your locomotion is via the keyboard, while using the mouse to “steer”. It will be familiar to many Darkside players, but I know it isn’t the favourite of some adventure game players. In my view though it’s the best choice for a "go anywhere" world, so it’s another plus.

There is no spoken word, subtitles providing the dialogue, with sound coming from some fairly realistic sound effects and a number of music tracks which change with the locations. At times they were jaunty accompaniment, at other times adding a little something to the atmosphere. I heard some of them quite a few times, and got a little sick of one, but overall they weren’t too bad.

The subtitles appear word by word, much as if they were being spoken, but if you are impatient (like me) you can click and reveal the complete sentence. Click again to progress the conversation. There are some spelling and grammar errors but nothing too serious (and nothing like there would be if I tried to make a game in Swedish).

I thought the interface was a little clumsy, but that might just have been me. The hotspots appear only when you are close to the item in question, but you can be too close and therefore “overshoot” the spot. More than once I had to back up and then move forward a bit to get where I needed to be. The inventory allows you to examine objects by rotating them through 360 degrees, another nice touch, and you can choose whether to examine or use the item, or to combine items. It defaults to examine, and I did on occasion examine when I meant to use but that was definitely me. It’s not the smoothest inventory management around, and on the occasions where you have to utilise an object as a part of a conversation it’s at its roughest, but it does the job.

“I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque!” – Bugs Bunny

Puzzles are a mixed bag. Most are inventory based, and are not terribly difficult (if of course you have found the right objects). But there were too many lock pick puzzles for my liking, and there were some dialogue conundrums that were confusing, to say the least. From what I could tell, certain conversations were necessary to trigger events, although it wasn’t clear what they were, and there were others where the plot suggested you had to answer correctly, yet it seemed the answers didn’t matter. A code puzzle was the hardest, doubly so by comparison with the rest, albeit a tad obscure.

Finding your way around some of the outdoor environments was a little confusing, and the town is a decent size so be sure to check out the map upon your arrival. A tourist brochure you receive early on will be useful in that regard also.

The story left me cold, being way too silly. Adventure games require a willing suspension of disbelief, but even so this one didn’t do it for me. I suspect if other aspects of the game had been stronger I wouldn’t have noticed, or perhaps minded. It also never generates any real sense of tension or mystery, or darkness, which again is a product of the parts. There were times too when a little more direction would have helped.

There is a prologue you can skip, but which functions as a tutorial on the game interface. You only have four save game slots, which I found were plenty, and I didn’t encounter any bugs or glitches while playing. I have read one review which said the game was riddled with bugs, but I encountered none of those described. Perhaps patches have fixed things in the intervening period – I certainly had no issues.

There were some promising aspects here, but Dark Secrets never really raised its head above a middling experience. It wasn’t a bad game, just not a very interesting or engrossing one. I did feel sorry though for the bunny.


I played on:

OS: Windows 7

Processor: AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz

Ram: 4.00GB DDR2 400MHz

Gx card: ATI Radeon HD 3850 512Mb

Dark Secrets is available via download from The Adventure Shop and from Gamers Gate.



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