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