Dark Fall is a first-person, Myst-style
game that is as beguiling as it is unsettling. It starts with a frantic
phone message from your brother, who is camping out in an abandoned train
station. You take a night train through the English countryside and wake
up in a tunnel, listening to a child-like entity who seems to think that
itís still 1947. The nearby station is filled with symbols and memories
from that era. Itís nostalgic, bleak and mildly creepy.
Across from the station is an abandoned hotel. Itís when you go inside the
hotel that the truly creepy stuff begins.
Dark Fall is a game of interiors. Its atmosphere is unlike that of
ďSchizmĒ or ďAmerzoneĒ where you can spend half the game admiring the sky.
The interior spaces in Dark Fall have a faded and disturbing beauty. There
is a schizophrenic quality to these rooms Ė some are comfortably appointed
and rich with color. Others are dilapidated. Many rooms look as though
they were captured in the lens of an old-fashioned camera, then
There are elements in this game that remind me of an Agatha Christie
novel. Thereís the traditional yet quirky English hotel/mansion. Secrets
are hidden in plain sight. Various characters are brought back to life
through photographs and letters. There is an overwhelming sense of
mystery, and a growing understanding of a terrible wrong that must be
Several times in this game I experienced the
hair-rising-on-the-back-of-the-neck syndrome. One encounter occurred AFTER
I had finished playing the game and was replaying it for this review. I
thought Iíd seen it all. I thought I had nothing to fear. I was playing in
full daylight with household commotion all around me. An unexpected turn
in the game, a certain movement, and suddenly Iím sucked back into a dark
room that should be empty but isnít Ė and I realize that once again Iím
trembling with apprehension.
The sound effects and snatches of music in Dark Fall are suitably spooky,
and the voice acting is very good. The game becomes scarier the more you
play it. This is not a game full of hideous apparitions -- it works on
your mind with more subtlety than that.
Gameplay consists of a mix of traditional challenges and an unusual
treasure hunt. There are puzzle boxes, cryptograms and symbol sequencing
puzzles. There are mechanical puzzles that seem as though they should be
easy but arenít. A few solutions require close observation. You will be
able to use high-tech gadgets -- these are handled in a way that maximizes
the fun without too much gadget-related frustration. The inventory system
is easy to use, and you are never overloaded with inventory items.
There is a lot of material to read in this game. The reading is important
for piecing together clues and for understanding the backstory. I would
have enjoyed the game more if it had contained more varied ways to glean
the necessary information. Otherwise though, game pacing is excellent. I
made consistent progress every time I played -- right up until the end
when I had to acknowledge that two of the challenges had stumped me.
Dark Fall is mouse-controlled. There is no 360 degree panning. The
keyboard comes into play in a few areas where you type questions. When
playing the game in a window the directional arrows that you click in
order to turn donít always work properly. The game also requires a bit of
fiddling if you want to play it in full screen on Windows XP. After the
initial compatibility settings are tweaked, you have to exit each time you
start and then reenter to get the full screen effect. Iím hoping this
problem will be fixed in the version that The Adventure Company will soon
Dark Fallís ending was unusually good for an adventure game. It was
enjoyable, thoughtful and logical.
Quick List for Dark Fall
First-person perspective. Mouse control without 360 degree panning. Very
stable. Puzzles are variations on traditional adventure challenges. No
sliding tile puzzles, no math puzzles, no timed puzzles, no mazes, three
sound puzzles. A full range of puzzle difficulty. The inventory holds a
handful of items and is easy to use. Dying is not an issue (actually, I
would have enjoyed dying once just to see what would happen afterwards).
Unlimited saves are allowed Ė some gamers find the save system to be
tricky. Slight technical fix required if you play on Windows XP.
The Dark Fall lowdown -- spooky, atmospheric, enigmatic. Good story and
voice acting. Sound effects are top-notch. Disturbing, authentic
historical surroundings. Lots of reading required. Satisfying ending.
Aimed at gamers who like a good mystery with an added tang of terror.
Final Grade: B+
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