Dark Fall

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer   Jonathan Boakes, XXv Productions

Publisher:     The Adventure Company

Released:   2002, 2003

PC Requirements:    Pentium 233 minimum or equivalent, 32Mb Ram, 24 x CD ROM, SVGA capable graphics adapter, 32 bit color at 640x480, Mouse, Keyboard, Speakers.

Walkthrough Walkthrough

 

Additional screenshots

 

 

by Becky

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 hand-tinted.

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 righted

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 publish.

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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