Last Half of Darkness
Developer & Publisher: WRF Studios
PC Requirements: Pentium III (500mhz or faster), 128MB RAM (256MB+ strongly recommended), 32MB Video (64MB+ recommended), 1GB of hard drive space (for installed files), DirectX 8.1 (or later) Installed
The online game was really just a small smattering of this Independent Game Developer's finished project. After playing with it for the very short time it offered, I decided to await the "Shadows of the Servants" arrival on CD. I'd just have to be happy with the screenshots and storyline his site provided. Finally, the game arrived.
"All righty then... I thought... so that's the way it is. Well, better prepare", I thought to myself.
From the look of the Box Art, what I had
just read and what I knew of the game from the original version... I
envisioned some scary times ahead for me. So, I gathered together all of
my "adventure gaming" forces: ... a clean steno pad, a fresh battery for
my special "light up pen", so I could write in the dark, my stereo
headphones, whipped up a pot of Paul Prudomme's Shrimp Entouffe, put three
longneck bottles of Coke on ice, and waited for darkness to fall. I
watched the sun set fully and then loaded up the game. I was ready, a
darkened room with none save the glimmer from my monitor to guide my way,
I was immediately aware of the butter soft black leather cups of my
earphones as they caressed my ears... the volume was turned up; the stage
was set. The loading screen came up and then just as quickly it
disappeared and I was at once plunged into darkness with only the innocent
intonation of an inquiring child echoing through my ears as he first
... I found myself alone in a darkened and foreboding room, with only the sounds of the night winds as they seeped in through the decrepit shutters. Even though my logic tried its best to keep my sanity on an even keel, and reassured my skittish temperament that the mournful desolate moans I heard and the indistinct shadows I could perceive in the gloom of the dreary glow from the solitary lamp on the small table in the center of the room were naught but from the terrible storm outside... yet... I knew better
... for I knew I was not alone
A Tale of Horror:
Peaked your interest, did I? This indeed, is a tale worth telling. And for the most part it is told quite well. Yet, like some mysteries and night terrors I've experienced, they almost always seem to leave me with certain "thoughts" to ponder over. Because of this, I have placed my further summations or critique, if you will in the regular members review section. It poses some of my thoughts and questions of this tale of horror and mayhem that is known as The Shadows of The Servants, for the curious to peruse. However, be warned! The page also poses a few of my theories about the story, which may leave you open to witnessing a few "spoilers". I strongly urge that you absolutely do not read it unless you have already played the game. You’ll find it under “A Tale of Horror”.
I must say that I was indeed surprised that while this seems to be a DOS based game, I had no problems either installing or loading my particular version of the game which is "Version 1.4.2" onto my Windows XP Home Edition (SP1), and was very pleased to see that on Billy's site he is constantly providing updates in the form of downloadable "patches" or “updates” should the need arise. My version is 1.4.3 now and runs like a thoroughbred. Well Done, Billy.
I should also tell you that this adventure is a memory hungry one and requires at least 30,000Mb of Available Physical Memory. So make sure that you have absolutely nothing else active on your system (that means no anti-virus, screensavers, Aunt Gurtie's Recipe for Pig-Knuckle and Okra Chutney or any thing else you might have running in the background!) You'll also need to have the latest Audio & Video drivers for your particular configuration as well as the latest Windows Media Player and Codec Package.
I noticed the cursor would occasionally change from a gray or red arrow (depending upon whether or not you discovered an "action" (red arrow) hotspot), to a cryptic symbol of a purple eye. The "purple eye" was used to describe an object or place. I soon realized just what I had walked into... This would be a "text adventure" of sorts.
"Oh, man!" ... I winced, "This is a Text Adventure!!!"
But my curiosity got the better of me and I made up my mind to play through the game.
Even though the last graphical text adventure I had played was ten years ago.
I'm happy to say, that I'm very glad that I did. The text quotes throughout the game lent themselves so well to the atmosphere that it would have made very little sense without them. They acted almost as an "inner monologue" throughout the story.
It's the mood you want to create here.... and "silence” with only the undercurrent of subliminal music, weather elements, various thus and sundry creaks and groans emanating from either the mansion, graveyard, swamp and/or netherworld adds so much punch to the "setup" for when something jumps out at you, you are totally taken by surprise. I will tell you that I jumped more than once and felt those intense shivers one acquires when the tiny prickly hairs at the back of one's neck stand on end.
The characters were interestingly ghoulish, I found, but typical of the area. We have the “Little Boy”; actually we have three little boys, and of course the “Mojo Man” who seems to take on the part of the narrator every once in awhile. Then there is “Mira Johnson” (Muretta’s favorite artistic daughter), “Mira’s Sister” (Muretta’s forgotten daughter) and the Swamp Witch. Since Mira’s Sister and the Swamp Witch sounded exactly alike and Mira and the Swamp Witch looked very similar, it was confusing at times to tell who was who and which witch was which. I felt there should have been much more plot exposition for the characters of the little boys as well as the two sisters and the Swamp Witch. Were they all the same child or were each a separate entity? Why did the child in Muretta’s room ask, “Why did you try to kill me, Mother?” Was that the spirit of “Good Jaja” in human form? Or did Muretta have another child that we just don’t know about? Why do we find Mira’s Sister where we find her? How did she die? And why didn’t her mother name her? Is that why she’s so angry? Who is the Swamp Witch, really? Is she Mira in another form? So, many questions… maybe Billy is saving the answers for his next installment… whatever it is, I look forward to it.
The graphics are also something of worthy note as well. The palate is so rich with jewel tones that they indeed shimmer with the expectation of ectoplasm at every turn, especially when the scenes take you outdoors. Billy has created a style that is so very capable of also giving off that surreal look, which adds subliminally to the suspense. It reminded me of how a "Disney Attraction" is theatrically lit. Absolutely stunning. While I was in his world, I believed I was experiencing a haunting.
...Most excellent, I must say.
The puzzles in Shadows of the Servants made perfect sense, and to my way of thinking were quite logically deployed. Without going into any of the game's actual storyline other than the prologue discussed earlier which leads into the game
Sorry, ladies and gentleman of the adventure's genre, but a ghost story is best "experienced" first hand, in order to achieve its full effect ... so if you want to know the rest of the story...you'll just have to play the game.
There are inventory based puzzles, connectivity puzzles, logical engineering puzzles, an extremely fascinating "block-out" puzzle back in the town and even the infamous three cups and a ball scam artist puzzle (Billy, I played those last two over and over again, I loved them so much) and so on. Some of the inventory pieces are combinable and a few of the inventory puzzles have to "cook" or "need time to mature", as it were. My particular favorite was the 3D Maze... I found out the hard way that it is here where you can die if you're not careful.
There are 10 slots for saving, but the saves can be overwritten or copied and saved in a separate file and then added back in later if you wish. Another thing about Shadows of the Servants was the non-linear navigation of the piece. Makes it very interesting to replay, which I've done 3 different times, taking very different routes...and even though I knew what was going to happen, those specters still made me jump with fright.
There is also a very nice touch, with respect to the CD itself. Here, we will find a very comprehensive and articulate Readme file. It's nice to know that WRF Studios composed it as though they actually expect the gamer to read it. I was quite pleased with this, as I am one of those gamers who do actually read the Readme files. An important step before installing any application and thus evade obvious pitfalls during installation or actual gameplay which otherwise could have been avoided. Another delightful soupçon was the "bonus" folder which holds no less than 5 demo games and a ScreenSaver created by Billy for the gamer’s perusal.
With all of the things I've mentioned so far, naturally this begs the question:
"Can a Slide- Show-Updated -DOS- Format which utilizes DirectX and Modern Codecs with Static Graphics, Non- Linear- Point&Click- Text- Adventure with a Fabulously- Haunting- Musical- Underscore, Fairly- Interesting- Puzzles, A Hopelessly- Unnerving- 3D-Maze, Echoing- Voice- Overs, Animated- Cut- Scenes and Ambiance- Driven- Sound- Effects survive and compete with the other offerings this year by our Independent Adventure Game Developers?"
Would I recommend a romp through this ghoulish and sometimes downright hideously bloody display of putrefied flesh and gore that is known as "Last Half of Darkness: Shadows of the Servants"?
Know though, that as I give forth my recommendations to try and play this very creepy and wickedly interesting game, I would also remind all gamers that this genre may not be for everyone's taste. It is definitely not for the squeamish or faint of heart... You have been duly warned. That said I have to mention that I had a blast playing this adventure and look forward to more like it within this genre.... (Hint, hint, Billy.)