Lights Out: Director's Cut


Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Darkling Room

Released:  April 2009

PC Requirements:   Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP, 450 MHz Pentium III CPU, 128 MB RAM memory,  




by Becky


I started to play this game by Jonathan Boakes when it first released in 2004, got partway in and never finished. (For the GameBoomers reviews of the original Dark Fall II: Lights Out, click here and here.)

Back then, I found Lights Out intriguing, but not as attention-grabbing as its predecessor, Dark Fall: The Journal. It wasn’t as scary, its cursor and many hotspots were too small, and I had trouble piecing the story together.

With the release of Lights Out: Director’s Cut, I decided to try again and doubled down – I played both the original and the newly released versions. This time I got far enough in that I began to understand more of what was going on. The story caught me and I was hooked.

The Plot

In Lights Out, you play as Benjamin Parker, an artist whose day job is cartography. The game opens in 1912, when Parker has been brought to Cornwall, England to map the area. He discovers a mysterious lighthouse that appears on no prior map. A local doctor urges Parker to visit the lighthouse at night -- April 29, the same date (though in a different year) as the odd disappearances in Dark Fall: The Journal.

Any plot description of Lights Out will risk revealing spoilers. (Note: if you don’t want to read possible plot spoilers, skip to the next section.) In broad strokes, there is a powerful Dark Intelligence, an isolated location, and some abrupt journeys into different time periods. At first the meaning of the journeys is uncertain. Are they vivid memories, hallucinations, lucid dreams? These events provide a powerful motivation for Parker -- one of the best I’ve encountered in a game. The knowledge that your character was blamed for a past horror -- and the illusion (or reality?) of changing what happened in 1912, and thereby clearing your name.

Hadden Industries plays a minor part in the game. Having observed this company’s ominous reappearance in The Lost Crown, also by Jonathan Boakes, I paid much more attention to it in Lights Out. Hadden’s ghost-hunting gadgets link both Dark Fall games and The Lost Crown, with a hint as to possible Hadden involvement in later games.

What’s Different in the Director’s Cut

I expected the Director’s Cut to improve the interface from the original Lights Out – a larger cursor, bigger hotspots, and perhaps the insertion of subtitles. In fact, the interface hasn’t changed much, and the game still lacks subtitles. However, what has changed are graphical, plot, and character details that add to the game’s atmosphere and to the scare factor.

In the Director’s Cut version, the 1912 sequence is more eerie, with drifting mist, a haloed moon and a new character, befuddled with drink, muttering about the lighthouse. The background music plays more frequently and (except for the ending sequence) the ghostly voices are easier to understand.

In its original iteration, Lights Out had a forsaken, uncanny atmosphere, but wasn’t particularly spooky. What terrified was actually a form of blinding light, with glowing ghostly shapes as seen through Hadden’s special goggles. Although light can be threatening -- even lethal -- it’s just not as creepy as darkness.

The Director’s Cut adds shadowy manifestations that flicker out of the corner of your eye. There’s also significantly more interaction with the “spirits” trapped in the lighthouse. This fleshes out the story and increases the dramatic tension. In many places text is added or changed, providing more information about characters and events, so that it’s easier to understand the story and its context.

Several Director’s Cut puzzles have been modified. Two have been simplified, with clues easier to understand or find.

These changes don’t make the game simpler, though, because other puzzles have been lengthened with added steps. The additions, including a modern, tongue-in-cheek educational feature, are clever and provide variety for someone who has played the original. (Speaking of “educational,” Boakes is spot-on when portraying the Lighthouse Gift Shop – history books adorn the shelves, along with cute replicas, paperweights and coffee mugs. It’s funny, but rather sad too.)

The Director’s Cut is a more complete gaming experience.  I encountered an entire area that I didn’t find in the original Light’s Out. The newer version forces the gamer to find that area in order to complete the game. This area also involves an inventory item that I found in the original game but never figured out how to use.

A certain new corpse that appears in the Director’s Cut hints at why specific characters disappeared – a jolting realization. The Dark Intelligence isn’t just dark, it’s inhumanly ruthless.

The Lights Out Companion

After I finished the Director’s Cut, I read through “The Lights Out Companion,” which I purchased as a supplement to the download version of the game. It contains a walkthrough with sections discussing some of the game’s deeper themes. You won’t find precise answers to everything, but the “Companion” gives multiple explanations for some characters’ motivations, posits theories to explain what is going on, and adds brief conversation excerpts. Complete transcripts of conversations would have been even better, as the ghostly voices in the game are often distorted.


Query: if you played the original version of Lights Out, should you buy the Director’s Cut?

I’d say that if you finished the original version and felt satisfied that you’d figured out the game’s story (and if you managed to use all the inventory items), the Director’s Cut may not contribute to your previous experience. But if you didn’t finish the original game, or you finished and felt mystified by the ending, or if you enjoyed the original and want to play again -- the Director’s Cut is a significant improvement.

In particular, if you’re warming up for a run at the upcoming Dark Fall 3: Lost Souls, then Lights Out: Director’s Cut will effectively set the stage for the darkness that is yet to come.

Lights Out: Director’s Cut may be purchased from the developer’s website, from The Adventure Shop, and as part of the soon to release British Horror Pack.

October, 2009

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