Dark Secrets

Posted By: chrissie

Dark Secrets - 03/16/12 09:56 AM

Here are some facts & my thoughts:

The game, two years in the making, is the first by Swedish indie developers DreamCraft Entertainment.
First Impression: The game starts with a prologue which I initially abandoned after about 10 minutes – I got lost, couldn’t make any sense of what I was supposed to do & I hated the interface.

Determined not to waste my money, I tried again a few days later & persevered to be lured into an engaging story & an appreciation of the game mechanics.

The initial problem in the prologue is that it is in the nature of most AG players to explore. However if you resist & take the obvious route, instructions for game controls & clues as to what to do flash intermittently on-screen as you progress – a nice touch I thought. You can end up going the wrong way so a clearer map or a compass would have been helpful!

You have the option to skip the prologue at the beginning, you won’t lose too much to start with but playing it through at sometime later is recommended as its integral to tying up the story.
Story: Playing as Arthur, you arrive back in a small isolated Scandinavian village following notification of the sudden death of your father. News of your return & a strange object you find in the antique shop you’ve inherited, lead you on a path to discovering secrets about the village. This is achieved through collecting & examining items, visiting places, solving a variety of puzzles & talking to the various villagers who have secrets of their own.

In keeping with the prologue I found that exploration for the sake of it, especially in the outside locations contributed little, if anything at all to the progression of the game.

A map encountered early on is helpful in directing you to a handful of locations you need to find. Items/info are easy to spot in the simple interiors, & in outside locations strategically placed or somewhere in the vicinity that they’re needed in. In some cases you are unable to leave a place until you have found what you need so you don’t find yourself having to back-track.

On eliminating the need to diligently search every nook & cranny early on, I found that the game flowed along in a logical & engaging, if very linear, manner which came across as well-constructed & thought about.

There were few points where I didn’t know what to do or where to go next – navigating around a couple of outside locations proved to be more tricky, the more difficult one relying on a subtle clue, as in the prologue, as to which way to go.
Characters: The rendering of them gave you a good idea of their stature & appearance. As they’re not voiced conversations are carried out via choices in a dialogue box. There was no lip movement but I preferred this to bad syncing in a game that may cater for speech in more than one language.
For me, interaction with them was an interesting aspect of the game. I did get a sense of their personalities & traits, but although a couple of dream sequences gave a little more depth, I would like to have known more about some of them.
Dialogue: There’s one very intricate dialogue tree which could be described as a puzzle, but although conversation choices evoke different responses they don’t impact on the overall progression of the game.
For the most part the sentences are well-constructed but contain quite a few misspellings, typos & some bad translation on occasion – it didn’t spoil the game for me but does let it down.
Puzzles: These consist mainly of simple inventory manipulation & use, & several lock pick puzzles of varying difficulty – I didn’t mind them but there were too many, I thought, for players who do mind them. Others include solving 2 easy clock & keypad puzzles & participating in a ‘quiz’ where it doesn’t seem to matter what answers you give! One of the more interesting puzzles involves some cross-referencing & some thought to open a safe.
Interface: You move around by using the WASD/arrow keys on the keyboard & the mouse to look around/change direction. As a person that suffers from motion sickness this is the worst kind of interface for me & I had to take frequent breaks from playing the game. However I appreciated the full immersion I experienced in the game world & was very impressed with the smoothness of movement, although I have gleaned that it can be quite choppy on some systems.
Controls: Characters & items can be interacted with by clicking the left mouse button when cog wheels or a magnifying glass appear accompanied by a name or description. Unfortunately some of these drew attention to the worst of the English translations & inconsistencies. To give a few examples - stinging nettles were labelled as ‘burning nettles’, the front door of a house labelled ‘back door’, & cemetery labelled ‘cementery’ although it was spelt correctly at other times.

Inventory items & Main Menu are displayed on different pages of a notebook accessed by pressing I & Esc respectively. A ‘go back’ command in each case takes you to a Game Options page also accessible by pressing the Tab key, from where you can access both the Inventory Items & the Main Menu pages. The Main Menu page gives you the options to Load, Save or Return to Title Screen.
Games can be saved, stamped with the time, on one of the four over-writeable photo slots displayed on a notice board. Inventory items can be presented, examined, used or combined. I found the notebook system pleasing & well thought out.

A couple of features I found interesting included a swing which seemingly couldn’t be interacted with but moved about when I ‘knocked’ into it, & doors on two separate occasions which you had to repeatedly click on them to open – as I didn’t encounter glitches anywhere else I think the intention was to give a sense of having to nudge open doors that had become stuck. Glimpses, I think, of what the developers are capable of.

Graphics: Along with the subtleties of the story, I found them to be a strong aspect of the game, but to appreciate them fully I would recommend using the highest setting of ‘fantastic’ if your system can support it.

The Scandinavian village is beautifully realised with crisp details showing various colours & materials used for the assortment of brick, wood, stone & concrete structures. The surface of a cracked road, contrasts with the brick & crazy paved paths & items dotted around such as mail boxes, bicycles, street lamps & rotary driers in gardens give a sense of life in the absence of people around. The village is given an isolated feel through the realistic forests of pine trees surrounding it. These along with the pine trees dotted around within it, the grassy areas with different types of flowers growing & an impressive weeping willow contribute to a picturesque view.

By contrast I found the uncluttered & sparsely furnished interior locations less interesting visually although the same attention had been given to illustrating the various textures of the building surfaces & contents.

The mood of various locations is enhanced by an unobtrusive soundtrack, that I didn’t really notice most of the time, interrupted on occasion by ambient sounds such as dogs barking.

Overview: A well-constructed & thought out game, with lovely graphics & some interesting characters.
An engaging story, which ties up the elements, events & characters on conclusion.
Shoddy translation not in keeping with the thought gone into other aspects of the game.
A couple of locations where you can get lost & frustrated if you don’t stay focused – a map or compass would have been helpful
Not for players who enjoy a lot of meaningful exploration and/or a focus on challenging puzzles.
Full immersion in 3D environments, not for players who suffer from motion sickness.
A good first offering from new indie developers.

The game played smoothly & I encountered no glitches, bugs or dead ends, but the game did minimise on a few occasions throwing me to the desktop.

I really enjoyed the game & glad I was able to battle the interface. If I had to grade the game I would give it B, B+ if the English translations had been more accurate & consistent. The developers have, with the skills they possess, the potential to go on & produce A+ games.

The game is currently available as a download from the Adventure Shop & Gamers Gate where you can also see the list of system specs.

There’s also a demo which you can download from
Posted By: Becky

Re: Dark Secrets - 03/16/12 12:28 PM

Thanks for the review chrissie! You have given me a shot in the arm! I'm going to try this one. wave
Posted By: looney4labs

Re: Dark Secrets - 03/19/12 10:12 PM

Thanks Chrissie, I'm glad you preservered so you could tell us about this game. wave
Posted By: chrissie

Re: Dark Secrets - 03/20/12 08:46 AM

Becky & looney4labs wave

Judging from the comments in Hints & the number of hits one thread has had, players have experienced the game differently. It would be useful to have conflicting opinions posted here so that anyone thinking of buying the game has more to go on than just one person's view! smile
Posted By: Mad

Re: Dark Secrets - 03/20/12 03:30 PM

Thanks for your review, chrissie !!
I'm still on the fence about this one but at least you've given me plenty to mull over thumbsup
Posted By: sureshot

Re: Dark Secrets - 03/23/12 02:17 PM

Thank you chrissie !!

I was looking for some review of this game and I thank you for your wonderful review. thumbsup

I am a little hesitant though - I just went through the last 4 or 5 games where the length and scope of the dialogue trees just killed the experience for me. cry

Guess I am just a little grouchy from it. sad
Posted By: traveler

Re: Dark Secrets - 03/24/12 02:54 AM

Originally Posted By: sureshot

I just went through the last 4 or 5 games where the length and scope of the dialogue trees just killed the experience for me. cry

I don't know how you made it through Syberia, then. grin Talk about dialogue trees!

I'm really hesitant about this one. Chrissie gave it a pretty good review but it got a rotten review over at Adventure Gamers.

Posted By: chrissie

Re: Dark Secrets - 03/24/12 04:16 PM

Thanks Mad & sureshot for your comments & also traveler for alerting us to the review at Adventure Gamers which I've just read through! Compared to that I've obviously played the game through my rose-coloured gaming spectacles as it was very harsh! lol

The main thing that concerned me was the reference to the game being bug-ridden. For whatever reason the reviewer experienced glitches, either through a corrupt download or incompatibility issues, this obviously led to flaws in the gameplay for them such as a character not turning up when they should etc & other difficulties which have fuelled undeserved criticism in the case where a player may not experience these problems.

I've played through the game 3 times & can honestly say that I never experienced any of the 'bugs' described in the review & it played smoothly & flawlessly for me apart from the occasional minimisation to desktop - I never had to resort to going back to a save to progress.

Otherwise I don't disagree with much of what the reviewer has said & it's great to see a different angle posted! thumbsup

But, I did think there was more to the 'lack lustre' story than was given credit for - it's not the greatest story in the world but I thought the developers did a pretty good job of pulling it together with some intriguing subtleties that I thought were overlooked. Also, there was never any reason not to be able to progress - if you don't know what to do next just return to base & the game almost leads you by the hand!

The game for sure could have been a lot better but I would recommend anyone sitting on the fence to try out the free demo first especially to make sure it works on your system! smile

sureshot - for me there was only one complicated dialogue tree - the rest of them were quite straightforward. I did find on different playthroughs that you could glean different info depending on the choice you made but they really didn't make any difference to the progression of the game.

Posted By: sureshot

Re: Dark Secrets - 03/24/12 07:00 PM

Thank you chrissie and traveler.

Syberia made sense traveler - it was a joy to play.

Games like Paradise and Sinking Island - where you go through a list of dialogues and on the last subject the list starts again or generates a new batch of dialogue - then - you need to do this with all the characters. crazy crazy

Recently - Everlight and Going Downtown - I just don't do well with large dialogue trees and the ones you need to make choices on! thumbsdown

But back to Dark Secrets - I think I'll wait on this one even though I am getting desperate in finding a decent game to play. thanks
Posted By: sureshot

Re: Dark Secrets - 03/24/12 07:33 PM

Folks - I just re-read chrissie's review and the review on Adventure Gamers site - I'll not be playing this game after all!

I must have passed over the WASD keyboard movement feature and that alone killed it for me - forget about dialogue !! rotfl

Same thing with Dead Reefs - that one went into the garbage 5 minutes after I installed it!

Sorry - we are too far along in technology - spend a lot of money on these games - you think they would put the effort into coding in mouse controls?? cry

I can't enjoy a game while "fighting" a keyboard too. scared
Posted By: traveler

Re: Dark Secrets - 03/24/12 07:56 PM

Originally Posted By: sureshot

I must have passed over the WASD keyboard movement feature and that alone killed it for me - forget about dialogue !! rotfl

Same thing with Dead Reefs - that one went into the garbage 5 minutes after I installed it!

The controls on Dead Reefs are horrible, no kidding. I can't deal with them. WASD? Meh, not that bad unless I have to move quickly, then I always seem to end up going in the wrong direction. grin Grim is the only game in which I never really minded using the arrow keys. (I'll bet you'd never figure that out on your own.) But WASD alone wouldn't put me off Dark Secrets.

Chrissie, you should post a rebuttal over there on AG, especially since you believe that reviewer must have had a corrupted download. There may not be a lot of room in comments, but you can probably get her told. grin

Posted By: chrissie

Re: Dark Secrets - 03/24/12 08:22 PM

I really liked Dead Reefs but did think that the movement lent itself to point & click rather than using the WASD keys which I agree traveler was horrible. The controls in Dark Secrets are far less clumsy - I never actually used the WASD keys just the forward & back arrows on the keyboard & the mouse to change direction - I didn't find it a bad interface at all!

That's a good suggestion to post over on Adventure Gamers traveler! It is useful for gamers to see different points of view but it does bother me that DS comes across as bug-ridden - if it was why didn't I have any problem?
Also I did notice some negative comments following the review - trouble is people tend to rant or rave & the game's not good enough to rave about to counteract the rants!

I just want to stress that there are only two legitimate outlets for this game The Adventure Shop & Gamersgate.
Posted By: traveler

Re: Dark Secrets - 03/24/12 09:15 PM

Lol! True, your comment might get lost in the rants anyway.

Posted By: chrissie

Re: Dark Secrets - 03/25/12 05:26 PM

It does seem that a handful of players have encountered some serious 'bugs' in the game! smile
Posted By: PeterKarlsson

Re: Dark Secrets - 04/03/12 06:59 PM

From us at DreamCraft Entertainment, I would like to thank you for your review. It was very well written and informative. We always appreciate feedback that can help us further developed our skills and deliver better game experiences to our customers in the future endeavors.
Posted By: Becky

Re: Dark Secrets - 04/03/12 07:01 PM

Hi PeterKarlsson -- thank you for stopping by! wave
Posted By: chrissie

Re: Dark Secrets - 04/03/12 07:55 PM

Thank you PeterKarlsson for taking the time & trouble to come & post here & also for your appreciation of my 'amateur' review. I did genuinely enjoy the game & the story which I would have so loved to have been expanded as it was intriguing but I wanted to know more!

You have the talent to do it both in terms of story & 'mechanics' so hope you continue to make more games & I look forward to your next one. smile
Posted By: looney4labs

Re: Dark Secrets - 04/03/12 10:14 PM

Thanks PeterKarlsson for stopping by. We love to hear from developers. wave
Posted By: chrissie

Re: Dark Secrets - 04/19/12 06:52 PM

I just need to tell you that some of the technical issues described in the Adventure Gamers review such as walking on the ceiling I have now encountered + some awkwardness with gameplay - the only explanation I can give is a series of Microsoft updates I've just had! mad
Posted By: looney4labs

Re: Dark Secrets - 04/19/12 07:21 PM

Ahhhh Chrissie, that is too bad. Are there known work arounds?
Posted By: chrissie

Re: Dark Secrets - 04/19/12 10:12 PM

Hi looney4labs, I don't have enough technical expertise to answer that? All I can say is that the game worked perfectly & now not so much & appreciate more why there are so many 'criticisms' - I'm still finding it playable -just a little more awkward in parts & my lock-pick sequences still seem to work!
It does seem to me unfair on the developers that Microsoft updates are to blame & it's not the first time it's happened!

I can't remember what game I was playing in the past where I had to go back to a restore point to be able to continue after a MS update! ( idea Maybe if you're having trouble playing the game you could try going back to a restore point before many MS updates?)
Posted By: looney4labs

Re: Dark Secrets - 04/20/12 01:19 AM

Chrissie, I don't know but you can't lose much by trying it I don't think. luck
Posted By: oldmariner

Re: Dark Secrets - 05/08/12 05:21 AM

The problem with restore points is all too often Microsoft tells you when all said and done "restore failed" It is a good feature to have but don't count on it when you most need it.

Chrissy, if you know the date the updates were done you can always remove them.

START/Control Panel/Uninstall program
In Win7 click the option listed on the upper left named View Installed Updates.

It will list all your updates in the box showing programs to uninstall. They are listed by date installed. Be sure to write down the names of the files. So you will know which ones you removed.

If you only installed a few on that day go ahead and uninstall them. You won't know which one is the villain it is a guess. You can then reinstall one at a time to determine which one is the problem.

To reinstall just go to Microsoft's updates page. Be sure to reinstall one at a time so you can check to see which one is the problem.

If you figure it out perhaps the game developer will reward you if you report it to them. With that info they could create a patch


That method is good info to have. Sometimes MS updates mess stuff up. A year or so ago updates had a glitch that prevented people from connecting to the internet. A week later they issued a fix. All well and good but what if you only had one PC? How do you DL the fix? This way you could dump the updates and perhaps rid yourself of the problem.
Posted By: looney4labs

Re: Dark Secrets - 05/08/12 01:42 PM

thanks Oldmariner wave
Posted By: chrissie

Re: Dark Secrets - 05/10/12 09:40 AM

Thanks for the useful info oldmariner! For my part I've finished the game (a few times!) but if I've got time I may try & identify whether it is one of the Microsoft updates that are making this game difficult for players.

It would be great if the developers could produce a patch so that it is playable for gamers that may enjoy it! smile
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