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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Adventure

 

Publisher

Dreamcatcher

 

Developer

XXv

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

July 2003

 

 

- Point and click

- Tons of atmosphere

- Good puzzle challenges

 

 

- No auto-journal

- People with kick-ass rigs might feel let down

 

 

Interview: Jeff Tunnell (GarageGames)

Review: Eternal Darkness - Sanity's Requiem (GC)

Review: Gabriel Knight III: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of Damned (PC)

 

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Dark Fall

Score: 8.6 / 10

 

I’m a sucker for old-school point and click adventure games.  I also enjoy rooting for the underdog.  Dark Fall (DF) hits both of these.

 

If legend (and press releases) are to be believed, DF was developed by one guy with a budget of next to nothing – score one for the underdog.  And it’s a point and click adventure – two points!  If DF fell short as a game, I wouldn’t sound like a cheerleader, but it is a good game, especially for old-school adventurers and those that like rich, suspenseful stories.

 

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You return home to find an ambiguous (if somewhat foreboding) message from your ghost-hunting brother on your answering machine (which ends with him being eaten – at least that’s what it sounds like).  Instead of say, calling the authorities to investigate, you go running off to the spooky hotel your brother was investigating armed with… nothing.  Although I do question the initial setup of the story, it does set the mood from the get-go.

 

If you’re familiar with Myst, DF uses a similar interface and presentation.  The cursor automatically changes when you move it over an area of the screen that can be interacted with (i.e. picking stuff up, etc).  Movement is handled the same way – the cursor changes to an arrow, you click and the screen snaps to a new frame.  This doesn’t always work as well as it should; on more than one occasion I became disoriented as to which way I was actually facing (Return to Zork suffered the same direction problems) but it’s nothing that will get you killed.

 

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Just a word to those with killer gaming rigs: you’ll be disappointed with DF’s visual presentation.  Just another word to those with killer gaming rigs: get over yourself.  Whatever graphical shortcomings DF might possess it more than makes up for with great sound design and a complex, intriguing story.  This actually brings to light an undeniable shortcoming of DF.  There’s no diary to keep track of your progress or the stories surrounding the disappearance of 

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your brother.  This means copious note-taking (which is fine) but if you don’t dedicate good chunks of time to completing DF as quickly as possible, you’ll miss the overall picture since there’s a huge amount of information to process.  It’s like reading sections of a book spread out over 18 months – you’ll forget pieces of the story.

 

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But back to the sound.  Not since Eternal Darkness has my nerve been set on edge by audio.  There’s nothing wasted and it completely envelops you.  You’ll be looking over your shoulder.

 

Traditionally, adventure games have been about the puzzles.  Yes, there are locked doors to open and some jigsaw puzzles, but there are no cheap, gameplay-extending mazes to traverse!  Yay for that!  For this alone it’s almost worth awarding DF a 10 / 10.  The puzzles are fair but sometimes a clue to solving a puzzle found elsewhere may have slipped your mind unless you made good notes. (That diary feature really is missed.)

 

Dark Fall proves that gameplay and story can (and always should) supersede flash and that a game does not need a big budget to tell a great story.  At $20US you more than get your money’s worth (particularly if you’re starved for a great adventure).

 

- Omni

(September 7, 2003)

 

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