If magical mysteries, haunted hijinks and a game chock-full of laughs are your kind of thing, then The Darkside Detective’s beat is one you’ll want to walk. Developed and published by Spooky Doorway, The Darkside Detective is a quirky point-and-click title due for release on the 27th July 2017.
Born the lovechild of a 2014 Game Jam, The Darkside Detective has grown into an impressive bundle of fun now that it’s nearing release. In it you play as Detective McQueen, part of Twin Lake City’s Darkside Division, alongside your sidekick Officer Dooley. This pair of underfunded plods is tasked with protecting the city from supernatural beings and occurrences, from the accidental occult to the unsavoury undead.
It’s amazing how well The Darkside Detective manages to build such a vibrant world around it in such a short space of time. The spooky theme and setting tie in perfectly with its ever-present sense of humour, with every pixel and side-character adding its own contribution to the whole. Even the most minor characters have distinct personalities and it really is a true joy to explore.
The story is split into six cases (the first of which is available as a demo) which are for the most part each longer and more difficult than the last. Although unrelated, they are set in the same city with the same core cast, so it doesn’t feel jarring moving between one and the next. You’ll be presented with a problem, which Officer Dooley often fails to notice, then have to overcome hurdles or fix things to solve them.
As with all point-and-click adventures, you achieve this by collecting items and finding ways to use them together or with other objects in the scene. There are usually a few different rooms and, thanks to the lack of a walking animation, you can navigate between these as much as you like without losing any time. This serves to make it a lot less frustrating if you get stuck than if you had to wait to travel.
Item combinations in this game are quite intuitive, so you shouldn’t find yourself combining items at random (dragging one onto the other) very much at all. The ‘eureka’ moment you get when working out a well thought-through combination is just another motivator to continue. If you do get stuck, clicking on characters or objects should give you the hints you need to continue. In fact, not only do the objects give you hints, but every piece of text coming out of them is unique and often accompanied by a joke or pun. In at least one instance, object descriptions serve as clever, sneaky foreshadowing. It’s worth clicking on everything on the screen, even if you’re sure you’re not going to use it.
At certain points in the game you will come across puzzles to solve that aren’t standard point-and-click puzzles. While they are necessary to progress any further, they aren’t time-limited and tend to be straightforward, even without clear instructions. There are too many to cover in great depth, but two examples are a pipe-flow puzzle and a radar search task. Neither is too strenuous and neither seems out of place.
The ambient music is surprisingly good and does a fantastic job of supporting story developments and animations, sparse though the latter are. The Darkside Detective doesn’t need a swathe of animations in every scene, though — their minimalistic use gets the message across well and is in-keeping with the well-crafted pixel art that accompanies it.
At this point, it’s worth bringing up the game’s sense of humour again: it’s littered throughout the entire game, guaranteed to raise a smile as you puzzle your way from one mystery to the next. You’ll get attached to your dim but loveable sidekick Officer Dooley, fond of the banter you two have together and tremendously happy when he gets his brief time in the spotlight, under the control of your mouse.
It’s rare to find a game so polished that no major issues come to mind, but this game is one of them. The game in its current state sees some items difficult to click on and others obscured by the toolbar, but every issue relating to this can be solved by using alt + enter to go full screen and the developers have stated that full screen will be the default setting upon release. This leaves the only remaining bug as one conversation you can become trapped in, but this too can be fixed easily just by reloading the game (which autosaves) and will likely be fixed by the time the game rolls out at the end of the month.
With next to no negatives to its name, The Darkside Detective is an excellent game to grace your collection. Despite a short play-length of around three hours, its charm and sheer entertainment value may just have you itching to replay cases as soon as you’ve put them down. It’s a solid title with a story that is, with all luck, destined to continue.
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