The Dark Side of the Moon is certainly not a musical odyssey.
What’s this? Another FMV game? Well, I don’t mind if I do. I take pretty much any opportunity to play live-action, choice-driven video games, and The Dark Side of the Moon grabbed me thanks to its B-movie sci-fi trailer on top of the usual trimmings that come with this genre. The game was originally released on PC back in 2021, but it’s now received a console release which seemed like a perfect time for me to jump in.
You play as Dean, a single father of two ever since his wife Sarah mysteriously disappeared some time ago. Whilst the village of Marywine is preparing for an influx of tourists for a solar eclipse event, Dean is putting his kids, Andy and Ruby, to bed and drinking himself to sleep. Waking the next morning to find the two youngsters missing with no evidence as to what happened, Dean sets out to discover their whereabouts and why they vanished at all.
Considering the genre of The Dark Side of the Moon, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on, but you’ll need to guide Dean through the local village and beyond, making decisions at key points that will alter the direction of the game. Whilst you will see many of the same events on different playthroughs, certain key decisions will change the final outcome, with you achieving one of a few different endings. This isn’t an FMV game with a significant number of branching paths, but the characters you meet along the way are varied, interesting, and above all memorable.
Aside from Dean and the kids, you’ll meet conspiracy nut Alyx, TV journalist Huw, and Detective Blackwell, amongst others. Everyone feels more like a caricature than a genuine person, but that feels in keeping with the almost campy nature of the direction. Rupert Booth, who you may know from The Shapeshifting Detective plays a hilarious scenery-chewing role in Detective Blackwell, who I’ll likely remember for far longer than the rest of the story.
The other side of this is that each character’s traits seem to alter wildly at times, which really does weaken the cheesy nature of this interactive film. Dean goes from weeping over the disappearance of his children to casually exchanging banter with Alyx over the course of around 5 minutes, while Blackwell will, in one moment, sympathise with Dean’s loss to outright accusing him of being involved in his children’s abduction in the next. It’s quite jarring, and I don’t feel like it’s due to the choices I’m making in the game as often these moments crop up in the very same scene with no decisions made in the meantime.
Between scenes and active decisions, you’ll move around a few locations in Marywine. You can choose from a few areas, such as the local woods, and the church, but you’ll spend most of your time solving puzzles at Dean’s house. The puzzles are few and far between, and certainly won’t challenge a point & click veteran for long, but it’s nice that you do have a few moments of thought beyond picking out your next decision. A few of the puzzles rely on an element that isn’t all that well explained, that being that you can interact with your inventory mid-conversation and even mid-decision, but once you’ve worked that out you’re pretty much ready to go.
This being live-action means that analysing the visuals is a bit moot. That is until the special effects start cropping up. To call some of them ropey is a disservice to rope, as these are as jarring as the tonal shifts in the direction. I realise that this has been made on a low budget, with just a single camera and boom mic and that criticising this element is a bit like punching down, but it really is quite noticeable when you start to experience some more of the science fiction elements. Again, B-movie charm and all that, but it’s not a good look once you notice it. The sound is a bit weak too. The voice work is really good for the most part, but the sound mixing isn’t. There were times when I could barely hear what was being said over the environmental noise or the, admittedly pretty solid, music. Thank goodness for subtitles, eh?
The Dark Side of the Moon is absolutely not the best FMV game I’ve played, but I respect the effort that has been put in on such a small budget. I didn’t dislike my time here, although I could have done with a bit less going to and from the same few locations to find the next bit of interaction. The campy acting was tremendously fun, and the real-world environments felt believably familiar to the cast. If you like silly British B-movies and want an FMV game version to experience, this is pretty much it for you.
The Dark Side of the Moon is available now on PC, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch.