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Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Review: The Darkside Detective


Review: The Darkside Detective

You know this is, excuse me, a damn fine point-and-click adventure.



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The Darkside Detective
Spooky Doorway | Nintendo Switch | Digital Only
1 Player
Reviewed by: Curtis Chapman | 7th February 2018

Developers Commentary by: Dave McCabe - Spooky Doorway

* Review Code Provided by: Spooky Doorway *





Nintendo Play is joined by Dave McCabe, speaking on behalf of the team from Spooky Doorway, for the included Developers Commentary.


Take the role of a paranormal Columbo in Spooky Doorway’s new title, The Darkside Detective. Releasing today for Switch on Nintendo eShop for £11.69, do you have the nerves to tackles the cases no one else dares to?

There has certainly been a resurgence of classic point-and-click adventures as of late. Once the bread and butter of companies like Lucas Arts and Sierra Interactive during the 80’s and 90’s, the genre has not only recently been graced with titles that have brought the medium into the 21st century, implementing fully 3D environments and orchestrated musical scores, but also by those that have attempted to faithfully recreate the careful mix of witty dialog, the amazing pixel-art animations and the captivating synthesised music that made the original games so memorable. The Darkside Detective falls into the latter category.

Placing you in the shoes of Francis McQueen, lead Detective (well, the only Detective) in the paranormal division of the Twin Lakes Police Department. With only his long-term friend, Officer Patrick Dooley for company, the two are tasked with investigating the incidents that bridge their world to the other, the Darkside.


Developers Commentary
Dave: The game’s setting is mostly inspired by 90’s TV – Twin Peaks, The Simpsons, Eerie Indiana, The X-Files, The Dark Place, etc.



Darkside Detetive Screenshot 1


Selecting the games settings menu will present you with two options that will go a long way in highlighting the overall tone of this title. The option first to greet you, titled “Police Corruption”, allows you only to select escalating levels of yes before telling you to just give up entirely and accept that it’s happening, while the graphical settings for the games low-resolution pixel-art range from High Def, Ultra High Def, to Virtual Reality. It’s safe to say that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The game features 6 bite-sized standalone cases, only tenuously linked by a cast of recurring characters. The sizes of these cases are perfectly suited for those with shorter blocks of time in which to play, with each case lasting somewhere between 20 - 30 minutes. Those with any prior experience in point-and-click adventures or anyone with a little time on their hands will, unfortunately, see themselves finishing this title in one sitting of around 2 - 2 ½ hours. While short the title contains some of the best attempts at capturing a lot of what was so amazing about the golden age of point-and-click adventures.


Developers Commentary
Dave: We wanted to make the game accessible to time-poor players, so we tried to keep each case to around 1 hour or so of play. One of the ways we tightened the experience was removing the walking animations. They add a lot of padding in terms of time, but not in terms of gameplay. A third of your average PnC’s playtime is walking from room to room. It’s empty time. We removed it so players got the same amount of game, but no less actual content.


Littered with pop culture references, the writing is one of the games strongest elements. Each of its self-contained case files finds a way to be uniquely different while still all feeling like they belong as one complete package. The main issue with the story lies when directly compared to the games it is trying to pay homage to. With no introduction to set the scene, no overarching story to tie the cases together and no big finish, the game ends with a fizzle, instead of the bang it so clearly deserves. The humor is exquisitely well implemented, further cementing the games writing and is especially prevalent in the relationship between the two main characters. This goes a long way into smoothing over the shortfalls of the games overall narrative.


Developers Commentary
Dave: This also came from trying to keep the game accessible. For us, a lot of times we get half way or so in a game, then life gets in the way and when you return you can’t recall what you were doing or looking for, why, etc. The episodic format means you can play a case then leave the game for a month before playing the next one if you wish. This format also means we can add extra cases post-launch. in fact, there’s a new case already which will be coming to Switch soon.



Darkside Detective Screenshot 2


The synthesised music included in the game emulates the sounds of past titles perfectly, complementing the overall look of the game. The game does not feature any “talkie” voice track which although disappointing, does play in its favour, with some jokes being much funnier in your head than they ever could possibly have been delivered by any voice actor.


Developers Commentary
Dave: We tried a few voices early in development and found that they didn’t match what we had in our heads. Also, given that we expect a lot of people to play on the bus to work or while their family watches TV, we felt that it would be easy to miss a VO, whereas this way players can read and re-read at their own pace.


The pixel-art graphics will make you completely nostalgic for decades past, with silky smooth special effect animations alongside a large selection of backgrounds and animated characters. The game contains no character walk animations for the main characters as they navigate through the various locales. This is a positive omission from the team as due to the zoomed in nature and tight compact rooms, any inclusion of one would just feel like it was slow the game down or the sake of increasing playtime.

Taking a minimalistic approach to both the user interface and control scheme, the game has shied away from the point-and-click mainstay of displaying a set list of verbs to be used to interact with inventory and scenery, instead of operating everything on one click of a button or touch of the screen. Mixing two items together simply requires you to drag one into the other while using them on the scenery just means dragging it into the scene. While simplistic in its approach it is occasionally troublesome, sometimes requiring a second attempt to line up an item correctly, though the lack of clutter does a good job providing a more cinematic experience. Navigating the on-screen mouse cursor with the analog stick will highlight any of the background items that can be interacted with, though with a lack of any onscreen indication, those operating purely by touch will be left tapping around the screen in an attempt to determine what can be interacted with.


Developers Commentary
Dave: Again, something we tried, but we felt that the game didn’t really benefit from or need it for the platforms it was on.



Darkside Detective Screenshot 3


While extremely short in content, Darkside Detective contains all of the basic buildings blocks required to have it one day sit proudly alongside the Money Islands and the Space Quests that adorn the walls of the point-and-click adventure hall of fame. Unfortunately due to the fact the game is light on overall narrative, containing no real begging, end or anything particularly solid linking the (albeit absolutely brilliant) content that comprises of the middle, it is left on the doorstep waiting for the chance to come in. Nintendo Play would love to see more Darkside Detective, but in his next outing we pray for a more complete experience.


Many thanks to Dave and the team over at Spooky Doorway their discussion during this review.



FOR THE WIN OR FOR THE BIN?



+ Brilliant writing with solid humour throughout
+ Split up into chunks for the time strapped
+ Beautiful animations and synth music

- Extremely short experience
- Lack of an overarching storyline
- Touch controls are a little fiddly at times

Verdict: Above Average - Worth a Try



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