Dark Fall: Lights Out

2004 XXv Productions
Designed by Jonathan Boakes
Reviewed 2005 January 24

Rating +1 Linearity wide
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance strong
Interface 1st paned simple Real-time none

Three lighthouse workers have disappeared without a trace. You are a cartographer who has, mysteriously enough, been called in to investigate. You soon discover that the incident is not isolated. Groups of people have disappeared after one member has slowly gone mad.

Perhaps I've been jaded by the first Dark Fall, but I didn't find this game to be as suspenseful. The story wanders across a larger group of people and a larger area, which I found diluted the suspense.

The underlying story, however, is good (and little can be said about it without spoiling it). I was a little disappointed with the ending: the story -- rather, the pacing of the story -- slowed down, stumbling to the finale. All the important mysteries were revealed before the final challenge, making the finale anticlimactic.

The pacing and layout of the game is great. The story develops continuously, and the challenges pace the that development. The exception, as mentioned, is the ending. The game widens steadily, but never narrows again towards the finale. The finale challenge seems like a denouement, rather than a tense climax.

Individually, the challenges are weak. Most simply involve finding the relevant clue, after which the application is obvious. The difficult part is seeing the clues, either because of poor focus (pixel-hunting) or because of navigational difficulties. In the first game, the geography fit the simplistic navigation system well. In Lights Out, the world is not rectilinear, and getting into some of the necessary corners is not straightforward -- especially when you don't really know that it's a corner until you actually go there.

The video presentation is simple, but attractive and effective. The audio presentation is great. As before, sound effects are timed to maximum creepiness, using subtlety rather than volume.

Dark Fall: Lights Out is just a little off-kilter, turning what could have been a great adventure into just a good adventure. It's still well worth the time.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.

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