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Dark Fall

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Jonathan Boakes



Copyright 2002, XXv Productions

One of the best adventure games I have ever played, Dark Fall is also one of the very few games billed as “horror” titles that manage to be really scary. Essentially a one-man, self-published independent game, Dark Fall has achieved what many commercial titles have failed, and its superb quality defies anyone who thinks that it takes a million-dollar budget to create an atmospheric adventure game.

The story of Dark Fall is not unique. In fact, you have seen it many times before: “Returning from work you are met by a frantic and cryptic message from your brother, a talented architect developing the old station at Dowerton, in Dorset. April Fool’s Day had been and gone, so you decide that something is up. Boarding a train at London’s Paddington Station you travel to the old station alone, wondering what adventure may greet you…” But while the plot is somewhat predictable, the beauty of Dark Fall lies in the masterful execution and astonishingly effective atmosphere. The graphics are appropriately dark, and various sound effects are put to good use. You will be startled more than once while playing this game, and playing it at night is a genuinely creepy experience.

The gameplay is similar to Myst, but with a more “traditional” emphasis on inventory-related puzzles. You navigate the gameworld – in this case, the train station and hotel environs – from a first-person perspective. Along the way, you will come across strange symbols that are reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. These symbols together form the “meta puzzle” in the game: the core puzzle, similar to the sun map in Fool’s Errand, that you won’t be able to solve until the very end. All the other puzzles in the game exist to yield clues and symbols that are part of this meta puzzle. A lot of note taking is required, and there is considerably back-tracking, but it is not so excessive as to be annoying. There are many puzzles to solve, and they are all logical and not overly difficult. It is the unravelling of the plot – and the ghosts’ identities – that will keep you glued to the screen. The depth of the gameworld is remarkable, and many puzzles imaginative. If you like adventure games, you simply can’t pass up on Dark Fall. It is engaging, atmospheric, and much more fun than countless commercial games. Just be prepared to be spooked if you play this at night. Two thumbs up, way up!

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