John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

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Dark Fall

I spent most of this weekend gaming in one form or another; Saturday night was jamesbarrett's D&D game, which I don't have a lot to say about other than "Gygaxian Dungeon Crawl Goodness." ;)

What I actually spent most of the weekend doing was playing a computer game called Dark Fall: The Journal, an adventure/puzzle game in the vein of Myst and the like. I went out and bought this game out of desperation, and while it wasn't exactly what I was looking for, I still enjoyed it.

You see, I am a fan of the old school adventure games of the type that Sierra and LucasArts used to do so damn well ... The Colonel's Bequest, Sam and Max Hit the Road, Dagger of Amon-Ra, the Monkey Island series, and the like. As much as the phrase is a hackneyed cliché, it is quite literally true that they don't make them like that any more. In fact, the latest attempt to, a Sam and Max sequel, recently got CANCELED, a move for which I will never forgive LucasFarts.

Not that I'm bitter or anything. :P

Anyway, pursuant to my post last week about Justice, Inc. and my recent desire for a game along those lines, I went to Best Buy and scoured the shelves for something -- anything -- that would be a cool and spooky ghost story, without being a first-person-shooter spatter fest. I knew I wouldn't find an old school adventure game -- they were killed by the advent of 3D graphics. But I did hope to find something I would enjoy.

Dark Fall fit the bill pretty well, actually. :) Set in a remote and abandoned English railway station and hotel that's been sealed up since everyone in it mysteriously vanished back in 1946, the game beings with the unspecified "YOU" receiving a phone call of distress from your brother the architect (who was scouting a location for a new resort development) and taking the next train out to the countryside. When you get there, you find the place empty -- your brother's stuff (including a cup of coffee) left sitting in a side room like he stepped out for a moment and didn't ever step back. You also find evidence that there was a pair of "ghost hunters" investigating the place and keeping your brother company ... also gone poof.

You also have an extended conversation with a disembodied boy who tells you about how he moved to the area in 1941...

From there, the spooky stuff starts to build up ... gibberish scrawled on the walls, things moving in the shadows, phone calls from nobody, phantom trains tearing through the station on long-abandoned tracks, being scolded by ghosts for rooting through their possessions, it's quite atmospheric. Most of the time there isn't exactly what I would call spine-chilling terror, just an overall sense of the uncanny, which is just the way I like it. And through the whole thing, not a single drop of blood nor one disembowelment -- which suits me fine. I seem to be getting rather squeamish as I get older.

The puzzles are not very taxing if you're used to the puzzle-game mindset; if you've made it through Myst or 7th Guest, Dark Fall will seem like a cakewalk. However, there are a lot of them and they require a lot of note-taking. I ended up with three pages of hand-drawn diagrams, copies of menus, transcriptions of decoded notes, and so on. By the end of it, I felt like Indiana Jones' dad, saying, "I wrote it down in my diary so I wouldn't have to remember!" What I did was to go through the entire map from stem to stern once just to get my bearings, and then go back to the start and go through again with pencil in hand, making notes of the "A-ha! That's what that referred to!" variety.

Anyway, it was short, but I enjoyed it. :) Here's one little hint for any would-be players: if you hear a woman's voice saying "'ere!" ... that means to put on the ghost-hunter goggles.

-The Gneech
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