Spooky Doorway’s ‘The Darkside Detective’ caught my eye, many moons ago – alas, between college, work and life in general, I never really had time to sit down and actually play it, let alone enjoy it. So I refused to go near it until I had the time to actually absorb its content… and that time eventually came, nearly a year after it’s release.
Spooky Doorway is this week’s #homegrownhero(es) – Spooky Doorway are an indie developer based in Galway City, on the West Coast of Ireland. Their primary focus is on narrative driven adventure games for PC and consoles, with ‘The Darkside Detective’ being their flagship title. It’s currently available on Windows/Mac/Linux OS, and can also be found on Nintendo’s eShop for the Nintendo Switch – I downloaded it from Steam for €11.50.
“Where cultists crawl, where demons dwell, where the occult… occults? you’ll find Detective Francis McQueen, the sole member of the criminally underfunded Darkside Division. When evil darkens the doorsteps of Twin Lakes City – hell, even when it just loiters around shop fronts or hangs out in shady alleyways – he’s there, ready to investigate the cases that nobody else will. He is The Darkside Detective.” – synopsis from ‘The Darkside Detective’ website.
I picked up TDD at the start of the week, and played it for a couple of hours over the course of about three days. It’s a good, ol’ 8-Bit-esque Point n’ Click adventure. I think I roughly clocked up about 8-10 hours playtime over the course of Season 1’s seven case files. Now, the first thing you need to know when going into this game is that it’s a visual love-letter to 80s/90s Pop Culture – which I adored, and is pretty much what hooked me in the first place. The minute I heard that the in-game city was called ‘Twin Lakes’, I was sold because it sounded so close to ‘Twin Peaks’… yes, I am that sad and easily swayed – but for a great reason in this case! This game is kinda everything I’ve ever wanted – it’s like ‘Twin Peaks’, ‘X-Files’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’ had an awesome love child, and threw it into a chemical vat (akin to Ripley’s Xenomorph Swan Dive at the end of Alien3) chocker block full of 80’s action blockbusters, a couple of dashes of NES/Arcade games and a razor-sharp (albeit SFW) strain of Deadpool humour. TLDR; it’s a bunch of rad stuff smashed together to make an beautiful, digi-Megazord.
This game is a visual feast. It is STUNNING to look at. Paul Conway did an incredible job on the aesthetics, you can totally tell that it’s masterfully crafted with pure knowledge and passion, which, in itself was a major selling point for me before I even played the game. I could tell how well-made it was from the promotional videos and artwork alone. Even the colour palette is mesmerising. Merge this with Ben Prunty’s incredible, atmospheric score and you’ve got this electrifying synergy which makes the experience all the more memorable, and captivating.
The writing in this game is AWESOME. Dave McCabe’s clever dialogue elevates ‘The Darkside Detective’ to another level. Can we get a slow-clap for case-file title gems such as ‘Tome Alone’, ‘Buy Hard’ and ‘Don of the Dead’ every body? Every mouse-click spit-fires ridiculously endearing witticisms to keep you hooked. Now, this may sound like it could get pretty old, fairly quickly, but it doesn’t. Every element of banter, every joke, is so authentic and geniunely funny that it doesn’t lose it’s charm, which makes this gaming experience so unique.
You play as the titular Darkside Detective, Francis McQueen, along with his trusty compadre, Officer Dooley – it’s your job to walk the line between our world, and that of the strange and unusual. McQueen is your typical hard-boiled detective type, who provides us the scenario-building observations, whilst occasionally spitting out some unusually funny soundbites, whereas Officer Dooley provides the majority of the comic relief. McCabe does a great job of showcasing a lovely rapport between the two – without giving too much away about McQueen’s character (We wouldn’t want to ruin his cool mystique now would we?!). Also, another observation I had, and something I found highly impressive is that there are so many little storylines that are introduced and initially seem irrelevant, but as we continue our darkside journey we see them come full circle, instead of being abandoned to float in the ether. I can’t talk about any examples without semi-spoiling some cases, but do keep an eye out for ‘the little things’ when you’re playing, you never know what might happen with them!
The gameplay is built on fairly linear exploration – you have to find objects and clues that can assist you with whatever case you’re on, and take it from there. My only semi-gripe with the game boils down to this simple fact; it can be pretty tough on occasion. It’s immensely easy to get lost or side-tracked (particularly if you’re someone like me whose entire life is a chaotic distraction!), and if you’re in the middle of something when this happens, there’s nothing there to spoon-feed you on where to pick up from, you’re left to your own devices – zero safety net. Which is both awesome and terrible. Awesome because it’s the way games were, and how they should still be, but also kinda terrible because, particularly in this current console generation, we’re so used to getting our hands held (lol, hands held… handheld, geddit?) as we, essentially get lead through these games, that we’ve (I say we’ve but I mean I, but I sincerely hope I’m not the only one… guys…. GUYS?!) lost the ability to actually use our cognitive reasoning to beat the game. Luckily enough, after a few glitches in the system (my system, welp), I was able to shake off the cobwebs, defeat the Triple-A Gaming Industry’s intense mental conditioning and re-wire my brain into actually being able to think for itself, in order to experience this game at it’s fullest potential.
‘The Darkside Detective’ is an absolute gem of an indie title, and the fact that it’s made by such talented Irish creators make me all the more impressed and proud. Now, I do realise that this review *might* come across as a tad bias, considering everything about this game is pretty much combines all of my favourite elements of my media preferences, but I swear to the holylaurdjasys that I sat back objectively – actively looked for flaws, duds and found nothing serious of note. My sole grievance is that we have to wait for Season 2 (and that it made me use my brain a bit..)… but don’t just take my word for it – check this little beauty out, support Spooky Doorway and help me get my S2 fix faster! If you like intelligent, funny, very well-crafted adventures that are pure steeped in nostalgic pop-culture and have a penchant for all things Sci-Fi/Horror(ish?) then this is the ideal game for you!
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