The Darkside Detective Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Spooky Doorway
Release Date: February 7th 2018
Price as of Article: $12.99 USD, £11.69 GBP
Point and click adventures can be glorious little nuggets of joy and wit, hence why they were so hugely popular more than 20 years ago on PC. It’s sad to see that the genre isn’t what it once was with new releases in the genre almost becoming an event. But there are a small bastion of independent developers trying to keep this beloved kind of game alive as we have seen recently on the Switch with Thimbleweed Park and only the other week with Her Majesty’s SPIFFING. Next up is The Darkside Detective from Spooky Doorway, this supernatural comedy-filled mini adventure maybe be right up your alley if you like point and click games.
The events of The Darkside Detective take place in the peculiar town of Twin Lakes, yes, very much a reference to the cult TV show Twin Peaks. It immediately sets out which direction this game is going in – fully referential You are Detective Francis McQueen of the Darkside Division, a mysterious department within Twin Lake’s police force. Together McQueen and his trusty sidekick Office Dooley investigate paranormal activities around the town. There’s no real overall story arc since the game is divided into mini digestible episodes which involve a separate case to solve and a separate story. While this does make the game feel somewhat smaller scale it does actually work for the best in this case.
The six cases available are all very different and unique from each other. While none of them will push you past the hour mark I think the short nature of each make it feel like episodes of a TV show. Some may say each episode is just a throwaway story, but when all six culminate into one package it really is quite satisfactory. In one case you’ll be investigating a haunted library, in another a mystery lake monster. These quick fire stories don’t outstay their welcome and in my opinion, are perfectly paced. It allows the game to be much more varied in a shorter space of time and if one particular case doesn’t gel with you, then don’t worry something new will be on the way shortly.
It’s a comedy game at heart, full of pop culture references and fourth wall breakages. I don’t think it’s quite as funny as the most recent adventure game I reviewed, Her Majesty’s SPIFFING but it’s still rather humours even if there were no laugh out loud moments. They played on some jokes a little too often, particularly Officer Dooley’s stupidity, but aside from that I spent the majority of my time playing through The Darkside Detective with a smile on my face.
The audio in The Darkside Detective was created by Ben Prunty, a composer well regarded for his work on other games such as FTL. I must say that the music he has done for this release is very awesome. It’s very 80’s with mysterious and menacing synths that build up a tonne of atmosphere. It’s very exceptional and I think this game must be played with headphones to really soak it all on because it adds so much to the atmosphere.
A slight disappointment is the lack of voice acting. All of the dialogue is text only which is okay, but I feel that professionally delivered lines by voice actors could have taken it to the next level, especially with comedy where they can really add a lot to the overall performance with timing and delivery. It’s a definite shame it’s not here.
Visually the game has gone for the classic pixellated adventure game look, similar to how Thimbleweed Park also followed the classics such as Monkey Island. It does look great to be fair. Everything is really quite detailed and animated fantastically. The only problem I do have with it is the faces of people. Everybody’s face is completely blank and I honestly don’t like that, I think it takes away from potential personality. I know it’s a stylistic choice they have gone for but I’m not a fan of that aspect.
What I find most interesting about the visuals is just how small environmental screens are. Each screen is really small in comparison to what point and click gamers will be used to and the character sprites take up a huge part of the screen. I actually think this is a decent approach to the visuals since it does allow a lot of detail to be put into the environments, but I’m not sure I’d want it in every game of the genre.
As far as performance goes, it was almost perfect throughout my play time with the game although there were one or two instances of slight stuttering which, while not ideal, were so few and far between and non-intrusive that it didn’t hinder my enjoyment at all. You’ve got nothing to worry about there.
As stated the gameplay is spread out between different story episodes, each episode is small and compact and most won’t stretch over the hour mark. In that regard, this is not the huge sprawling adventure game you may think. When comparing it to other adventure games of a similar nature, The Darkside Detective errs on the simpler side of things. For a start you don’t even move your character. In every screen Detective McQueen and Officer Dooley are stationary in a set position. You use the analogue stick to move a rather sluggish mouse cursor around the screen and interact with items in the environment. Unlike many adventure games there’s no action wheel to choose “pick up”, “look at”, “speak to” or anything like that. The game automatically does things for you which is less interactive but much more of a streamlined experience. It takes a bit of faff out it.
Every item you pick up will be used within the episode you’re playing so there’re no red herrings in The Darkside Detective, thankfully. You can combine items with each other and use them on other environmental things by dragging it down from the item bar at the top to the thing you want to use it with. I don’t think The Darkside Detective is a particularly difficult or taxing adventure game although I did get stumped a couple of times. Both of these were down to items I’d overlooked. Even though I knew what to do, I just couldn’t find the right item to do it with, which was a little on the frustrating side. You just need make sure you check every nook and cranny as to not miss anything.
A lot of people complain that the point and click adventure genre is full of illogical solutions to frivolous situations and they do have a point. As first and foremost a comedic adventure game, there are a tonne of puzzles that defy the laws of rationality but do so in the best way: with comedic effect. So even though you may feel things end up slightly ridiculous when you put on a diving helmet in order to protect yourself against a gas grenade, it doesn’t matter because it’s quite funny.
It also should be noted that in handheld mode you can use the Switch’s touchscreen to interact with items, although I personally didn’t enjoy this method of control because when you tap on something it automatically interacts with the object, it doesn’t actually highlight what it is first which I found a little unsatisfying.
Coming in at $12.99 and £11.69 you’ll be getting about 3 or 4 hours worth of likeable, engaging and well made adventure. I think that’s a fair price although there is very little room for replayability which may put many of you off. That comes with the territory of the genre though. It’s the kind of game you’d replay about 3 or 4 years later when you’ve forgotten many aspects of it. If I paid full price for The Darkside Detective I think I would feel I’d got my money’s worth out of it.
A tad too simple