I've played two of the six cases in The Darkside Detective, a winning so-called 'micro-adventure' game from developer Spooky Doorway. Each episode is about Francis McQueen, lead investigator of the Darkside Division of the law enforcement in Twin Lakes City, who's joined by his foil, Patrick Dooley, in an effort to uncover nearby occult happenings.
In the first case, you have to find out what happened to a family's missing daughter. The dad isn't too fussed about his little girl's disappearance, while the mother is in tears—and the nanny is acting suspiciously. In the second, ghosts are haunting the local library. You have to discover why it's attracting such activity, while the librarian does sweet FA to aid you in resolving the problem. You eventually come across the ghosts of Poe and Lovecraft, arguing about who's work is scarier, along with other renowned authors from history knocking around the library's different floors.
The slightly moody pixel art and soundtrack (by FTL's Ben Prundy) are contrasted nicely by the writing, which is winningly wry. Dooley mentions how he's suspicious of anyone who owns more than six books, which made me laugh, and at one point it's strongly suggested that the ghost of Aleister Crowley is enjoying some alone time with internet pornography. It's warmly funny and offbeat, like a detective sitcom that isn't rubbish. It's reasonably heavy on pop culture references, most of which I found subtle enough in their delivery to enjoy.
I was smiling throughout both of these cases, except for about ten minutes I spent trying to work out how to fix an elevator button. As typically plagues point-and-click games, there are a couple of 'really?' moments in The Darkside Detective as you stumble across abstract solutions to puzzles you can only discover through trial-and-error.
It still took me about an hour to do those two cases, which isn't bad at all, and I'm drawn to the writing and characters here rather than the puzzle design anyway. Check it out if you're a fan of the genre and you're discerning about good jokes in adventure games—the whole thing apparently takes 4-5 hours to beat.
The Darkside Detective is out now on Steam (opens in new tab) and GOG (opens in new tab).
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