Follow Detective McQueen and Officer Dooley through nine-episodes of the strangest cases the town of Twin Lakes has to offer in this off-brand Lucas Arts-styled Adventure.
Indie studio Spooky Doorway (which I cannot read without thinking of Futurama’s The Scary Door) is a group of Irish game developers who clearly have a love for the golden-era of Lucas Arts games, I’ve recently played through their paranormal anthology The Darkside Detective, and it’s not exactly a game you’d need to take on to Maury Povich to find out who the father is.
Clearly inspired by titles ranging from Monkey Island to Sam & Max: Hit the Road, this game’s humour will feel immediately familiar to any point and click adventure game fan, packed with pop culture references and outlandish characters galore the writing isn’t split your sides funny, but it is humorous, occasionally breaking the 4th wall with a cheeky nod or wink at the player. While the game itself is well written in more than just it’s jokes, the short and snappy runtime of each case (of which there are six that form the game, one seasonal case, and two bonus episodes) can leave you feeling like the game needs more fleshing out to really enjoy the characters on show.
It’s not unfair to say that the two protagonists of the game, Detective McQueen and his sidekick of sorts Officer Dooley (Think Sam & Max for the nearest approximation), don’t really enjoy an arc throughout the episodes. There’s no subplot spanning the entire anthology that builds to a finale, in fact, the hook to keep you excited for a follow up at the end of the game sort of comes from nowhere in a bonus episode, there’s even a minor character you come into contact with numerous times called Raxa that has more of a character arc. and even that is mostly sorted in 4-5 lines of dialogue any time she pops up.
The game does set up a really interesting parallel, in as much as while our heroes run around solving eerie ongoings originating from the darkside, there are counterparts on the darkside doing much the same work in reverse, slightly skewed and incorrect versions of characters that aren’t so much evil counterparts, just different. The darkside in question appears to be very much the mundane regular humdrum existence, except it’s under the rule of some sort of Lovecraftian cosmic horror that everybody seems to be pretty blaisé about. Which, in its own way is quite humorous, similar to the vibe that Ghostbusters will give you, about something so fantastical as ghosts running amok, while at the same time having four rent-a-kill average Joe characters called in to sort it out like it’s little more than a typical infestation at times.
While the humour is spot on, the gameplay for the core six cases of the game misses the mark in terms of that classic adventure game challenge. The puzzle’s you will encounter are fairly straight forward and won’t require much thought at all about where to go
next or where to find what. Most episodes can be completed under 20 minutes without having to pause for thought, it’s that ease at which you can navigate the segments of the game that takes the edge off of an otherwise enjoyable experience. The bonus episodes take their time more and offer more complex puzzle arrangements, something which has me excited about where Spooky Doorway are going with the franchise.
And where are they going with it? This first batch of cases ends on a cliffhanger that I’m sure this will be explored more in the coming season 2 of the game, which after a Kickstarter campaign met it’s funding goals in October 2018. The length of development, the increased challenge in the bonus episodes and the opening up of what could potentially become a broader subplot spanning the entire second season of cases has me feeling that this franchise is brimming with potential for fans of the classic point and click format.
The game isn’t perfect, but playing through its cases gives you the feeling of ongoing progress. It’s an expanding franchise that sees the developers becoming more and more capable and confident in what they’re producing. I am excited to see what Spooky Doorway have in offer for us when The Darkside Detective Season 2 launches in March of next year. While the first game is brilliantly enjoyable in its short bursts, I’m expecting bigger and better from the developers for season 2.