Review by Verdana
"A truly exciting ghost story"
The inspiration to make the game Dark Fall came from the actual place in southwestern England. As Jonathan Boakes, the creator of the game, writes, he had found a train station and a small hotel which seemed to be abandoned in late 1940’s and was so fascinated with their appearance that he decided to make a game which would preserve the stories that the place had to tell. In Dark Fall, he recreated the whole train station and hotel with all the rooms, furniture and tons of other little details. In order to make the game more interesting, he added the supernatural aspect to it and created a thrilling ghost story.
Dark Fall fits the description of first person point and click adventure genre. In order to play the game it is enough to move the mouse all over the screen and look for the stuff that can be seen from another perspective, picked up or interacted with in some way. The mouse pointer changes if you find such things. However, to finish the game you must do some typing, too. At some points in the game, it is possible to talk with the ghosts that haunt the train station and the hotel by typing questions, although it is not necessary for completing the game. The required typing is at the end of the game when you have to type the chant and it is done in the same way as the communication with ghosts. Moving around is done in slow 90 degree turns, so the feel for 3D and creepiness of the atmosphere are never lost. The slow movement adds a slight touch of hopelessness and fear to the game. You get the feeling that someone is watching and waiting you all the time.
The game is composed of many puzzles, most of which involve a lot of thinking. Some of them are not that intuitive, but if you get stuck at some point, there is a way to get help from one of the ghosts inside the game. Also, there is a help file on the CD which gives some useful hints and tips. Although in most cases it is not a requirement for passing the game, you can read letters, notes, reminders, diaries, newspaper clips, books, recipes, and other writings that can be found all over the place. All the information that they reveal will help you better understand what happened there before you came and enjoy the story. Good thing is that once you solve the first puzzle you are free to go wherever you want and solve the puzzles in whichever order suits you, so the linearity of the game is not felt that much.
The game begins as you listen to the message that your brother Peter Crowhurst has left on your answering machine. He is at the abandoned Dowerton station hotel where he was setting up plans for its complete renovation until something went wrong. He says that he is there with two students from Weymouth University who are ghost hunters and that whatever they were looking for has found them, and him too. He instructs you how to get there to help him, but he interrupts his message and quietly tells you that “it” is whispering to him and knows his name. Then you hear him opening the door and a strange sound follows. You follow Pate’s instructions and after a traveling by train to the nearest station you take a cab to get to the Dowerton station hotel. Apparently you fall asleep and wake up in an old dark train tunnel. A young male voice with English accent is heard and its owner introduces himself as Tim Pike. He explains to you a couple of things and leads you out of the tunnel where you can begin looking for your brother.
The thrilling atmosphere is what makes this game so great. There is no blood, no violence, no dead bodies, and yet it is pretty scary horror story that will keep you awake. The unknown shadowy dark murderous power is there to take your soul just like it did to many other people who disappeared from that place in past hundreds or even thousands of years. Yet you are trying to put all the pieces of puzzle together and destroy it once and for all.
Most of the graphics in the game are done using pre-rendered 3D images. Although they are not the cutting edge realistic showoff of modern technology, they are still very neatly done and do a very good job with enhancing the dark and heavy atmosphere. There are a couple of rooms which are entirely dark, and only the light of the small lantern with a very limited field of vision is used for looking around. The amount of detail is really impressive. The things that were meant to look old really do look old, with all the marks that the time has left on them. But the things that were supposed to look new are not done as well as the old ones. They are done in much less detail, but they are still done pretty well.
The music in Dark Fall is very limited. It is used only in the main menu as the background sound, but otherwise it is used only in certain places in the station hotel and its surroundings. Its purpose varies from bringing back the memories of the place, to helping to solve puzzles, to just plain relief of the constant weary silence. The style also depends on the location and the purpose of the music, so there are nice slow vocals, piano instrumentals, but also modern digital tunes as well.
Although most of the game is not covered by music it is almost never completely silent either. There are many different sound effects that come either from your movement, from the ghost hunting equipment that can be found all over the place or from the ghosts themselves that too can be found all over the place.
Voice actors have done an excellent job for this game. Their voices resemble the feelings so well that it becomes so much easier to get into the game and start believing in ghosts, if you don’t believe in them already, that is. Fear, anger, excitement, disappointment, happiness… are all nicely acted out. Their clear English accent without a doubt proves the location of the station hotel.
Playtime depends mostly on how fast you read and on your ability to solve puzzles. It took me a couple of days to finish the game, but then I tried to read everything that could be read. It is possible to pass the game in a couple of hours, but that probably wouldn’t reveal the complete story with all its details. If you finish the game once and you feel you did not get the complete story, you can play the game some more from your last save file and read the rest of the documents that can be found, but other than that, there is probably nothing more that would make you play the game again.
If you don’t like slow horror stories without much action, you will find Dark Fall generally boring, so don’t waste your money on it. On the other hand, if you like any of these: scary ghost stories, solving puzzles or point and click adventure games, then you should buy this game and you will not be disappointed. This game truly deserves it.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/04/03, Updated 07/04/03
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