Dark Fall: The Journal
Review by ploodie
"Not a visual breakthrough, but fun and moody just the same . . ."
Hooray to Dreamcatcher and The Adventure Company for reviving the Adventure game! While the tactic has involved flooding the market with a ton of new titles, leading to a multitude of mostly mediocre entries, there are still some good titles here and there - and Dark Fall is one of them.
Dark Fall is billed as a sort of spooky, supernatural adventure game. Well, it won't give you Silent Hill type nightmares, nor make you jump out of your chair - but it does have a nice mood of desolation and creepiness to it. The story begins with a frantic phone message left by your brother, who is in an English hotel that was been abandoned after a spate of disappearances 60 years ago.
Your brother is there to assess a remodeling and reopening project. In the message, he tells of an evil presence that is stalking him, and the message ends with a knock at his door and his opening it to investigate. From there, you decide to go to the hotel to investigate.
As with most Myst-clones, you will be investigating a location completely devoid of people, yet with the appearance of having just been vacated. Rooms are still decorated and cluttered with newspaper clippings and journals that tell the story - most of these rooms belonged to the guests who vanished on that night 60 years ago, eerily appearing as though they just left minutes before you arrived. You will find your brother's things in a waiting room, and upstairs you will discover a room belonging to two modern-day ghost hunters who are running a high-tech investigation into the legend of the haunting at the hotel. They, along with your brother, are also recently missing. So, you will use both the journals and clippings from 60 years ago, and the more recent findings of your brother and the ghost hunters to try to figure out where everybody went and what you need to do next.
It is certainly the typical set-up for a First Person point-and-click adventure game. Your enjoyment of it will come from whether or not you care for the desolate moodiness of the hotel. There are all manner of creepy elements thrown in - a phone that rings from time to time with nothing but spectral noises on the other end, voices whispering to you, clips of vanished characters singing wistful songs or lamenting their fate, knocks on the door of the room you happen to be standing in (often timed to coincide with the reading of a journal describing the same phenomenon, and a creepy conversation with a ghost via Ouja Board. All this is nice atmosphere, but not truly scary to anyone over the age of 9. So if you're only looking for a good scare, don't bother with this game.
Many adventure games feature highly illogical and contrived Rube Goldberg type puzzles (find the cheese to lure the mouse to go under the sofa to get the key, and so forth . . .), or the puzzles will require a degree in mathematics and logic to complete. Happily, Dark Fall avoids most of these pitfalls. Each puzzle has ample information available on how it can be solved if you are willing to read over all the journals and notes scattered around the hotel. Any time you get really stuck on a puzzle, you can consult the ghost of a young boy who will give you hints - these usually helped me get past wherever I was stuck. The only frustration I had was figuring out WHERE some of the puzzles were. Ultimately, out of 12 vital pieces of a lyric that must be collected (the primary objective of the game) , I found 8 before having to consult a walk-through. The missing ones were usually found in plain sight, I just hadn't "clicked in the right area of the particular screen." But, aside from this it is a fairly easy and intuitive game.
One particularly clunky moment occurred early on - you walk into a bathroom and find a symbol on the wall with a word written next to it. I couldn't get a good look at it, and the interface wouldn't let me click any closer to it - but then I entered a bathroom stall, and realized I could peer through a hole at the same wall, and see it THAT way! Why this elaborate method just to look at something I could have seen from the entry door? I don't know - maybe just to be sure I connected the symbol to the word (which is important, actually). But, like I said, most of the puzzles DON'T follow this elaborate style.
So, Dark Fall turned out to be a nice distraction for a couple of nights. Like most adventure games, I doubt I'd play it again anytime soon - but if you find it for $10-$20 dollars, I'd say pick it up!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/15/04
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