Spooky Doorway’s quirky pixel style side-scrolling detective game, The Darkside Detective is a pretty simple game. You pretty much point and click your way through the whole thing. You solve puzzles, MacGyver your way around obstacles, and invade other dimensions to solve spooky mysteries. It is the only thing you do. Each “case file” presents another story that you get to explore, another mystery you get to solve with your trusty sidekick who, uh, is terrified of anything supernatural. there are a few other recurring characters, and you get to watch their own stories progress between the lines of your case files.
The game runs on both PC and Mac, so it’s almost ridiculously easily accessible. It doesn’t cost a whole lot of processing power to run it, either. So even my clunky ancient macbook was able to run it, if a bit slower than my gaming PC can. I think, the best way I can describe the game’s particular sense of humor is to give you the official list of “features” from the game’s Steam page:
- – 6 cases, each more spooky than the last
- – Music from Ben Prunty, the audiomancer behind gems such as FTL and Gravity Ghost
- – At least three jokes
- – Cutting edge, high definition pixels
- – One free curse-removal, up to and including mid-level witch hexes
That kind of irreverent, playful humor is absolutely everywhere in the game and it might just be the most charming feature. But it is by far not the only one.
The soundtrack is indeed fabulous, and the art style is colorful and incredibly impressive for pixel-style graphics. So much of this game is a labor of obvious love and you don’t realize how much that kind of thing shows until you see it. And there’s always something special about playing a game that the developers themselves loved. You feel like you’re sharing something, as opposed to just playing it. It’s something like the game equivalent to spending a few hours just sitting around and taking apart a movie with good friends — a ton of jokes, good company, and a whole lot of heart.
It’s a short game, with only six case files, so it takes less than three hours to finish depending on your puzzle-solving capabilities. Granted, if you aren’t the greatest at puzzles, there are a ton of guides to help you. But I do suggest trying to muddle your way through. You never know what you might uncover while trying to puzzle your way through a case.
And that is exactly the point of the game.
The Darkside Detective, is filled with so many references to other games, to films, TV shows, books, I honestly lost track. I once got feedback on a script I wrote in college, because I actually went to school for that, that it made too many references. That they were distracting. I silently disagreed with that criticism but decided I was a college kid, what the hell did I know? But I’m pretty sure I was right. Because despite the fact that The Darkside Detective might be about 25% references to other things, it is so goddamn enjoyable. And not a one of those references was distracting. They’re an enhancement to the main game, because they exist in places where not everyone might look. Embedded pieces of dialogue that seem to be casual until you notice a pun, the titles of books in a library filled with them, even the name of your character is a reference. And they just serve to make Darkside Detective better.
In fact, I might almost insist you play this game just to try and spot as many references as you can.
If you’ve got some spare change lying around and a couple hours, The Darkside Detective is hands-down the best way to spend them.
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