Out now on Nintendo Switch, Darkside Detective brings a whole new meaning to busting ghosts. It follows the adventures of Detective Francis McQueen and the ever undependable Officer Dooley as they ditch the parking tickets and delve into the ooze soaked underbelly of a Twin Lakes City.
This particular call-out for the Darkside Division is a relatively uncompromising port of the original case files we reviewed in 2017, and this is no bad thing. Visually, Darkside Detective has not changed from the PC version, and it really does not need to. Twin Lakes City is a bustling mix of backdrops, all rendered in a bulky pixel art aesthetic that looks amazing on the Switch’s small screen. Accompanying the gorgeous art is a fantastic score by Ben Prunty, of FTL fame. A chiptune success, the soundtrack sets an eerie tone for this adventure while still managing to take shots at pop culture, with tracks like Tome Alone and Ghost Whisperer.
This attack on pop culture tropes is right at the heart of Darkside Detective. Dooley and McQueen are the entire Darkside Division, tasked with taking down the paranormal. If it glows, hums, levitates, has four horns or speaks in a demonic tongue you’d best just call this cross between the odd couple and Mulder and Scully. Everything from MMO tropes, time traveling heroes, to buddy cop movies are fair game for Darkside Detective and most of it hits home. Developer, Spooky Doorway, manage the type of writing that turns a mechanically simple game into an unforgettable experience. A razor-sharp wit and some consistently off the wall ideas keep the humor flowing faster than a subterranean river of slime. While you’re not going to find anybody saving the city from a massive marshmallow, you probably won’t stop smirking either.
Although the writing in Darkside Detective is a clear highlight of this game, one character stands out in particular. While McQueen is the stereotypical detective, a hard-nosed gumshoe, Officer Dooley is a little more concerned with cake than criminals. It’s a subversive and quirky take on the traditional buddy cop genre that quickly establishes the tone of Darkside Detective, right from the opening scenes. Despite bickering ghosts, daemonic janitors, and the odd criminal nanny, Dooley still manages to upstage everyone involved in Darkside Detective. This moron, and sometimes unwitting genius, is a substantial part of Darkside Detective’s comedy relief and one of the funniest foils I have ever encountered in an adventure game. A constant stream of questionable wisdom and moral ambiguity means meeting Officer Dooley is worth trying this game for.
Players accompanying Dooley and McQueen through their daily routine will find a series of six case files to crack in Twin Lakes. Dooley and McQueen must make sense of each unusual event in order to move onto the following mystery. Cracking cases is not particularly difficult and players should not find it takes longer to get to the bottom of each encounter. The point and click mechanics are intuitive and while an inventory system exists, it is far from complex. Items strewn around the game have a very particular purpose and, as unconventional as it is to plunge a purple tentacle monster, you can only plunge the purple tentacle monster. No definitive failure state seems to exist in-game, meaning that it is just a matter of clicking before you collar the culprits in any particular crime.
This episodic approach means that, for the Nintendo Switch, in particular, Darkside Detective suits short bursts of interaction and feels well suited to mobile gaming. I was able to solve a couple of cases mid-commute then get off the ghost train and try again later. It is a shame, however, that the narrative is ghostly thin. A narrative thread of sorts does run throughout the Darkside case files, and while the faceless protagonists here show more personality than many AAA counterparts, this is no Grimm Fandango.
Despite this concern, I had a fantastic time when I returned to the mean streets of Twin Lakes. The writing is still fantastic and continues to surprise and delight. If you’ve already played Darkside Detective then this is a very authentic port. If this is your first time in the city, then remember, things are bound to get a little unusual. It is probably best just to ignore the giant swirling vortex that’s loitering over the local library, and don’t make eye contact with the inter-dimensional commuters.
Darkside Detective Review Score – 8/10
- utterly charming visuals
- great writing
- Officer Dooley
- Puzzles could be more challenging