The desperate duo, Dooley and McQueen, are back on the case as Spooky Doorway and Akupara Games release The Darkside Detective: A Fumble In The Dark and flip open the next chapter on this book of occult oddities, banshee bakeries, and things that grope around aimlessly in the night.
For anybody already familiar with the town of Twin Lakes, the latest escapades of these two seemingly legitimate spooksters is a familiar tale. Stuck in the remote town of Twin Lakes, Detective McQueen and Officer Dooley spend their days dredging through unsolved case files and scurrying through garbage to hunt the orcs, imps, and ghouls that plague the citizens of Twin lakes. However, these two aren’t exactly your local Mulder and Scully. Instead, only two badge bearing occult investigators in the nation’s 34th most haunted city are ready to once more bumble their way through 6 new case files for our entertainment.
Much like the original Darkside Detective that we loved so much, anybody ready for A Fumble in the Dark can expect a point and click puzzler, stretched out across of the wall chapters. With a narrative thread woven throughout, this particular set of problems kicks off with the local PD oddball Detective searching for his partner. After the closing moments of their last outing, Officer Dooley remains trapped in another realm, a pixelated plane of existence filled with phantoms, green fog, and one lost idiot.
Getting Dooley out of his mess doesn’t require prior experience as a paranormal investigator, nor do you need to have played the first Darkside Detective. Controls are intuitive with a mix of clicking, clicking, and sometimes pressing and holding the mouse button when you feel like it. This allows Dooley and McQueen to easily navigate a range of unusual occurrences across town and space. From nursing homes housing riots to magical black market markets, and even a trip overseas.
Throughout these jaunts into the unknown and the other worldly gameplay doesn’t change much. Players can interact with NPC’s who give utterly inane answers that drop just enough clues to move you forward and McQueen seems to have some sort of Kleptomania. As you bundle more and more trash into your pockets, the most innocent seeming teddy bears become demonic beings, chalk helps open doorways to another realm, and sci-fi souvenirs all fit together to form a solution. This time around, puzzles tend to lean on the environment and characters that McQueen interacts with and less on the trash he picks up, with a level of difficulty that remains familiar, strange, but never off-putting when you’ve grabbed a ouija board and projected yourself into the minds of the development team.
Obviously, these puzzles don’t require much more than a passing familiarity with a mouse and keyboard. When stuck, resorting to clicking everything will work just fine. It worked for me, but this adventure will still be far more of a full experience if you do pick up the previous game with its in-jokes, returning characters, and the full backstory of this buddy comedy. Much like the second Die Hard or Lethal Weapon you can still jump right into this cop caper straight away.
Okay, this is nothing like Die Hard, or any eighties action movie, but the pop culture references still flow fast and strong. Just like the original Darkside Detective, writing is fast and snappy with a ton of knowing jokes and more than a little fourth-wall breaking of its own. While the puzzles can sometimes be a little circular, you’re unlikely to ever get bored if you sign up to scare ghosts back to the other side. Spooky Doorway has managed to expand beyond the initial pun filled set of six case files, and leans on the outright ludicrous incidents that take place around McQueen and Dooley to play them both for fools in a fantastic manner.
Just like the excellent dialogue and ludicrous scenes, the pixel perfect art direction, undeniably garish palette, and score to the Darkside Detective returns. The pixelated animation is almost analogous to the hazy lens of pop culture that the entire franchise projects itself through and the cartoonish colour chart that the entire escapade plays along to is even more amped up when Dooley and McQueen head into the circus or take a peek across to another world.
We’re not going to go into the narrative, or talk about specific scenes, or even get into the specifics of the puzzles because the context is what makes them so enjoyable. If you aren’t put off by sooky clowns, jousting pensioners, talking squirrels, or witch doctors in the local nursing home then The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark is a fantastic return for the team at Spooky Doorway. The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark is available now over on Steam. We give it 8 severed monkey paws out of 10.