If there’s something strange lurking behind the bookshelf then you could call on a rag tag gang of paranormal investigators who’ll slime up your hallways and do a number on your fridge. Alternatively, you could call on Detective McQueen in Spooky Doorway’s new game. This is our The Darkside Detective review.
A charming indie point and click, The Darkside Detective charts the escapades of Detective McQueen and Officer Dooley as they crack cases, tackle ghouls, and rescue the citizens of Twin Lakes City from the dangers of the Darkside. If this all sounds like the opening monologue to a second rate daytime cop show then you probably know where this is going. The Darkside Detective is a horror mystery that plays everything for laughs, taking aim at pop culture and cramming in more corny jokes than it has a right to get away with.
Much like the aforementioned TV series, the escapades of this dynamic duo are divided into a series of episodes. To crack a case wide open and progress to the next adventure, players must make their way through a series of puzzles. Case files and their puzzles are largely self-contained affairs that fit this linear approach and create snappy engagements that are easy to consume. The Darkside Detective is built upon a number of logic problems, most of which can feel far too brief. Despite the inclusion of an inventory system and some interactive puzzles, the game does actively block players from making the wrong choice. So, while I may be able to pick up and construct a plunger, I can only ever use it to flush a friendly purple tentacle from one dank toilet to another and back. Moreover, the game’s logical conundrums suffer from similar issues, and placating the dead ultimately falls into a traditional point and click mantra of trying everything until it works.
While the events of each case are largely inconsequential to the game’s heroes, a thin narrative thread does exist between cases. This proves just enough to enforce a reasonable sense of continuity and reveal more about the world. It compliments Spooky Doorway’s linear approach, with each of the ghoulish outbreaks across Twin Lakes City staged across several key backdrops, framed like a myriad of television studio sets. Environments are rendered in a pixelated glory that emulates a retro gaming aesthetic without feeling particularly archaic. A range of bright colors, some nifty lighting effects, and oversized pixel art clearly hint towards the game’s inspiration.
Ultimately what drives players through the city of Twin Lakes is the razor sharp wit of The Darkside Detective. This game saunters through portals to the nether realms with tongue firmly in cheek. From case scenarios to romantic reverse vampire fiction or even the police chief’s name, there are innumerable nods to classic horror and pop culture phenomenon. Poking fun at evaporating authors and browsing a copy of Dr. Whom’s Thrilling Adventures Through Grammar And Structure prove particularly fun. However, rather than make fictional authors the butt of every joke, The Darkside Detective introduces Officer Dooley. Primarily a comic foil, Dooley is possibly the most enjoyable character in I have come across in a game in some time. A mess of a mess of unintentional witty lines, utter idiocy, and knowing winks to the audience, Dooley’s ignorance is almost worth playing for on its own.
Recent titles like The Sexy Brutale and Rime sacrifice replay value and unnecessary padding to provide an engaging experience from end to end. The Darkside Detective, similarly, does not suffer any baggage. Writing is witty, striking a balance between goofy and dark that never seems to become threatening. Unfortunately, my time with Detective McQueen and Officer Dooley was far too short. While the tone, writing, and characterization are all stellar, puzzles are little more than filler and I closed cases as quickly as I opened them. Hopefully, the game’s episodic approach will allow for more content to be added soon, because the few hours of enjoyment you will get from The Darkside Detective make it worth investigating.
+ Fantastic Writing
+ Charming tone and aesthetic
+ Officer Dooley
– Way too short
– puzzles are not challenging