One of the most anticipated seasons of the year, at least on my calendar, season two: The Darkside Detective A Fumble In The Dark. Now I’m not going to play that card and say I’ve been a fan since day one, or I used to go to school with Officer Dooley.
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I bought the first game for the Nintendo Switch based on word of mouth. How foolish of me, an alleged adventurer, to hear of Spooky Doorway’s game so late in the day. It didn’t matter; it was one of the best things I’ve bought off the eShop, and considering the sheer volume of games I have, that’s saying something.
I’m not even going to go down that route of “well, it’s not perfect…”. Forget that for a moment. Here you have an unimaginable flurry of quips and Easter eggs relating to all those things you geeked out to growing up but can now re-experience in this detective adventure of in-jokes, self-awareness, and some of the best writing since that message your significant other left for you on that toilet wall. The rest is history.
If you haven’t yet experienced the first The Darkside Detective cases, do your homework, then come back. It won’t spoil your experience if The Darkside Detective A Fumble In The Dark, published by Akupara Games (Gone Viral and Relic Hunters Zero Remix), is your first time, but you’ll miss some of the references. If you already have it, replay it, but you probably have in anticipation. Here’s a quick recap.
You play Detective Francis McQueen, a paranormal investigator. After a series of extraordinary events in the first game, we return to McQueen’s world to discover that he is still looking for Officer Dooley, his life partner on so many levels. McQueen’s dedicated so much time to locating his friend that he’s taken a permanent hiatus. Cue case after case of strange goings-on, like a Scooby-Doo setup, only without the predictable outcome.
As before, the scenes in The Darkside Detective A Fumble In The Dark are static – you can’t move McQueen about willy-nilly, and very much the same setup as the recent Inspector Waffles – also excellent. Using the cursor, you click on numerous items, engage with NPCs to uncover new truths. There are no verb wheels or even a right mouse button option. The cursor will switch to a magnifying glass to show what you can interact with, and anything not bolted down, old klepto McQueen will take.
Surely this can’t be a spoiler due to the promotional screenshots, but when reuniting with Dooley, that’s when the Trouble Brothers magic happens. The writing in The Darkside Detective A Fumble In The Dark is magical. No, it’s witchcraft. It’s so consistently funny and on point that I wonder if the majority of the development went into the dialogue as it’s so concise and witty that there isn’t anything quite like it.
At times I struggled to get through McQueen’s responses. How can you get the timing right when the left mouse propels the dialogue forward? It’s just uncanny. Sometimes I would let a scene hang as I replayed a line in my head. Must..steal…joke…
If it wasn’t the jokes, and I’m not talking dick and fart, but witty, there’d be structured cross-referencing like somehow linking a lightbulb to Eric Draven or a Bixby Synder quote when palming off something to a collector. Then it was the music. Yet again, I’d leave the game hanging so I could listen to the score; it’s fiendishly good. Anyway, enough of all this praise – onwards!
By now, you will have seen or been familiar with The Darkside Detective A Fumble In The Dark art style. I’m not the biggest pixel art fan, but I know what I like. The Darkside Detective was one of the games that changed my opinion on the style, and that’s down to Paul Conway. Even though these are big ol’ chunky pixels, the detail is brilliant, and it’s not so hard to miss stuff.
I could probably go on to say that all of the above are faultless, but I still have my peeves – primarily down to my inadequacies. Don’t worry; this isn’t a lay down on the couch scene; it’s just that The Darkside Detective A Fumble In The Dark did have me on a wild goose chase at times. Considering that there aren’t that many scenes per case, it’s easy to repeat the same areas repeatedly, looking for clues. ‘You’re a detective‘, yes, I get that…
The thing is, there aren’t any real pointers when you get stuck, so for overthinkers such as myself, you end up making problems or thinking five or six steps in advance, then those actions never materialise. There’s a fair share of MacGuffins too, which doesn’t help. While there are dialogue trees, there aren’t alternative paths, and it’s pretty quick to exhaust the options with an NPC.
Granted, you can’t have walls and walls of text as the poor writers would burn out. Still, sometimes the interactions in The Darkside Detective A Fumble In The Dark are a couple of words shared but speaking to them again only repeats what was said previously, unless you complete a small task and come back as they have a new clue.
Getting stuck is the spirit of a point and click adventure, and it’s down to the player to come up with the solution. A few times those solutions were going for a walk outside – not that I was getting flustered, but repeating myself. One example was pinpointing a location based on clues, but even when I fumbled (eh? ‘fumble… The Darkside Detective A Fumble In The Dark… ok. ) and completed it, I had no idea how.
Aside from the brilliant cases, masterclass wit, and gorgeous presentation (graphics and soundtrack), the mini-games in The Darkside Detective A Fumble In The Dark were fun. Some were a bit brief, meaning I wanted more, but they were a great way to digest some of the scenes with some out of the box thinking.
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This game feels like one for the fans. Whether that’s movie references and in-joke LucasArts mentions, or you can’t get enough of Twin Lakes, this is an essential title that for sure puts the final nail in the coffin for Mulder and Sculley. We’ve found the best pairing since sliced bread. Dammit! I done did a Dooley.
- Hilarious, well-written dialogue throughout.
- Satisfying puzzles and mini-games.
- Gorgeous chunky pixel designs.
- Brilliant soundtrack.
- Heaps of pop culture references.
- No hints or objective lists.
- Some puzzles aren’t clear.
- A bit of backtracking.