What makes a game scary? Is it the various screen displays, filled with nasty “bugaboos” ready to jump at out you at any moment? Is it the prolific sprinkling of bloody and decrepit corpses strewn throughout every possible location? Or music and sound effects, so over the top that you cringe; not in fear but rather annoyance at the realization that you’re going to have to listen to “that stuff which they think can pass for something to set the mood” yet again. I don’t think so.
For such a long time I’ve searched for an adventure game that could bring me to the edge of my seat and create an environment that would captivate and challenge me. A truly scary game and in this gamer’s humble opinion it has a name. It is Dark Fall. Created by an independent producer, Jonathan Boakes and his company XXVProductions from the U.K., Dark Fall puts forth all that I have ever hoped for in a supernatural adventure game. Right from the beginning as I loaded it up; I was immediately mesmerized by the simple beauty of the opening music. Its hypnotic almost “lute-like” harp in its ancient musical phrase and demeanor seemed haunting to me. A tragic portent of what was yet to come.
The opening cut-scene was brilliant in its design, dropping you into the role of a first person protagonist. It is just long enough to whet your whistle and take hold; especially listening to the beginning of Pete’s introspective comments, “…Well, I didn’t believe. But now I do…”
His plea for help which will tug at you with a quiet urgency,
“…I think it’s found them… I think it’s found ME too.”
All the while you’ll feel his terror building inside until he can hide it no longer,
“I can hear it…” his now voice low and hoarse, “I can hear IT! It’s right outside the door!!! Whispering……….It knows my Name! IT KNOWS MY NAME! …….I’ve Got to open the door! ……I’ve Got to open THE DOOR!”
And then that astonishingly horrible sound you’ll hear after Pete’s plea for your help absolutely covering you with gooseflesh.
This is what hurtled me forward into Dark Fall’s world. You see, I played this game with the headphones on…the volume turned up ….in the dark....in the night.
You’ll be blown away….as I was.
The interface is a simple one: point and click, slideshow format, some old fashioned text queries (I really enjoyed this touch) and an inventory. But make no mistake, my fellow adventurers; it will tap into a computer more powerful then any processor at your fingertips. For you see, it draws its power from you…..and your imagination. The first time I played it I found myself just meandering around the different locations, taking it all in and absorbing the wonderfully ethereal ambiance. It was like a real ghost hunting expedition. Ever spend a night (or weekend) in an alleged haunted house?? Loads of deliciously frightful fun; especially if you let your imagination fly and just go with the flow. I can tell you this from first hand experience. This game is very much like that…a ghost hunter’s dream.
The sound effects (and in more than one instance, the lack of them) were perfect. I could feel the tragedy and despair of what was now the abandoned train station, the terror and insanity that must have purveyed throughout the many rooms and halls of the hotel that fateful night in April so many years before when 12 people disappeared without a trace. I won’t go into the content of Dark Fall itself, as I feel to do so would spoil the adventure for those of you who have not had the chance yet to experience it for yourself. To do so would be a crime indeed.
For most games, the puzzles are illogical. It's almost as though they’re thrown in there for the sake of having them in the game. Not so in Dark Fall. The puzzles here are so logical they seem to flow from scene to scene and are necessary to the storyline. As the mystery unfolds, you’ll find out that they all make perfect sense. It’s as though they were designed to be foils to guard against the ever encroaching evil that is waiting there ………..waiting for its next victim…it’s next feed. In retrospect many clues are right there, in some cases right under your nose (in others, to the left or right depending upon where you’re looking). I loved the beautifully ingenious touch of having a little bit of a “spirit guide” to help with some of the puzzles…being able to interface with the “ghost-hunting” equipment (how neat!) and of course, communicating with a few of the “lost souls” on more than one occasion.
Dark Fall is a very non-linear game, this is wonderful! It gives so many different options for exploration…you can play this adventure over and over and see something new in it every time…like a favorite ride at a theme park…or a beloved ghost story from a well worn book…read at night…..while the wind howls and it storms outside.
I know that many people prefer “third person” over “first person” perspective in their adventure game playing. Not for this game, folks, it's first person and I have to tell you, I really feel that Jonathan scored huge points with his decision to make it so. Dark Fall cries out for the “first person view”. It craves it. Oh, I know that some people say that it makes the character have less of a “personality”. Baloney! You become Peter Crowhurst’s brother and what you react to and how you feel as the mystery reveals itself, will flesh out this character. It will call to you, I promise you, in such a way that you will not want to stop once you have started it. It will haunt you.
So, what does make a game scary?
It’s my belief that it's the ambiance and "the quiet". It’s the prolonged “creek” you hear and the tension you feel as you walk down a long narrow desolate hallway. It’s the footsteps and the sudden bang of a door off in the distance when you know that you’re the only living thing for miles. It’s the unknown; or fear of the unknown which creeps into your thoughts and opens up your imagination for the most part. This is an incredible game. I will tell you....you're in for a ride! What you'll get out of it is how much imagination you put in.
...I have to go now …It’s calling me ……It knows my name … It KNOWS my NAME….I have to play IT again…….I have to play it AGAIN!......
P.S. Find out more about Jonathan Boakes and this incredible adventure into the world of DARK FALL
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