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Dark Fall 


Release date: 06/2002
Devloper/publisher: XXv Productions
Boxshots
Available through
XXv Productions and through German online-shop gamepad for 29,95 Euro.

Download demo 10,5 MB (new location, not used in the game)

 

A review by slydos   24th July 2002

"Dark Fall" is the work of one man, Jonathan Boakes, who creates this 1st-person adventure in one and a half-year work. So free of blood, violence and action this mystery thriller is, it belongs to the most exciting representatives of the genre at all. Even if the author explains to be inspired by Myst then "Dark Fall" with its dark basic tendency and the story, which is told us, reminds me rather of "Harvest of Souls" ("Shivers2") by Sierra, which was released in Germany under the title "Die Stadt der verfluchten Seelen". It also deals with an abandoned place, where the inhabitants disappeared one after the other and were not seen any more.



Installation

The game comes on one CDROM in a beautifully designed DVD-box. A sheet of paper handsigned by the author is attached to the box and gives first instructions about the installation and the help files on CD. The game runs only in a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, to be adjusted after the instructions on the CD, under Windows XP one can use the compatibility assistant. "Dark Fall" is played directly from CD and needs only little space for the unrestricted number of savegames on the hard disk.

Start

If autostart is not switched off, we reach the main menu, in which we can select from the 4 options New Game, Load, Credits and Quit. "Dark Fall" begins with an introductory sequence, which cannot be stopped by the player. And it wouldn't be good, if we would otherwise miss, what happens here:

The bizarre harp sounds of the main menu still pursue us into the automatic fade over picture sequence, and we come near the desk of our (never seen) leading actor, who is listening to a call of his brother, Peter Crowhurst, on his answering machine. Peter is an architect and is just examening an abandoned railway station in Dorset. The alarming call is an insistend call for help. Peter tells him that he has met two ghost hunters there, the students Polly and Nigel from near Weymouth University, who are trying to prove the existence of paranormal phenomena in the abandoned railway station of Dowerton. Peter didn't believe in ghosts, up to now! Now the two have disappeared and he also feels pursued! His brother should come, he could reach the late train from Paddington to Weymouth and then should take a taxi. Peter would wait for him at the platform. The screen becomes black! Peter lowers his voice suddenly, he urgently whispers: ' "IT" knows my name, "IT" is watching me, "IT" is before the door... ' We hear noises in the background and hear him going towards the door and then opening it ... unearthly noises, then silence.

We take over the role of the brother, travel to Dowerton and "awake" in a railway tunnel. Here we are welcomed by an invisible young companion named Tim Pike. He leads us outside the tunnel to the railway station and promises to help whenever we can't get ahead with a problem and describes us, how we will find him in this case. From now on we can intervene in the game happenings.

Controls

"Dark Fall" is exclusively mouse-controlled. During the whole game the menu option buttons are shown at the top right corner of the screen. We can here save, load and quit the game. The save and load functions use a standard Windows window, in which we can store an unlimited number of savegames and can use the Windows functionality to arrange them in the order we like, e.g. use time order to find the last savegame faster.

Sometimes problems occur, when you are in a close-up and want to   manipulate something there. Here it happened several times that the cursor indicated the hand-icon for interaction on the entire screen, instead of only at the very hotspot.

Another problem occurs with orientation when you turn around, for example at the end of a corridor, you not always look in the direction, which you logically would expect. When returning from a corridor wing, 90 degrees are always added automatically when turning - you really must get accustomed with this.

We will not meet other living persons during the entire game, but there is a multiplicity of spirits, that speak to us, and also voices at the telephone or cassette recorder etc.. If you use the F1-key these English spoken texts are indicated on the screen. It was disturbing that I had to switch it on again and again when restarting the game after a break. In some places we can talk with spirits or poor souls. That is indicated to us by the word "SAY". Here we can enter free text. If we are successful, they answer us.

Inventory

The individual inventory items, there are only few, are always visible at the upper left corner of the screen. When clicking on them, their icon is magnified. The a click on a hotspot uses the selected object if possible.

Puzzles

The various puzzles are logical and clues to their solution are distributed over all areas and locations. However I must admit that I solved some puzzles, particularly in the end, faster by trying out than by combination. There are coding/cryptography puzzles, mechanical and musical puzzles, you must find and use objects, and from the very large quantity of documents, notes, letters and photos you have to make your own notes and drawings to use this information in other places. The puzzles rank from easy to medium difficulty and most of them can be solved in any given order. The non-linearity of "Dark Fall" makes it possible, if you are stuck in one place, to go on at any other place. In the course of the game we find also apparatuses, which were left by the two ghost hunters. Using them correctly brings again many new perceptions. In order to master "Dark Fall" in the long run, some actions are necessary for getting ahead, others serve only collecting background informations.

If you should really got stuck sometime, and need a hint, there is Tim Pike, who will help you. In addition there is a hint file on the CD (no complete solution), which will enable you to master the game.

Graphics

The graphics in "Dark Fall" consist of static background pictures with few animated elements. In the slide-show-style of Myst you move from room to room. Everywhere we find flickering lights, reflections, smoke, moving shades and erring lights. The background graphics are of good quality. They show a decayed place given up in the 40s, partly cleared out, partly still in the original state. Jonathan Boakes arranged everything from the memory after an existing railway station and hotel and one feels, that everything could have been as imagined. Newspaper cuttings, pictures, maps, documents, letters, tickets, books were designed in detail, tell extensive background history and much about the life of the disappeared persons.

Sound/music

If the puzzles are passable and the graphics good, then the sound is outstanding! The dark-sad harp theme is only used rarely and the violins still more rarely. "Dark Fall" lives from the tones and noises, from voices and sounds, from the groaning, knocking, whistles, whispering, hissing! With the ingenious employment of creepy sounds your hair will bristle up; the seconds, which one must spend in the complete darkness during the fading of the screens, while there is a sudden whisper or rustle so very near you!  An absolute gripping atmosphere is produced and held by accurate employment of an extremely effective creepy sound palette. I  actually turned fearfully my head away from the PC, to examine whether it was really only the wind, which moved the roll shutter of the terrace door at night. When was it the last time you had goose flesh with a PC game?

Story

Inspired by this abandoned place in Dorset Jonathan Boakes wrote down the stories of people, who could have lived here at different times and were haunted by something dark. His imaginative power was also fed by a futuristic TV series of the 80s "Sapphire and Steel". In one part of the series an abandoned railway station was the stage for lost souls too. We get to know much more from this place and the people who might have lived here, than we simply need for the solution of the puzzles. Here the balance puzzles/story deflects in favor of the story.

General impression

An extremely thrilling and atmospherically captivating game with a good story. Much freedom for investigation and with puzzle solving. The game runs technically perfect on new systems, if you adjust the correct pre-setting for screen resolution. There are some small, not serious difficulties in handling and control.

Even if the author indicates Myst as model, it has nevertheless only the perspective and kind of progressive movement in common with it. Story and atmosphere exceed the model and the logical puzzles, which are well integrated into the story, so that there is no frustration factor at all. With "Dark Fall" you get 20+ hours of exciting entertainment. The game has originality and is for sure not only a tip for ingrained 1st-person point&click lovers!

Rating: 76%

Adventure-Archiv-rating system:

  • 80% - 100%  excellent game, very recommendable
  • 70% - 79%    good game, recommendable
  • 60% - 69%    satisfactory, restricted recommendable
  • 50% - 59%    sufficient (not very recommendable)
  • 40% - 49%    rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only)
  • 0%  -  39%    worst (don't put your fingers on it)

 

Minimal system requirements:

  • WIN95/98/XP
  • 32 MB RAM
  • 16x CDROM
  • 4 MB graphic card 640 x 480 (24 or 32 bit color)
  • WIN compatible sound card
  • mouse

Played on:

  • Windows XP
  • P IV 1,6 GHz
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 16x DVD-ROM (Artec WRA-A40)
  • nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
  • sound card DirectX-compatible

 

click to enlarge screenshots
Starting menu
Starting menu

 

One of many documents
One of many documents



Spoken words could be shown on the screen with F1
Spoken words could be shown
on the screen with F1

 

A bathroom in the hotel
A bathroom in the hotel

 

"Play it again Sam ..."
"Play it again Sam ..."



Whom would you call from a haunted house?
Whom would you call from a haunted house?



The PC of the ghost hunters contains alot of information
The PC of the ghost hunters contains a lot of information

 

Talking to a ghost#
Talking to a ghost

 

One of the guest rooms
One of the guest rooms

 

Is this a picture of the Darkness?
Is this a picture of the Darkness?

 

The electromagnetic tracker indicates the distance to e power source
The electromagnetic tracker indicates the distance to a power source

More screenshots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © slydos for Adventure-Archiv, 24th July 2002

 

 

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