Dark Fall 2 - Lights Out
Release date North America: 08/2004
Release date Germany: 11/2004
Developer: XXv Productions
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Game language: German
USK: 6 years and up
A review by slydos 5th December 2004
We already know, what Jonathan Boakes is capable to do as stand-alone game developer. That's why Dark Fall 2 can't anymore take the advantage of surprise. And it really was a surprise, that an Englishman single-handedly created one of the scariest adventure games of the year 2002. After a short response time Dreamcatcher recognized this too and became publisher of the already before independently published Dark Fall 1. With Dark Fall 2 - Lights Out this cooperation is continued now.
Jonathan Boakes 'plays Misty for us' - mist is wafting around the corners of the Cornish fishing village Trewarthan at an April night of the year 1912, as horror fans like it. The cartographer Benjamin Parker was sent here, in order to illustrate the area, which is apparently very dangerous, because some fishermen have already disappeared. And Parker gets something to do - imagine, not even the lighthouse of the nearby island Fetch Rock is plotted on the existing maps!
In the middle of the night the doctor of the town sends him on a mysterious mission to this lighthouse, where 3 lighthouse guards should be on duty. We don't receive more information than the fact that mysterious things are going on there ...
Honestly, would you do that? If Dr. Demarion wants to spy after the lighthouse guards, he should kindly do that himself - I would weasel into my warm bed until the next morning. But Parker actually makes for Fetch Rock with a boat in darkness and fog - what means zero view on the water - and reaches the island.
The lighthouse is dark and abandoned. Although the found evidence lets assume that the 3 guards only just disappeared - where have they gone? Parker examines their bequest and finds recordings about the mysterious occurrences of the last days. In addition he doesn't seem to be quite alone. Again and again he hears noises, mysterious whispered words or music, briefly said the lighthouse seems to be haunted.
Thus beware, if you should decide to follow Parker to enter the secrets of Fetch Rock, then you perhaps might be missed soon by your family too ... because this adventure game has an extremely exciting and surprising story, that will tie you to the monitor.
If that could be possible, then Jonathan Boakes created a still more thrilling atmosphere, than in his first game. The sound effects can't be more exciting, from quietly resounding steps over harrumphing in the very dark proximity up to an electrifying sudden laughter. And it happens always exactly when we are least looking out for it. The exact timing requires an excellent knowledge of the players. That is really superb! Silence of the Lambs was yesterday - today Dark Fall 2 - Lights Off/Out sets the benchmark of thriller-sounds. And Boakes sticks to the traces of the likewise minimalistic working John Carpenter, so that not only the location ("The Fog") evokes memories, which is probably just as intended as it is skillfully used.
The this time more substantial voice-overs and particularly the creepy speech editing (resound, distortion) succeeded very well. Also the music, goose-bumps-producing cello or piano sounds, contributes its mite to the spooky atmosphere.
The realistically prerendered locations look still better than in Dark Fall 1. The foggy night scenes as well as the areas illuminated by artificial light, shimmery-glimmery water caves or shores of Fetch Rock dipped into bright sunlight - all this looks very good. Besides the many objects, which we can examine and which are more and more animated ... one notices that Jonathan graphically sets sail step for step and this time does not exclude character graphics any longer.
There are display dummies in a museum and if one looks the other way for a second, then they seem to move ... no, they change ... is it an illusion? ... You'll surely fathom things out. Parker can communicate with a real character too, but during the facial animation the mouth part was left out.
Perhaps Jonathan Boakes will also cope with that and will surprise us with perfect lip-synch in the next game. In Dark Fall 2 - we can catch a glimpse of Benjamin Parker in the intro video, who is afflicted by bad dreams. Good to know, what we are looking like, because we will spend many hours in his body and will see the scenery through his eyes. Trewarthan is modelled after the real Cornish fisher village Polperro. Trewarthan and further scenes were however newly devised and not simply a copy of an existing landscape. With more than 50 scenes Boakes created an impressing game environment, which takes place in four different time epochs. For the German version all ingame graphic texts were translated, so that we have a seamless game experience and are not diverted by on-screen translations or gleaning in the manual, as for example in Bad Mojo.
As in Dark Fall 1 we take ego perspective and navigate by mouse control. In general one can move and interact perfectly easy: the cursor changes its shape above hotspots (magnifying glass, tool, hand) or above scene exits (arrows), the inventory objects are always visible at the bottom of the screen and the menu for saving, loading and exiting always at top.
But hotspots and scene exits are often well hidden in the darkness, close to each other, near the edge of the screen or only appear after discovery of certain things or having solved certain tasks. If one adds that, there are often other directions to navigate than the '4 normal' ones, we find unexpected many possibilities to move, what may cause orientation problems in a gradually increasing game environment. These sticking points are notabene intended and force the players to 1 of 2 prodedures: to either search each screen/view systematically and exactly or to accept much running around. You can save at any time and unlimited times via a Windows window. But one should conceive a system to name the savegames, to find the last saved game fast. There are no GameOvers and no technical game aborts, so that it's not necessary to save frequently.
Inventory objects are zoomed during mouse contact. An additional text description of the sometimes strange items would have been helpful. The use of objects is however very easy: If the cursor takes the shape of a tool, one must only click on an object and it is used or put back automatically, if it does not fit. If you are a fan of the try&error method, you'll get ahead fast at least with the object-oriented puzzles in Dark Fall 2.
The second big puzzle category, code puzzles, is however not a very good application area for this method without a little thinking and combining. By the way one should put out a few sheets of paper and a pen, there will be a lot to note and draw. Without notes nothing goes.
The players should prepare for a long game because of the large game environment and little linearity. They won't master it in less than 20 hours. You will rarely really be stuck since you have freedom of moving nearly everywhere, to look for another task. The tasks develop from the complex story and are not difficult for itself. More tricky is to rout the puzzles, spots, objects. The puzzles are logical and comprehensible, there are neither action nor dexterity elements, no time-dependent puzzles and also no labyrinth.
After the problem-free installation you arrive at the main menu of Lights Out. Unfortunately this was the end of my flag pole - playing was not possible and an Macromedia error message returned me to Windows. It then turned out that Dark Fall 2 can only be started in Windows98-compatibility-mode what appears to be quite strange for new a game. Beyond that no technical problems came up.
The exciting story is very sophisticated and told very detailed through many documents. Exact background search was done about lighthouses, fishing up to Cornish history. A perfect Christmas gift for fans of scary stories, who like to roam across apparently lonely scenes in ego mode. Even if the surprise effect of the newcomer is gone, Dark Fall 2 is again an extremely exciting adventure game with astonishing twists and turns.
Rating: 79 %
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:
- Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
- Pentium III 450 MHz+
- 128 MB RAM
- 24x CD-ROM- or DVD-drive
- SVGA-graphic card (32 bit colour, 800 x 600)
- DirectX9-compatible sound card
- Mouse, speakers, keyboard
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Ultima Artec)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Soundcard DirectX-compatible
Click to magnify