Developer: Spooky Doorway
Publisher: Spooky Doorway
Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC, Mac, Linux
I love myself a point and click adventure, especially the comedic ones that don’t take themselves too seriously and offer a lot of fun to go along with their tricky little enigmas. It’s why the likes of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, and Full Throttle provided me with hours of fun in my younger days, with them all offering genuinely entertaining adventures that’d make you laugh out loud too.
We’ve seen a resurgence of the genre as of late, with Double Fine actually re-mastering a lot of the older classics and genre legend Ron Gilbert bringing a brand new title out in the shape of Thimbleweed Park. What a time to be alive, right?
Within that resurgence, The Darkside Detective released – a point and click adventure that puts you in the shoes of Twin Falls’ finest paranormal detective Francis McQueen as he explores a variety of strange (yet comical) cases alongside his partner, Dooley. After hitting PCs last year, it has now made its way to the Nintendo Switch, allowing gamers to get their thinking caps on and solve mysteries from the palm of their hands.
Each case is well varied and sends you on some pretty strange little expeditions. There’s the likes of finding out what’s causing all of the ghosts to appear in the local library, uncovering the mystery of the lake monster, finding out who tried to resurrect the ghost of a mob boss, or simply trying to recover the troublesome gremlins that are running riot in the Police Station thanks to Dooley’s incompetency. Yeah, they’re pretty weird, right?
Each case typically lasts around thirty minutes, which is a pretty nice length – it ensures that there’s no filler content, with each case instead made up of well-designed puzzles that never frustrate the player. Of course, they can be a bit longer or shorter depending on how switched on you are, but you shouldn’t expect to spend too long in a case either way.
So those who like point and click adventures will feel right at home with The Darkside Detective, but it has certainly got a more bite-sized feel to it. Each case will typically be spread across eight to ten screens, and there’s no specific movement that takes place on each one – it’s just a case of clicking on the objects in your surroundings and working out how best to utilise them. There’re a few little mini-games thrown into the mix too, though they’re fairly simple in design and won’t push you too much.
All of the puzzles are well-designed and clever, but there’s no denying that genre veterans might be left a little underwhelmed. Because of the smaller areas you visit, you’ll know you never have to stray too far to find the solution – even if it may not necessarily be an obvious one. Some of the objects you’re able to interact with are pretty obvious too, so as long as you’ve got a good memory you’ll often know the solution to later puzzles in a case almost immediately.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing though. I’m a big point and click fan, and I really enjoyed the smaller scope of each of The Darkside Detective’s cases. However, those who prefer an epic adventure that’ll see you working across huge environments to solve puzzles might find it a bit too simple.
A point and click adventure would be nothing without good writing, and thankfully The Darkside Detective delivers. The script is funny, witty, and full of pop-culture and point and click adventure references. You’ll notice plenty of little Easter eggs here and there with Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island both receiving prominent references, though the likes of X-Files, Ghostbusters, and IT get nods too.
My favourite character would probably have to be Dooley. He offers an observation on just about every location and puzzle you face in the game, and they’re always funny to read. He’s full of personality and, despite following you into the most confined of spaces (I mean c’mon, a public lavatory? People will talk!), I appreciated his stupid little quips.
I also loved The Darkside Detective’s spooky world, with it full to the brim with little sinister details that’re easy to appreciate. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing genuinely chilling, but I’m a big fan of the weird and wonderful and Twin Pe- I mean, Twin Falls, is packed with it. It’s certainly a unique world and one that makes for a perfect setting for a point and click adventure.
It helps that the retro-style visuals compliment it all though. Anyone who has played the classic point and click adventures of yesteryear will be right at home, with The Darkside Detective offering the same kind of pixely (but surprisingly detailed) environments you would’ve loved in the past. All of the characters look great too, be it McQueen himself and Dooley, the countless criminals or pests you pursue, or even the strange folk who you find living in the sewers…
The Darkside Detective is pretty easy to control on the Switch, with the option in place for the player to either use the touch screen or control the cursor with the stick. Each method works well; typically, I’d prefer to use a mouse for a point and click adventure, but the areas in the game are so small that they’re easy to get around anyway. My only gripe with the controls was that it would be easier if you could scroll through dialogue options as opposed to manually picking each one with the cursor, but that’s hardly a big issue.
Whilst The Darkside Detective might not be the meatiest or most difficult point and click adventure you’ll find yourself on, it’s one that’s undeniably charming and undoubtedly a lot of fun. It takes everything that’s great about the classic adventures of yesteryear and put’s it all into this neat little package that’s easy to come back to for bite-size visits.
Its biggest flaw comes with its scope – I’m sure point and click veterans might feel a little bit underwhelmed by the size of the cases and their environments, especially since it often eliminates some of the challenge that comes with the genre. None of the puzzles will have you stumped for too long, especially since you know the solution is only a couple of clicks away.
I was personally a big fan of The Darkside Detective though and couldn’t recommend it enough, even if you’re a complete newbie to the genre. It’s accessible, fun, and I can’t wait to go on more strange adventures with McQueen and Dooley in the future.