As a big fan of the point and click genre, I was thrilled to see so many adventure games appearing on the Switch. Some of them are not exclusively on the Switch and have been seen elsewhere, but the likes of Grim Fandango, Thimbleweed Park and Bear with Me are very welcome. The Darkside Detective, published by Spooky Doorway, is almost in the same mould as these adventures and worth a look. You might not have seen this tucked away in the eShop, so let me bring this to your attention. The character you play as is Francis McQueen, a detective who investigates the paranormal with often hilarious results. His role is to investigate mysterious goings-on, often solving the problem in the process.
Much like The X-Files (there’s even the odd reference to the two main leads), Francis looks into the cases that no one else wants, he’s a bit of a joke in the department, and no one takes him seriously. The thing is, there is a degree of truth in these case studies, and he intends to prove it.
Let’s Look into the Case File
The Darkside Detective is episodic and set over six main case files, with a few bonus ones that have been released over time since the game initially came out on Steam. Each case is accessible from a menu screen, much like a level select, though you need to complete each one in order. No skipping to the end.
Francis officially works alone, but he is often paired up with a beat cop named Officer Dooley, a much-needed comedy sidekick whose dialogue bounces off Francis’ quick wit. Dooley just so happens to be the officer at the scene each time, but he accompanies you on the investigations, giving you advice. Well, most of the things he says are nonsense. Unlike traditional point and clicks, you don’t control the movement of Francis. Each screen is a static scene, though you use the cursor to highlight items, add to your inventory or combine to make some illogical construction.
Simplicity at Its Best
Visually, this game is beautiful. It’s rare to be able to say that about a pixel art game where the characters lack any facial expressions. They are all blank slates, but with the vivid colours, wardrobe and props present, it’s amazing how much character this game has. Arguably, the dialogue is the trump card here. It’s like classic LucasArts; you can choose what you want to say without fear of dying or failing your task. The developers have a fondness for point and click games, as well as pop culture in general. Sometimes some of the references may have skipped past me, but I believe I got them all.
For a small title and production, there’s no spoken dialogue, but that’s not an issue. The visuals make up for this, along with the wit. Oh, and of course, the puzzles. If you’re familiar with the likes of LucasArts and Sierra adventure games, you can expect a couple of moments of wandering up and down and then trying to combine every item in your inventory to get anywhere.
Investigations Are Short; Replay Value Is Long?
Because you can’t die and there are only a few options available, The Darkside Detective isn’t a challenging game. If you’re in a hurry, you could complete the whole game in one sitting, that’s including the main cases, plus the bonuses. But, these type of adventure games were never about speedrunning – it’s about the quality of the story, and back in the olden days of 256 colours, how beautiful these games can be.
I took my time with the game and would only play two cases at a time. On average, this would take me two or three hours to do, and I was happy with this. Even after completing the game, I came back to it and started again, often forgetting the solutions even though they were supposedly fresh in my mind.
If this sort of game appeals to you, I’d say go for it. It’s relatively cheap and fun to play. It’s more a homage to the golden age of point and click; a little simplified to some extent but in a good way. Aside from the current cases and bonuses, at the time of writing, there is a sequel currently being funded, so expect to see The Darkside Detective 2 soon.
Developer: Spooky Doorway
Publisher: Spooky Doorway
Platforms: PC, Switch
Release Date: 7th February 2018
Do you agree with our review of The Darkside Detective? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.