IFReviewed by Greg Boettcher on 2006-05-22 08:53
Richard Otter released his first game barely four months ago, but in four short months he's written four whole games. Although I didn't like his second game, Where Are My Keys?, he seems to be headed in the right direction, since Darkness is a lot better. The puzzles in this game are well designed, and some people may enjoy playing it, as long as they don't require a flawless playing experience.
The opening premise of this game immediately caught my interest. "For the first time in living memory the lighthouse on the Croxton Rock was in darkness." As the harbor master, you must investigate.
Unfortunately, the game contains both programming bugs and writing flaws. It's the writing flaws that seem the most serious to me, since they are less likely to be corrected. For instance, the game has an exasperating tendency to measure the dimensions of things, without giving more pertinent information.
> x lighthouse
You remember being told by Tosh that lighthouse was built in 1847 and the total height from the foundation to the very top is 110 feet 5 inches (33.6m).
The reason I'd looked at the lighthouse was to see if its light was still out. Well, this description gave me no such information.
As you explore the lighthouse you get little messages that say things like "Someone sighs, just behind you" or "What was that noise! Something made a noise!" At first these made me feel a bit uneasy, but as they happened again and again, it became obvious that they were all false alarms. This was so much the worse because of the game's status line, which changes to reflect your mood, describing you as increasingly frightened as the game goes on. Apparently I was supposed to feel frightened because of messages like "Something made a noise!", but I didn't. Instead, I felt increasingly less and less involved with the game, secure in the knowledge that all such messages were false alarms.
I can't help but comment on one more flaw... the game has some awkward guess-the-verb moments. The good part is, these are explained quite well by the readme file (and in the game, if you type "details"). The bad part is, this kind of external documentation isn't a very satisfying solution to guess-the-verb problems. It covers things up and smooths things over, but it would be far better to actually solve the underlying problem.
But enough with the game's flaws. As I said before, the story here isn't bad. The puzzles are good too, getting you involved with solving the mystery of the lighthouse. The game has a decent hint system -- small, but just enough to get you by. Best of all, I liked how the game ended.
I solved the game with only 15 out of 50 points, and this impressed me, because it shows that the game has a good amount of depth, more than I uncovered in my first playthrough. A lot of people will want to play the game a second time -- not just to get the 50 points, but to dig deeper into the mystery. If you like mysteries, this game is probably worth a try.