The Dark Eye
Review by Orb
Inscape games have always seemed to me like the dadaist
equivalent of adventure gaming. Never normal, always with a big
fat twist at the core, every title has been fun and strange, all
for very different reasons.
The Dark Eye is based on a handful of classics by the
damaged horror writer Edgar Allen Poe. A few are well-known, but
happily for any Poe fan, twoBerenice and Annabel
Leeare some of Poe's lesser, but no less terrifying,
works. It's a malevolent game, as scary as Sanitarium, yet
higher on the weird scale.
The game itself consists of three interactive pieces and two
graphic novels, all held together by a haunted-house-theme hub
location. Each interactive game contains two scenarios, one story
each for murderer and victim. In keeping with Poe's short stories,
the game sections have delicious details and surprise endingsthat
is, if you haven't already read the short stories they are based
on. Of course, knowing the outcome of The Cask of Amontillado
in advance does not make watching it any less gruesome.
The initial or tie-in story takes place at Malevolence Mansion,
home of Uncle Edwin, and is played in the first person as an unnamed
"Journeyer." As the mansion is explored, the player
uncovers a lurid, Poe-like story amongst the relatives that dwell
within the house. During exploration, once the correct story points
have been moved forward and environmental items clicked on, the
Journeyer moves into "dream states" that allow her to
fugue or jump into the different Poe scenarios, in whatever order
they are found by the player.
The titles roll in grainy black and white like an old movie,
and the intro music sets an ominous tone. The art is so well-drawn
that it does not look dated despite its seven-plus years of age.
There are some nice historic period details in the design, which
features hand-painted textures, 3D rendering and stop-motion animation
of the characters. As for the characters themselves, which are
hand-crafted rather than computer-drawn puppets, the most descriptive
term that comes to mind is "nightmare muppets."
The player is given the ability to jump from character to character,
a trademark Inscape design perk (as with Bad Day on the Midway
and Devo's Adventures of the Smart Patrol, Inscape's
other two underground classics). Despite the first-person interface,
the game is entirely character-driven, and there are no happy
endingsmurder or be murdered, so to speak.
Malevolence Mansion, the centerpiece environment/story from which
the Poe stories spring as dream states, with its minimalist decor
is stark and creepy. All of the rooms in each scenario have bent
and twisted, unnatural looks. The game's sound effects are horror-film-in-a-dark-room
scary. This is heightened to the extreme while in the dream state
in Malevolence Mansion just before leaping into each scenariothe
bluish landscape is spotted by a creepy whispering undertone,
never clear enough to make out words, yet the player knows she
is not alone. The soundtrack, by Thomas Dolby and Headspace, is
a class act all the way.
A wonderful, classic inclusion in the game is venerable beat
author William S. Burroughs reading the two included graphic novels.
His voice cracked with age, Burroughs growls out Poe's spooky
verbiage with characteristic detachment.
The game saves automatically to a single slot and cannot be saved
in the middle of a story. Game progress is charted on a "Phrenology
Map," which highlights already-visited locations. The Phrenology
Map, a nice poke at the superstition-as-science fad of Poe's day,
gives the player a chance to see just how many of the game's eight
sections have been completed. It also gives the ability to jump
from section to section once each has been initially accessed.
The Dark Eye is actually very reminiscent of Rod Serling's
Night Gallery, Serling's last great television horror ride
(can any aficionado forget Stephen Spielberg directing Joan Crawford
in the 1969 segment "Eyes?"). Much more so than the
old American International campy Vincent Price films that threw
out Poe's stories but kept his titles. It's a cornucopia of Poe's
brand of horror and is very much in keeping with his style.
Release Date: October 1995
Four Fat Chicks Links
486DX 33 MHz
Windows 3.1 or higher
8 MB RAM
2X CD-ROM drive
Thousands of colors
68030 33 MHz
System 7.1 or higher
8 MB RAM
2X CD-ROM drive
Thousands of colors
Where to Find It