Dark Fall II: Lights Out
Review by Toger
By all accounts, 2002's Dark
Fall was a rip-roaring success. (Oh, all right,
I may as well confessI've not played the game yet. I know,
I know, thirty lashes with a wet noodle. I'd planned to play it,
but I was distracted by something bright and shiny.) Can Jonathan
Boakes's sophomore effort, Dark Fall II: Lights Out, match
his previous success?
In April 1912, young cartographer Benjamin Parker is sent to
the southern coast of Cornwall in order to map the always-shifting
Whipside Sands off the shores of Fetch Rock. After arriving in
the village of Trewarthan and meeting his host, Demarion, Parker
gets the distinct impression that all is not right in this tiny
Sure enoughlate one night, Demarion wakes Parker to tell
him that a passing ship has reported that the lighthouse on Fetch
Rock is dark. Not only is the lighthouse not casting its helpful
light seaward, the entire island shows no signs of life. Demarion
tells Parker that he's suspected something was amiss on the island
for quite some time but doesn't want to get the rest of the villagers
involved. He insists that the three keepers would never have left
the lighthouse unmanned; therefore, Parker must make all haste
and get to the lighthouse to investigate.
Aside from the above, I won't say too much more about Lights
Out's storyafter all, it is a mysterybut
suffice it to say that Parker (and you) will get to know the lighthouse
well in several time periods, including the distant future. (That's
not a spoiler, that piece of information is right on the box!)
I can tell you that Lights Out's story is ... well
... creepy. Wandering through a dark and theoretically deserted
lighthouse is bad enough, but hearing someone cough, glass break,
doors close or a disembodied voice say, "over here"
is enough to make me check the house to be sure I'm really alone!
Two of the time periods were especially dark and sinister; however,
there were a couple that were presented in the bright glare of
daylight, which broke the games mood.
Gameplay for Lights Out is presented in time-honored,
mouse-driven point-and-click. Without exception, players will
always view the world in the first person, through Parker's eyes.
All actions are accomplished by left-clicking on an object to
pick it up or clicking on the directional arrows in order to travel
through each node-based scene. The interactive cursor will change
to a magnifying glass for close-up views, a hand to manipulate
items or a wrench to use an item from your inventory.
As is standard for adventure games, you'll spend most of the
game reading other people's mail, searching through drawers and
cabinets, picking up stray objects and negotiating the odd puzzle
or two. Strangely enough, there aren't a lot of puzzles in Lights
Out, but the puzzles that exist are reasonable, fair and not
too difficult. I do want to mention that the game suffers from
"sweep the screen looking for the ever-elusive hotspot"
syndrome, so bring lots of patience. Also bring pencil and paper
as you'll need to take quite a few notes, given that you're never
really sure what could be a clue to the mystery at hand.
There were some really clever touches in Lights Out that
shows the affection that Boakes has for his craft: as you riffle
through the belongings of a missing scientist, you'll find an
MP3 player with three musical tracks. The tracks are named Hal
2000, Shodan and Mother. (I see that quizzical look on your face
... all-knowing computers in either a movie or game.) In another
room, fortune cookies make reference to an adventure game site.
Visually, Lights Out is quite a treat. Backgrounds are
all prerendered yet reasonably lifelike. Colors in a couple of
areas aren't especially vibrant, consisting mainly of blacks and
greys, but you are wandering around in the dark. There
were a couple of odditieslike the aforementioned fortune
cookies, which looked more like lumps of clay than actual cookies;
while water effects were similar to cold gelatin.
I should mention that as you play, you may want to have a magnifying
glass handy in order to read some of the letters and journals
in the game. No, it wasn't that the print was too small, it was
too fancy! In attempting to read the journals, I had to go for
"gist" because I couldn't decipher the actual words.
The sound effects for Lights Out are the best I've heard
in a game, and they really contribute to the eerie nature of the
game. I've already mentioned the disembodied voices and mysteriously
breaking glass. There were also lots of squeaky doors, rustling
paper, water lapping at the shore, birds and, of course, the requisite
foghorn. There's even a pull chain that activates the foghorn
for those of us who can't get enough of that melancholy sound.
Lights Out's voice work is pretty good considering the
voices are provided by friends and family. I do have to take issue
with some of the ghostly dialogue. More often than not, it was
quite difficult to hear what was being said due to the liberal
use of overdubbing or the lowered overall sound level. I realize
that ghostly voices should be just outside the range of hearing
to make you question whether or not you heard the sound, but when
it's fundamental to the story, players need to hear it! Wearing
headphones and turning up the sound helped, but then ambient noises
were too loud.
To be honest, I didn't really notice the background music that
much, but when I did the music was appropriately dark and forbidding.
As I drifted from place to place looking at the pretty pictures
and listening to the dark, I found myself asking, "Where's
the game?" For the majority of Lights Out, I
felt that I was simply wandering through a museumlots of
things to look at or read, but not much else. I liked the nonlinearity
of the game, but it would have been nice to have a better idea
of how Parker fit into the scheme of things. For me, I think the
game would have played better if it had started in one of the
latter time periods and then worked its way from there. Also,
I wasnt particularly enamored of having to reexamine everything
once Id acquired the ability to time travel, and I felt
cheated when the game abruptly ended, leaving me with more questions.
In the end, Lights Out wasn't a bad game; it just wasn't
Release Date: September 2004
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium III 450 MHz
128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended)
24X CD-ROM drive (or PC DVD drive)
SVGA graphics card or better with 32-bit color (32-bit color at
DirectX9 compatible sound card
Mouse, keyboard, speakers
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