[REVIEW] The Darkside Detective

The Darkside Detective
Developer: Spooky Doorway
Publisher: Spooky Doorway
Available on: PC (reviewed), Nintendo Switch (TBA)
Price: $12.99 (Switch price may vary)
Release date: July 27, 2017 (PC)
For fans of: Less taxing point-and-click adventures with an emphasis on pop culture references.

The Darkside Detective runs amok with familiar pop culture references, from Twin Peaks and Gremlins to IT and Ghostbusters, and places hard-boiled detective Francis McQueen amidst them in six slices of supernatural, point-and-click adventure. Each case is independent of the last and gradually expands in scope and size, but the gameplay remains largely the same throughout. These appetizer portions not only allow the game to run on limited screens and interactive objects but also dial back on the copious amounts of backtracking and inventory management found in larger, meatier adventure games.

This proved to be both a blessing and a curse, however. While I ultimately enjoyed Spooky Doorway’s method of framing each case individually, it certainly made for a short, simple adventure that relied a bit too heavily on pop culture jokes and not enough on drawing me into the world they created. Perhaps that’s the point, though?

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[REVIEW] The Journey Down: Chapter Two

The Journey Down: Chapter Two
Developer: Skygoblin
Publisher: Skygoblin
Reviewed on: PC
Price: $19.99 USD
For fans of: Grim Fandango or the thought of a West-African inspired Caribbean noir adventure.

*This review is notably shorter than Chapter One’s, simply because I didn’t want to spend more time than necessary repeating myself on gameplay elements and influence, and wanted to avoid spoiling the all-important narrative expected from a sequel.

When I reviewed The Journey Down’s opening chapter a few weeks ago, my primary takeaway was that it had all the makings of a point-and-click classic but lacked any form of actual adventure. Its West-African influence could be felt deep within its character design and the late Simon D’souza’s beautiful composition, but Chapter One’s bite-sized run-time, inconsistent voice-over quality, and never-ending fetch quest certainly hindered my overall enjoyment.

I’m happy to report that Chapter Two wholly improves upon its predecessor in every regard. It’s twice as long, allowing for more character engagement and world building. There’s more variety in the backdrops, though most of the game is still spent exploring dimly lit alleys. D’souza’s jazz, funk, and reggae tunes continue to elevate the experience to a higher level, eliciting the perfect emotion given the backdrop or circumstance. Voice-over fidelity has also improved tenfold, Port Artue’s inhabitants are far more interesting to converse with, and there’s an actual adventure taking place with sky pirates, murder, conspiracy, shootouts, and jailbreaks!

This is what I wanted from The Journey Down.

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[REVIEW] The Journey Down: Chapter One

The Journey Down: Chapter One
Developer: Skygoblin
Publisher: Skygoblin
Available on: Steam (reviewed), iOS
Price: $8.99 USD

Beginning life as a free pixely adventure game in 2010, the folks at Skygoblin gave the Caribbean noir tale a Grim Fandango-inspired face-lift and episodically released its contents as a trilogy on Steam and iOS platforms over the years. It’s an African-flavored point-and-click with all the makings of an instant classic — endearing characters, comedy, an eye-catching aesthetic, and some video game-ass puzzles all pull their own weight. With the final chapter of The Journey Down releasing last week on September 21st and the current iteration’s four-year history coming to a close, how does the modern adventure series fare as the sum of its parts?

Well, let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

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[REVIEW] Thimbleweed Park

Thimbleweed Park
Developer: Terrible Toybox
Publisher: Terrible Toybox
Available on: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Linux, Mac via Steam & Mac App Store, Android (coming Oct. 7th), iOS
Price: $19.99 USD

Those of you who grew up gaming during the point-and-click adventure boom in the 80s and 90s likely have fond memories of Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick’s Maniac Mansion, Indiana Jones, and Monkey Island titles. If you spent many a night pixel hunting as a pirate or shamefully microwaving hamsters, maybe even watching The X-Files or Twin Peaks in the process, then you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on Terrible Toybox’s new small-town adventure, Thimbleweed Park.

With an ensemble cast, a pixel aesthetic, and plenty of verb-using gameplay, the duo of Gilbert and Winnick aimed to make Thimbleweed Park feel like “opening a dusty old desk drawer and finding an undiscovered LucasArts adventure game you’ve never played before,” when they took to Kickstarter in 2014. After spending about a dozen hours with the PlayStation 4 version I can confidently say they’ve succeeded in their vision, but does a game that banks this much on nostalgia appeal to a brand new audience?

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[REVIEW] Syberia 2 Brings Closure to an Incredible Adventure

*This review will likely contain plot spoilers for the original Syberia, which I’ve already reviewed here. If you’d like to play the first two games on your own, you can pick them up as a bundle on Steam for $2.99 during the Summer Sale until July 5th. Of course, if you’d rather watch the story unfold, Christopher Odd has an awesome Let’s Play of both games over at his YouTube channel.

The 2002 adventure classic Syberia was a pleasant surprise when I played through it for the first time a few weeks ago. I was totally engrossed in Kate Walker’s evolution from a New York lawyer in a small French village to a woman trading the life she once wanted for the mere chance of adventure. Syberia captured a steampunk, automaton-filled world full of colorful characters and memorable locales, and concluded in such a great way that I wasted no time diving into the 2004 sequel.

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[REVIEW] Adventuring to Syberia 15 Years Late

As someone who never had a PC that was capable of running anything other than World of Warcraft on the lowest setting until 2010, I was mostly oblivious to the point-and-click adventure genre. Over time, I made friends who were heavily into games like Indiana Jones, Leisure Suit Larry, and Police Quest, but I’ve just always been a console guy. The closest I ever got was Maniac Mansion on the NES, which wasn’t even a faithful port of the PC release — thanks to Nintendo deeming certain parts “inappropriate for children.”

I’ve been playing catch-up with the genre ever since, having tackled (and sometimes reviewed) similar games across PC and console. The list of must-plays is seemingly never-ending!

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REVIEW: Armikrog

Armikrog
Developed by: Pencil Test Studios
Publisher: Versus Evil
Available on: PC, OS X, Linux, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Vita
Price: $9.99

Back in 1996, a little claymation adventure game by the name of The Neverhood captured a few hearts and became a cult classic among the point-and-click crowd. Although it eventually spawned a sequel in Skullmonkeys, leaving the realm of thought provoking adventure games behind and moving toward the more console friendly platformer may not have been what fans of the original were hoping for.

Recent plans to revive The Neverhood were met with roadblocks, but when the folks at Pencil Test Studios teamed back up with animator Doug TenNapel (Earthworm Jim, The Neverhood), it was like getting the band back together. Not only had they worked together on the cult classic adventure title, but began development on a brand new spiritual successor, dubbed Armikrog.

It’s unfortunate, however, that what came to be is one of the most joyless, forgettable adventure games I’ve experienced in a long while.

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