Dark Fall: The Journal (Windows)

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Written by  :  Jeanne (76590)
Written on  :  Nov 11, 2003
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Thrills and chills abound in this spooky, mystifying adventure!

The Good

After the introduction, you find yourself near the abandoned Dowerton Hotel and railroad station in England where at least 12 people have been missing since the 1940's. Your main goal is to find your brother whose frantic phone message pleaded for you to come and investigate. Soon you discover that two modern-day students were there recently - ghost hunting! Telltale signs of their progress were left behind, but they themselves are nowhere to be found. Clues as to what happened to them and the others before them are scattered throughout the hotel, station and the grounds. By reading newspaper articles, notes, signs and books, you learn that something evil was unwittingly released - and somehow kidnapped everyone! The only way to leave this place and free all of the victims is to reveal ancient runes which, when recited in a secret chamber, will cast away "the darkness" forever.

To become really immersed, Dark Fall is best played in a semi-dark room with the volume on your speakers turned up! The sounds and voices you hear, as well as the visions you see, will make the hairs on the back of your neck tingle. The whole place is old, dark and run down, providing just the right atmosphere for this incredible thriller. Even though it was dark, I had no trouble seeing hot spots and other things of importance.

The interface is fresh and easy to learn. The original XXv Productions release, which I played, included gameplay instructions on the single disc. Amazingly, absolutely nothing is installed on your hard disk! The entire game is played by running the executable file on the cd. Inventory items are collected and displayed at the top of your screen at all times. When you encounter a place to use an item, you simply click on it from that display and it is automatically used. Subtitles can be turned on or off by pressing your F1 keyboard key during the game. Saves are tiny text files and are saved to your hard drive anywhere you want.

There is an on-disc hint system in HTML format which can be read outside of the game. Those hints are good and vague but do provide just enough to get you going again.

You play the game totally alone in 1st person "Myst"-like fashion - except for the apparitions that is! This particular game couldn't have been done any other way, in my opinion, and adds to the experience of being in a sort of time warp.

There are plenty of areas to explore - 35 rooms in the hotel, plus several more in and around the railroad station including an old barn. There are several hidden, secret rooms to find too. As you progress, you'll need to go back to many of the rooms a second or third time. But, there is really no unnecessary legwork since by that time you really want to go back to them.

Keep pen and paper handy while playing - you'll be taking lots of notes! Except for one or two, good clues can be found for all of the puzzles. And the puzzles themselves are well integrated into the plot. You'll be unlocking several different types of puzzle boxes, using "ghost-hunting" gadgets and a computer (for which you need to figure out a password), and using several pieces of old equipment (i.e. piano, slide projector). None of them are terribly hard if you've paid attention and use common sense. Most of the true puzzles range from easy to medium in difficulty, but the end game includes some sound and color puzzles, which are harder - so be prepared.

I experienced absolutely no lock-ups or problems with the game at all.

The Bad

There is very little I didn't like about Dark Fall.

The game is made to take advantage of 32-bit graphics (which is great), but because of my particular video card, I had to play it using 24-bit. That was no big deal because the graphics were still good, but it made me want (even more) to upgrade my graphics card. The game featured a separate executable file for Low Resolution, so at least I could play the game. My only gripe was having to change my desktop to 640x480 before starting the game.

The end game puzzles were a bit difficult for me, but with the help of a hint file I made it through them.

The Bottom Line

This has to be one of the best adventures I've played all year! It didn't take long to become engrossed in the mystery. One night I was still playing in the wee hours of the morning and had to tear myself away just to sleep! And then, I had trouble getting to sleep for thinking about the game.

Dark Fall is not too terribly long, but not short either. It kept me enthralled for over 3 days (including a long night). The ending is satisfying too. I personally can't wait for the sequel!