There have been a few good detective noir experiences released on the Xbox over the years. L.A. Noire is one, ensuring you have to utilise your detective and integration skills to solve gruesome crimes. A more recent offering is that of Return of the Obra Dinn, an olden-time detective drama in which you solve clues and recreate crime scenes from the data available. Now we have The Darkside Detective – a game which on paper has all the hallmarks of the detective genre, buddy copping, unorthodox investigator. But the twist is everything you investigate is of the supernatural and strange. Are you ready to enter the twilight zone and make some arrests?
You play as the brilliantly named Detective Francis McQueen; a guy who is in charge of the small Darkside Division of the police force of the fictional place, Twin Lakes City. He has to have a sidekick (obviously) and who better than Officer Patrick Dooley; a sort of dim-witted lovable idiot who accompanies our hero on all his adventures. These adventures take in a range of cases too; a child gone missing or a library that finds itself with some communication problems. But then, very quickly the whole thing turns into something different; something mysterious and occult-ish. Portals to another dimension open up, ghost train stations make an appearance, there are monsters who are looking to get out of the spotlight and even the evil Santa Krampus arrives. All of this is in a day’s work for our hero and his sidekick.
The adventure you get here in The Darkside Detective has all of Season 1 thrown into one package. That includes six complete episodes or cases, a Christmas special and two bonus episodes which add up to about 6 or 7 hours worth of entertainment. Throughout, the writing and stories come across like an old LucasArts game, full of dry humour, wacky characters, and madcap narratives. No one is ever really in any danger though, and instead The Darkside Detective is all about taking in the world, laughing a lot, and having a hell of a lot of fun.
Gameplay-wise it’s very much like an old-fashioned retro point and click adventure. Yet as with many of these games that make the move from PC to console, it is always preferable to have access to keyboard and mouse as opposed to a controller. It takes a while to get used to the control system. When you do though, it’s pretty much the usual drill for any adventure like this – all presented with a 2D scene in which we can interact with characters, and open up dialogue tree options that lead to clues of where to go or what to do next. You pick up objects, combine them to create new ones, and then use these on people or things dotted around the levels. There is nothing here that you wouldn’t have seen or experienced before, but I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, because it’s done very well here.
You will however have to adjust your mindset to this type of game because the solutions to the quests won’t be immediately apparent or obvious. In fact, there will be times where you are left stumped, even after trying out many combinations of what item to use with another, all prior to the answer then presenting itself. Even then you might still wonder how something has come about. This exact scenario cropped up multiple times throughout my time with The Darkside Detective, and that’s where frustration comes about. But the game’s charm, wit, and funny bones always manage to win through. This is certainly one of those games where you will play with a smile on your face.
In terms of visuals and they are very old-school. Think mid-1990s and you’ll get an idea of the type of pixelated graphics I’m referring to. The characters don’t move about the screen in each level either, just arriving, and then when you click on an exit they’re gone. There are little cutscenes in between or pieces of action that happen mid-scene, but nothing that will ever break the pixeled low budget edge to it. It is however a game full of great visual gags, a lovely colour system and characters designed in a fun way, especially those found in the occult world.
The Darkside Detective on Xbox will provide you with a decently enjoyable time. It’s an old-fashioned game that isn’t afraid to use old-time gaming and visuals to tell a fun, unique story; at no point does it take itself at all seriously. Throw in the price asked and there’s a host of content included here, with some great cases to explore. The obliqueness of some of the puzzles might frustrate at times, and the control system might grate a bit at first, but on the whole this is a fun point and click experience with the added promise of more to come.