The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark Review – Point, Click, Laugh
Developed by Spooky Doorway
Published by Akupara Games
Available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, Stadia
I like a point & click game. Going back to games like Harvester, Dark Seed, Phantasmagoria, and much more recent fare like Sally Face, Bulb Boy, and Oxenfree. The demand for horror point & click games seems revitalized and some developers may find it hard to stand out among the pack. The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark does not have this problem.
You’ll point and click your way through 6 cases as Detective McQueen, involving strange goings-on in Twin Lakes, touted as “America’s 34th most haunted city”. The first case sees you searching for your partner Officer Dooley, who has gone to the, “other other side”. The writing is as sharp as ever, with a focus on the humor of working in a city as absolutely haunted as Twin Lakes. The supernatural at this point is downright mundane to McQueen, and most other people he interacts with. After making an impassioned plea for help on the local public access station for help to find Dooley, you are approached by a mysterious “psychic” who wants to help. She knows your whole situation (because she watched your segment on the green room T.V.) and she wants to help reactivate the switchboard, a device that helps you contact the other other side.
Following this you begin the game proper, finding clues and items to progress the story. The scenery is as detailed as you’re going to get with this crispy pixel art style, and almost everything you click provides either a way to move the story forward, or a bit of funny flavor text. The jokes are just solid, and organic. The writers are not going out of their way to throw a joke-a-minute at you. Everything feels off the cuff and the deadpan way it’s written just makes it funnier. How can you not have a laugh at a bear who runs a black market shop trying to convince everyone that he’s not, in fact, a bear, but thinks that bears should be allowed to roam free and eat humans. That conversation isn’t required for anything, it’s just there, and I appreciate the game all the more for having moments like these. The soundtrack provided by Thomas O’Boyle (Demon Pit) is amazing, from dreamy synthwave tunes to spooky carnival jams, it has a bit of everything.
After getting the psychic’s stuff from her former dressing room after convincing some kids to wear fishbowls on their heads to distract the psychic who replaced her, you’re ready to go to the switchboard. What follows is a jaunt through a junkyard infested with goblins, an auction house, and a pier hosting a giant black market that sells suspiciously good cookies. All of these locations feel unique, and this is just in the first case. In later cases (there are 6), you’ll find yourself at carnivals, nursing homes, and even an old Irish castle. A lot of care went into each location, with characters and interactions brimming with the sharp wit that Spooky Doorway perfected in the original Darkside Detective.
I never experienced a pixel hunt in my time playing, and the puzzles can be a bit obtuse, but not unreasonable. It’s all really a matter of thinking laterally. I wouldn’t think that you could peanuts in a didgeridoo to shoot them at a squirrel who does math, but after doing it…I get it. Some item combinations can be strange, but i was more mad at myself for not thinking of the solution, than at the game for providing such elegant solutions. There are also points where you are treated to small minigames, which help break up the point & click flow with something novel and interesting. I have currently completed 3 case files, clocking in at just over 6 hours. With 6 cases to complete, this game is going to provide a lot of hours of entertainment. It’s really a testament to the developers that they’ve released such a polished and absolutely fun game at launch. In the current world of day one DLC and broken-at-launch, it’s nice to see that the classics never die.