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15 July, 2017

Darkside Detective Review – Stranger Things

 When there's something strange and something weird...

When there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, there’s only ever been one team to call. Well move on over Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, there’s a new kid on the block who dismembers the occult with a sharp wit, solves cases with a jar of laxatives and attacks tentacle monsters with a plunger - Detective Francis McQueen.

For those of us who look back fondly on the 80s and 90s, there were some truly iconic media entertainment that dabbled in the supernatural, often with a humorous twist. Ghostbusters, Twin Peaks and The X Files were all compulsory watching. Did you even have a childhood if you didn’t watch these shows? The Darkside Detective feels like it has been ripped directly from that era, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. This is a love letter to a bygone period of golden ‘campy’ entertainment.

It should come as no surprise then that The Darkside Detective takes a rather light, pixelated and humorous approach to the occult, with a campy 80s vibe. The writers proudly and loudly display their inspiration at every turn, with references to shows, movies and other entertainment coming thick and fast. One of the locations that McQueen visits is called Twin Lakes, while the chief of police is called Scully. Need I go on? While I loved identifying every reference that I came across (and at the same time felt incredibly old), I can appreciate that younger players will likely not pick up on the delicately crafted layers of subtlety and wit.

Best described as a 2D micro adventure game, The Darkside Detective is like a small, bite-size version of a traditional point-and-click adventure game. But rather than playing out as one long and convoluted story, McQueen’s job is to investigate six individual cases into the occult and extraordinary. It is a rather linear experience with very little replay value. From start to finish, I clocked up about 2 hours of game time. I would love to have run through it again, but I had already seen everything on offer. The structure of the game lends itself very well to DLC cases or even subsequent games. Please make it happen!

I’d also be lying if I said the game was difficult by any stretch of the imagination. The solution to most ‘puzzles’ is always clear, and simply involves moving from Point A to Point B and interacting with a limited number of objects. There are also a few logic puzzles thrown in - such as redirecting electrical circuits to enable the flow of current - which I found to be a nice change of pace, though still not particularly difficult.

Having said all that, I still found the cases and puzzles to be fun and enjoyable. (There's something oddly satisfying about interacting with an inter-dimensional toilet monster). But at the end of the day the real winner here is the witty and sharp writing, with interactions between McQueen and his sidekick Officer Dooley the highlights of the show. The sense of humour tickled my funny bone to the point that I found myself genuinely laughing out loud at several points.

The Darkside Detective has been one of our most anticipated games for quite some time. While we would have liked a slightly longer experience, it was a fun ride. The homage to my childhood brought back pleasant feelings of nostalgia with plenty of belly laughs to boot. It’s one of those games that I’ll probably only ever play once, but I’m very thankful that I had the opportunity to do so. We hope to see McQueen and Dooley back on the Darkside streets in the not too distant future.

The Darkside Detective is out 27 July for PC, Mac and Linux.

Stephen Mitchell

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