Developed and Published by Spooky Doorway
Available on PC through Steam
Suitable for ages 10+
There’s a reason horror isn’t commonly described as “cute.” Outside of the spider-crab-head-monster from The Thing of course, which was totes adorbz. The general consensus is that the terms are at odds. Even horror IPs that could be considered both cute and scary (Gremlins *cough cough*) are generally defended as one or the other. As far as I know, I’m the only one that thinks about snuggling up to a cuddly little Shoggoth at night before being wrapped in its warm dark embrace until the Elder Gods return.
I’m a sucker for eldritch scribbling
That isn’t to say that creepy things can’t also be lovably funny. I mean hell, wasn’t Bub your favorite character in Day of the Dead? What would A Nightmare on Elm Street be without Krueger’s quips? I’m of the opinion that some of the best horrors are also some of the greatest comedies. There are phenomenal mixes of the genres, but the barrier for failure is incredibly high. Do it right and you could have the next The Cabin in the Woods or From Dusk Till Dawn on your hands. Do it poorly, and you get Stay Alive. Please tell me they were trying to be funny when they made that…
The point is, you don’t have to sacrifice horror for comedy. Take note, Spooky Doorway, as The Darkside Detective is all silly with no scares. I really wanted to love this game. A Ghostbusters style horror/comedy about an occult detective and his goofy sidekick? Count me in! But in the end, it’s just… cute…
Oh look, Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft arguing over who’s scarier. Cute.
Now don’t get me wrong, The Darkside Detective isn’t being dishonest. Right off the bat you can tell that this is a game primarily interested in invoking yucks. Going into the settings will show a number of graphics options such as “Spooky Vision” and “Virtual Reality.” The “Police Corruption” setting is always set to various versions of “On.” Ha! Good one, Spooky Door.
Actually starting the game, the barrage of comedy is unrelenting. Narry a line goes by without some kind of reference, pun, or general silliness. This puts me in an odd spot, as I never in a million years would define myself as a humor critic. I’m the kind of dude that busts a gut at the scene in The Ring where the horse falls off the boat. That being said, I found the humor to be initially grating.
I’m not saying you have to be subtle to be clever, but jeez….
The constant barrage of snarky one liners didn’t give me a chance to really grow to care about the characters. You play as Detective McQueen, an all-nonsense cop and member of the supernatural Darkside Division.Together with your partner Officer Dooley, you’ll solve puzzles and close six different paranormal cases. Well… not really WITH Dooley. He’s mostly just there. He doesn’t believe in all this paranormal stuff, even when it’s literally floating in front of him. There’s that craaaaazy humor!
I’m being a bit harsh, as there were some points where the game genuinely did make me chuckle. There was one particular moment later on when I had to use a tentacle in a way that I couldn’t help but find delightful. None of the jokes were really bad. It was all just far too repetitive.
Man, this joke is really in the shitter.
The Darkside Detective does get better as it goes on, but this really isn’t saying much. For an adventure game, this is one of the easier ones. I finished all six cases in about 3 hours without any trouble. Every time I got stuck, it was because I forgot to investigate some bullshit element like a broken window. Now keep in mind, I vastly prefer this to the old Sierra game logic of, “suck it, die and start over.” If there is a happy middle ground, The Darkside Detective is definitely closer to it.
Trial and error is better when you don’t get eaten by a bear when you fail.
Please, take all my criticism with a grain of salt. The Darkside Detective isn’t a AAA game that cash-grabbed it’s way into my Hall of Shame. This is a $13 indie game made by some dudes that just want to have fun. What was there was decent enough that I got my chuckles in. If the game were %50 longer, I was in serious danger of genuinely loving it. As it is, it’s just a fun few hour diversion. If the people at Spooky Door happen to read this, please don’t be discouraged by my average review. You guys have a great grasp of the genre, and the diverse levels kept me in my chair until it ended. Keep on fighting the good fight, and I hope The Darkside Detective 2 is a smash hit.