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Page 1:
Intro
Dark Fall: The Journal

Page 2:
Dark Fall II: Lights Out
The Lost Crown

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Dark Fall: Lost Souls
Barrow Hill: The Curse of the Ancient Circle

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Dark Fall: Lost Souls - Windows (2009)

European Cover

The third entry in the Dark Fall series puts you in the shoes of a man known only as the Inspector. You wake up in a train tunnel surrounded by newspaper scraps, broken bottles, derelict shopping carts, and disassembled mannequins. Amusingly the only items in your inventory are a fifth of vodka and some pills. A text message pops up on your phone, a taunt from someone named "Echo." Newspapers nearby indicate that a local girl named Amy disappeared from the area some time ago. It turns out that you were in charge of this case. A man known only as "Mr. Bones" was the prime suspect, but you failed to find compelling enough evidence against him and have since been wracked with disgrace and shame.

Exiting the tunnel, you find yourself in a familiar location - Dowerton Station.

The years have not been kind to the place. It is now an urban ruin, littered with a dozen times the amount of trash and vandalism seen in the first game. Jagged bottles, cockroaches, empty syringes, torn and broken furniture, and indefinable stains coat the area. Likewise, the spirits are more outwardly restless than before. This marks its drastically redefined atmosphere.

Lost Souls is scary. Not specifically creepy (though it is creepy), not exactly dreadful (though it is dreadful), but more downright terrifying than ever before. Playing this game alone in the dark with headphones on and the sound up is a task best left to the most intrepid players. There are more "BOO" moments this time around, and one never really feels safe or alone wherever they are. In the restaurant, for instance, there are two mannequins looking as if they're about to sit down for dinner. The player can't help but imagine that if he turns his head for a second, these mannequins are going to move in his direction. They don't, thankfully, but then you move a room over and see a distorted little girl giggling at you across the hall. And you just jump out of your seat and run for cover.

Music, sound effects, and voice work are pretty darn effective. Ghosts will be whispering horrible things into your ear, bugs will writhe and crawl with slimy, gross noises, the walls and floors will creak, the building will make noises as if it were alive, and a jolt of inexplicable calamity will erupt whenever something pops up on you.

The Inspector's voice showcases the expected overdramatic voicing, but Amy and Mr. Bones are fairly well done.

Gameplay is linear, which might be cause for complaint depending on your taste. Dowerton no longer has that "open world" feel. Since the game is mostly comprised of making your way up to the top floor of the hotel, your progress is mostly defined by the amount of rooms you've progressed through. The story is also requires only meager reading of journal entries and newspapers. Most plot points are brought to you through interactions with the ghosts.

Dark Fall: Lost Souls

The puzzles, meanwhile, are cause for a little disappointment. They aren't bad exactly, but not of the same caliber set previously. You will most assuredly be groaning after putting together the fourth or fifth torn-up photograph, flyer, or journal page. Some puzzles also just seem too trial-and-error. One of the most obtuse is when you have to listen to a series of tones and then recreate them by shaking a can of bones. What for, you ask? To get a phone number. You know, like you do. There is a simple timed puzzle, in which you have to connect wires correctly before a "Shadowkin" attacks you from across the room. The puzzle would be lame on its own, but the tension felt from seeing that Shadowkin slowly approach you is amazingly scary. You can die, in a sense, but this just means that you have to return to the previous area and makes little impact on deterring your progress.

Graphics are still done in a slide-show manner, but we now have a 360 degree view at a resolution of 1024x768 pixels. The graphical overhaul bears a stark improvement over all of Boakes' past efforts. While not as slick and stylized as The Lost Crown, Lost Souls triumphs in its new, albeit familiar, atmosphere. The graphics now have more in common with games like Silent Hill or Fatal Frame than old British TV serials. That sense of horror just bubbling beneath the surface is now replaced with horror straight-up thrown in your face. Some fans will complain of the lack of subtlety, others will rejoice at this more accessible variety of scares.

Lost Souls shows that, despite issues that have endured throughout his work, Boakes has not lost his form or his passion. The quality of the product differs depending on what you hold most near and dear in horror adventure games, but in many ways this series has improved with each entry.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Darkling Room

Publisher:

  • Strategy First

Designer:

  • Jonathan Boakes

Genre:

Themes:


Dark Fall: Lost Souls

Dark Fall: Lost Souls

Dark Fall: Lost Souls

Dark Fall: Lost Souls

Dark Fall: Lost Souls


[Related Game] Barrow Hill: The Curse of the Ancient Circle - Windows (2006)

American Cover

Matt Clark and Jonathan Boakes have much in common. They share their passion for the mystique and charm of ghost stories and they celebrate this passion through interactive media. Clark's work heavily mirrors Dark Fall. They seem to have taken inspiration from the same sources. Clark's Shadow Tor Productions assisted heavily in the production of The Lost Crown and has collaborated heavily with Boakes and Darkling Room ever since. But before Crown, Shadow Tor released Barrow Hill.

You are taking a drive out into the English countryside during the Autumn Equinox, listening to local radio diva Emma Harry, who in her trailer in the swampland cheerfully guides you through the witching hour. All of a sudden your car breaks down. Getting out and moving in one direction, you find yourself compelled away by a mysterious force. Then traveling on in the opposite direction, you find a motel, a diner, a gas station - but no people. It seems to have been occupied recently, but no one is around. Lights are on in the buildings. What happened? Soon you find yourself following in the footsteps of famed archeologist Conrad Morse, who was doing some excavation in the area. It seems he's unwittingly released an ancient evil in the area. And it is of course up to you to stop it.

Barrow Hill is immersive as heck. Its production values are extremely admirable for an independent effort. The locales are lush and creepy, the atmosphere penetratingly lonely, the story minimal but well-executed. Emma Harry is also a surprisingly charming figure. You never get to see her aside from a brief appearance on a cell phone screen, but she adds a nice human aspect to the story, so you're reminded of what's really at stake here. Her voice work is great too.

Barrow Hill

As expected, puzzles are mostly comprised of standard inventory collecting and usage. It's still very fun for the adventure gamer, and the sense of immersion is more important here than the challenge of the puzzles. It's nonlinear and exploring the area is the real draw of the game. The pre-rendered backgrounds are very easy on the eyes, the sound effects bring home the sense of creepiness and dread ("The graphics are all static, I have no reason to be sca-OH GOD WHAT WAS THAT NOISE???"), and the information and details that abound throughout the place bring it all together. You'll pick up plenty of tidbits about archeology and history. A good adventure game is one that drives you to uncover everything you can about the story and about the setting, and Barrow Hill succeeds famously in this regard.

Barrow Hill breaks no new ground. It's not completely polished. But much like Dark Fall, it thrives on its sense of atmosphere, and this is truly all it needs to be lauded for.

Its sequel, Braken Tor: The Time of Tooth and Claw, seems to have been in production for some time now. It is not clear when or if it will be released.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Shadow Tor Studios

Publisher:

  • Got Game Entertainment

Designer:

  • Matt Clark

Genre:

Themes:


Barrow Hill

Barrow Hill

Barrow Hill

Barrow Hill


Related Articles


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Intro
Dark Fall: The Journal

Page 2:
Dark Fall II: Lights Out
The Lost Crown

Page 3:
Dark Fall: Lost Souls
Barrow Hill: The Curse of the Ancient Circle

Back to the Index