Dark Seed II

Posted by Philip Jong.
First posted on 29 October 1997. Last updated on 07 August 2009.
Have an opinion? Leave a comment!

Dark Seed II
The carnival hides the portal to the Dark World.
Dark Seed II
Giger's macabre art fills the Dark World.
Dark Seed II
Mike must prove his innocence in Rita's murder.

The success of Dark Seed has inspired Cyberdreams to pursuit a sequel based on the Ancients of the Dark World that appears in the first game of the series. Based on the surrealistic and macabre art of H R Giger, the Dark World is filled with a biomechanical overtone that combines the look of flesh and that of machine. Unfortunately, Dark Seed II fails to rise above the original and bring the horror of Giger's fantasy world successfully onto the computer screen.

It has been a year since you, Mike Dawson, foiled the plan of the Ancients from the Dark World to take over the Normal World in Dark Seed. The Dark World is a parallel universe that is inhabitant by an evil force known as the Ancients. Unfortunately, the traumatic stress of fighting these evils has caused Mike to suffer a nervous breakdown. Now recovering from his illness, Mike moves back to his home in Woodland Hills to pick up the shattered pieces of his life. Little does he know that not only the Ancients have returned, but the death of his girlfriend Rita has placed him as a prime suspect in the mind of the police. Determined to prove his innocence, Mike soon learns that the Ancients have orchestrated Rita's murder. He travels to the Dark World to discover that the Ancients are hatching an entity known as the Behemoth which will be able to cross over a portal and destroy the Normal World. Moreover, the people in the Normal World are hiding their own conspiracy of lies and moral corruption. You must help Mike to solve Rita's murder, kill the Behemoth, and save the world from the Ancients.

As with the original Dark Seed, the sequel is based on a fictional universe known as the Dark World that is inspired by the macabre art of Swiss surrealist Giger. In Dark Seed II, more than 75 richly textured 3D landscapes are pre-rendered in the computer to provide the atmospheric backdrops in both the Normal World and the Dark World. Unlike its predecessor, all the artworks are now in SVGA quality. Digitized speech and conversations with over 40 characters are recorded for the game. Real actors are filmed and then digitized to capture their movements onscreen.

The interface used in Dark Seed II is clean and uses a simple point and click system. The menu bar is hidden at the top of the screen. In there, you can save or restore a game well as change the game settings. The inventory bar is hidden at the bottom. The right mouse bottom is used to cycle through three basic icons—an arrow for direction, a hand for action, and a question mark for examination. Objects can combine with each other to form new ones. Dialogs are carried out in a branch format with different choices from which the player can choose. Subtitles can be turned on. Option is available to control the display speed of the text (slow, medium, fast). The digitized voiceovers can also be muted. The puzzles in the game are mostly inventory based. Similar to Dark Seed, there is a lot of traveling between the two worlds since the puzzles in each world often require objects or clues found on the other.

It is a treat to see Giger's macabre artwork translated onto the computer screen. The manual also contains more samples of Giger's beautiful art. Its biochemical metallic look complements perfectly the mystique of the Dark World. The artworks in Dark Seed II are all done in high resolution and in full color and are a significant improvement compared to those from the original Dark Seed. The music is atmospheric and unobtrusive. The story of Dark Seed II is gruesome with a surprise ending. Some puzzles in the game are cleverly done, taking advantage of the concept of a parallel world. A map is available in both the Normal World and the Dark World for easy passage. Another improvement is a key to speed up the character's movement across the screen. Unlike the original Dark Seed, there is no time limit imposed as day night cycles.

The major downfall of Dark Seed II is its weak character development. Mike, incidentally named after the producer Mike Dawson, is simply an uninspiring protagonist. His immature attitude and comments towards any situation border on the line of stupidity. This is worsened by the poor voiceovers of both Mike and other characters. The dialogs are long, poorly written, and otherwise serve little useful purposes as clues for the game. Often these tedious dialogs merely act as event triggers without which the player cannot progress onward. In fact, the game is so linear and trigger intensive that the player will need to backtrack many times to talk to other characters to ensure that every single line in the dialog script has been delivered before the game is allowed to proceed.

Just like the original Dark Seed, pixel hunting remains as an annoying feature in the sequel (such as the door buzzer in the morgue). With few exceptions, most puzzles are laborious, requiring the player to do a lot of traveling back and forth to track down clues and objects. Response to the cursor is sometimes sluggish. The animations are also slow and pixelated. Even with the improved graphics in the sequel, the monotonic look of Giger's art just does not consistently translate well on screen.

Dark Seed II strives to improve on the many shortcomings of the original Dark Seed. The beautiful artwork of Giger in this game is sure to draw in many fans. Yet, this game is marred by a myriad of poor design issues. Gamers who have played the original Dark Seed may find a noticeable but unwanted change in the demeanor of Mike between the original and this sequel. In the end, the uninspiring character development and troublesome gameplay simply overshadow the improvements made in this sequel.

• (4) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink