First posted on 15 January 2009. Last updated on 24 January 2010.
|The abandoned town is haunted by an evil presence.|
|Strangely written symbols are key to solving many riddles.|
|The journal tells the history of Dark Fall.|
|To read the letter, you must first piece it together.|
|An ancient cave lies beneath the hotel.|
This game is part of the Adventures in Terror (also known as British Horror Collection) released in December 2009 by Iceberg Interactive.
Adventures in Terror - British Horror Collection
The compilation includes 3 games previously released separately in 2002-2006:
- Dark Fall: The Journal Classic Edition
- Dark Fall: Lights Out The Director's Cut Edition
- Barrow Hill
As soon as you start playing Dark Fall (also known as Dark Fall: The Journal), you will know what the deal is: ghosts! An abandoned hotel and a creepy train station make for the perfect backdrop for a ghost story. Even though the game abounds in clichés, it does its best to avoid the obvious. The game is written by indie developer Jonathan Boakes, who has managed to create a game that offers a vivid, entertaining, and spooky, albeit short, experience.
The game opens with a strange and anguished phone call from your brother. As an architect, he has been put in charge of redeveloping an old train station and hotel in the town of Dowerton, England. Your brother sounds really terrified on the phone, speaking of strange presences in the hotel that are haunting him. He asks you for your help. Worried, you travel immediately to the town to search for him. When you arrive there late night, you discover that the town is in fact deserted. Everyone seems to have disappeared. Yet, you know you are not alone. You sense that an evil presence now inhabits the place. As you exploring the station and the adjacent hotel, you find an old journal and learn of the history of Dark Fall. You discover that the hotel has been abandoned since the mid 1940s, soon after the discovery of an ancient cave by 2 archeologists beneath the hotel dating back to the Vikings. Unknown to the archeologists, the cave is cursed and the hotel has since become haunted. Now, it appears that the cursed cave has been disturbed again and it is responsible for the disappearance of your brother as well as 2 young students who have been sent there to study the paranormal phenomenon at that place. Your mission is clear: you must discover the ritual that will throw back the evil from whence it came, saving your brother and the young students, and freeing all the souls that have been trapped by the ancient curse.
The graphics in Dark Fall are somewhat bland, though they are enough to provide the right amount of details and offer a decent and credible atmosphere. The game only supports a resolution of 640x480. There is no proper music, but the sparse sounds and sound effects are very well made. Squeaky doors, eerie violin sounds, and creepy whispers all work to add to the extra tension while exploring the gloomy surroundings of the abandoned town.
The gameplay suffers from a number of flaws, but none are too big to derail the enjoyment of the game. You move about in the game world in a first person perspective, but you cannot go wherever you like. Rather, your view is fixed, and you can navigate by moving the mouse cursor to the edge of the screen to turn left or right. You can also move forward when the cursor turns into a double arrow. The navigation can sometimes be frustrating, especially if you have to cover long distances when you can easily miss a turn or a path which you can take. This is because if you do not move the mouse over the exact spot, the cursor will not turn into an arrow to indicate the direction which you can go.
Another annoyance in the gameplay is how the inventory is handled. You can carry only a few items at a time with you. This is a nuisance because you will encounter many vital objects for your purpose throughout the game. They are needed in different locations, and since you cannot carry all of these objects with you, you can easily find yourself in need of an important number or sequence from an item which you do not have in hand. While this may enhance the reality of the game, it can also easily mislead you into thinking that an item is not important just because it cannot be carried with you.
In the beginning of the game you will meet a kid named Tim, a ghost who will act as your guide. You can also contact and speak to other ghosts. You can even ask them questions by typing the questions using the keyboard, though the ghosts will only answer to some of them. The puzzles in this game are very logical, even if they are supernatural related. The only caveat that may lead you astray is the fact that it can take a while before you understand what you need to do in order to the defeat the evil presence that is haunting the town. You can spend a lot of time wondering around the hotel, exploring the rooms, and collecting seemingly useless pieces of clues; only later when you unveil some other pieces of crucial information will everything be clarified, allowing you to deduce the right action. For most of the first part of the game, however, you are left somewhat clueless. Some puzzles are not very well integrated with the story. These puzzles stand mostly alone and are hardly connected to the main plotline. Other puzzles are better designed and a joy to solve. Interaction with the environment is also somewhat limited. Many of the objects in the inventory can only be used in specific rooms in specific circumstances, even when there is no logical reason to limit their uses.
Be prepared to read a lot! From small pieces of scrap papers left scattered in the hotel to the archeologists' journal that details the ritual needed to set the victims' souls free, the majority of game's narratives are conveyed in these writings. They can be tiring to read sometimes, but they add a level of depth and realism to the back story about the history of the town and its people. Reading through the memories of the guests of the hotel to find out their secrets and fears can be a bit voyeuristic but also exciting.
In conclusion, if you like a good ghost story that evokes a strong emotion, Dark Fall is the right game for you. It is a game to be best played at night, with the lights turned off. Not infrequently will you feel a shiver down your spine when you see a crawling shadow on a wall or are awakened by a sudden noise. There are no monsters in this game. Rather, the terror comes from the unconscious fear of the unknown and the dark. Yet, with a faster pace and a lengthier game, Dark Fall may deliver even much more of its potential.