Last Half of Darkness: Tomb of Zojir
First posted on 27 March 2012. Last updated on 29 July 2012.
Deep in the muggy swamps of Louisiana, on the Isle of the Dead, a stranger ties his boat to a foggy, unwelcoming dock. Unknowing of exactly why he has been drawn to the isle, the stranger is nevertheless compelled to search for a set of bloodstones with the power to contain evil lurking in the darkness and return them to the mysterious tomb of a long dead warrior. This is the opening scene in WRF Studios' Last Half of Darkness: Tomb of Zojir, and it brings to mind old Gothic horror stories such of those by Edgar Allan Poe or George W.M. Reynolds, where the true horror lay in the buildup rather than the execution.
The standout element of this game is unquestionably its atmosphere. The game's developer, Bill Fisher (or William R. Fisher), must be applauded for creating and maintaining a consistently spooky and unnerving feel throughout the entirety of the game, despite the admittedly dated graphics. The developer must also be commended for hitting that rare instance of "just right" mix of puzzles: they are neither too difficult nor too simple, and the game does not suffer from either an abundance or lack of them. In all, the developer manages to achieve a nearly flawless balance of story, exploration, and puzzles to sate any adventure game fan.
Furthermore, while the game covers the gamut of puzzles that are mostly standard fare, it also features a few interactive puzzles that are surprisingly clever. Old school adventure gamers will certainly remember the Dial-A-Pirate wheel from The Secret of Monkey Island. Imagine a puzzle based around it, even though this alone is not a novel concept. Imagine now, however, that the wheel is made of an old, folded map packaged with the game as well as the game disc itself. This physical interactivity surprisingly manages to further immerse the players in a way that even the game's use of first-person perspective cannot do—for that moment, the players can feel as though they are themselves searching for Zojir's tomb and the mysterious treasures contained therein.
Unfortunately, the game is not without its share of missteps, and these missteps add up rather quickly. While the game clearly prides itself on the uncomfortable atmosphere which it has so elaborately created, it also sometimes relies on the gratuitous tactic of jump cut scares like in a slasher film. When factored into a game which successfully builds suspense as the character plays through subtle measures alone, using such tactic comes off as little more than a cheap trick and actually serves to take the players out of the game rather than further immerse them into its chilling world.
While the game plays entirely from a first-person perspective, with the main character is known only as The Stranger, both the main character and all secondary characters inhabiting the game world are depressingly one-dimensional, often with confused motives. Although the game is billed as the third title of the Last Half of Darkness series, it is also touted as a standalone adventure. Though this claim is technically correct, players without the knowledge of the previous games in the series may find the story provided in this game barebones at best. Instead, most players will find that much of the immediacy is simply missing and in consequence may not feel any sense of urgency throughout the game.
Notwithstanding the dated graphics, most of the game's environments look fantastic. However, some scenes rely too heavily on animated gifs, which when combined with the static backgrounds, can be alarming in execution. For example, there is a scene in a fog laden graveyard when a jump scare of a ghoulish girl in all of her blurry pixelated glory suddenly appears in the beautifully rendered background; the dichotomy between the foreground and background arts is jarring and can sometimes serve to remove the players from the game.
Despite a few misgivings, Last Half of Darkness: Tomb of Zojir is an undeniably immersive and at times creepy game. I highly recommend this game to any fan of both adventure and horror. The game may not leave a deep or long-lasting impression, but what it can deliver still makes for an ultimately successful gaming experience.