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This doesn't at all look like the kind of place where creepy stuff could happen

To coincide with the release of horror adventure game Dark Fall 3, Jonathan Boakes has re-released his earlier titles in the series as new 'Director's Cut' editions. These re-mastered versions contain whole new scenes and puzzles, as well as a bunch more scary stuff that'll have you soiling your undergarments into the wee hours. Although there's not enough new elements to justify a purchase if you already own the old versions, newcomers to Dark Fall should find plenty of value in these budget-priced adventures.

Dark Fall 2: Lights Out is an unrelated sequel to the original Dark Fall, set in and around a creepy old lighthouse on an island called Fetch Rock. You play as Ben Parker, a beardy cartographer unlucky enough to be stuck on the island back in 1912, shortly after the disappearance of the three keepers. By exploring the lighthouse, it quickly becomes apparent that something sinister has happened and, of course, only you can put things right.

The game plays out from an old-school fixed first-person perspective, with all movement and interactions controlled with the mouse. The bulk of the game involves exploring the suitably unsettling environments and solving a handful of simple puzzles which are neatly integrated, usually involving opening locked doors and making use of various objects you collect on your travels. A fair bit of note taking is involved, but thankfully nowhere near as much as the first Dark Fall.

Most of Dark Fall 2's story - which is actually based on a real-life event, as you'll see if you browse the Darkling Room website - is told through various scattered journals and diaries. While this works just fine, the constant stopping to read long reams of text may try the patience of some gamers, especially since 90 per cent of text is redundant and not needed to complete the game. The story itself begins as a typical ghostly tale, but soon changes into a bizarre science-fiction plot that confuses as much as it intrigues.

Graphics consist mostly of static backgrounds, and there's no animated transitions as you move around, which feels a little stilted compared to other adventures where you can look around 360 degrees or even move freely using the keyboard. Still, navigation around the environments is rarely confusing (aside from some short cave sections), and at least Dark Fall 2 will run on a Pentium machine with as little as 128MB of RAM. The graphics are detailed and some environments look great, with some subtle use of sepia and monochrome creeping in at times.

Although the island and lighthouse are pretty much the only locations you'll visit, Boakes has thrown in a twist to prevent the game quickly becoming stale. This twist is actually revealed in the blurb on the back of the game's box, so it's no big deal to mention it here too. Via spooky and supernatural means, Parker soon finds himself shot forwards and backwards in time, to three other ‘ages' in the island's life. In a neat touch, the lighthouse and the surrounding area has been converted into a low-rent tourist attraction in the modern-day setting, including a museum that actually details the bizarre events you find yourself caught up in. Freaky, and indeed, deaky.

Time travelling proves vital to solving some of Dark Fall 2's puzzles, as well as working out what the heck is actually going on. To say any more would be a crime, but it's a well thought out and effective means of extending the game's length while revealing more about the lighthouse and its origins. Thankfully there's little in the way of Back To The Future style paradoxes and alternate timelines, as the plot is bizarre enough as it stands. I‘d have preferred if Doc Brown had actually popped up at some point to explain what was going on, although I‘d also have settled for an ending that wasn‘t far too brief and anti-climactic.

While the exploration and puzzle-solving is generally entertaining, Dark Fall 2 sadly misses the mark when it comes to putting the willies up you. While the first Dark Fall had some stand-out scary moments, Dark Fall 2 often settles for shadows that inexplicably move and bizarre voices whispering in your ear. There's a distinct lack of menacing atmosphere and threat that these games usually manage so well. You're unlikely to be freaked out unless you're under three years of age, or have a phobia of cartographers with crap beards.

The budget price and low system specs make Dark Fall 2 well worth picking up for adventure fans, even if your system is a dinosaur. Although the game is standalone, we'd recommend picking up the original Dark Fall also, since that game is superior in most ways. Happy ghost hunting!

 

Okay, where the hell am I and what the hell is going on...