Dark Dimensions: City of Fog
Every town has one; the pretty girl everyone seems to love... maybe a little too much. Lillian had a lot of admirers, but she also had enemies, and all it takes is the two to collide to set off a chain of events that will even impact you, over a century later. Dark Dimensions: City of Fog is a creepy and captivating hidden-object adventure game from Daily Magic Productions about love, obsession, hate, and forces best left undisturbed. How did Lillian die? What is the true source of the mysterious fog that appears to have warped the reality of the town? Whose cuisine reigns supreme?!... oh... uh. Sorry. Got carried away there.
When most of us hear about deserted ghost towns, we're content to take amusing photos of ourselves in the mayor or sherriff's office and call it a day. But not you; the only survivor of a horrific car accident as a child, you've since felt a "connection" to the spirit world, presumably a bit like Christopher Walken but a lot less inherently creepy looking. (I love you, Chris!) You've become obsessed with rumours of "dark dimensions", places on earth where extreme suffering has left a sort of permanent psychic wound large enough to swallow and distort whole towns. It may sound like something Sylvia Browne would force you to pay 5.99 a minute to listen to her make up, but when a mysterious letter brings you to an exceptionally shady looking town in the middle of nowhere, things start sounding a lot more plausible.
While Dark Dimensions plays largely like a typical hidden-object adventure, with play revolving around clicking to interact with things, it does have one thing that sets it apart from most other titles in the genre. While a few hidden-object scenes are straight-up scavenger hunts where you work from a simple list, most actually contain a handful of item puzzles within themselves. Items on your list displayed in gold are things you'll need special tools to find or obtain, and those tools are usually items that you'll also have to track down within the scene and use in the appropriate place. The hint and skip buttons also make an appearance as you'd expect, but the latter takes a fairly long time to charge, so you'll need to be really determined to skip over any puzzles troubling you. Click on "help" in the lower right corner for an explanation of whatever puzzle you're currently looking at.
Analysis: Ah, I love the smell of murder in the morning!... well, uh, I mean, not literally of course, since that would be gross and probably get you on a government watch list or three. But there's nothing like a good tale of spite, betrayal, and otherworldly forces to get your imagination spinning, and Dark Dimensions: City of Fog offers this in spades. While some aspects of the plot will probably sound familiar, the game keeps you going with enough twists and clues to keep you guessing. What's great is that while you can rely on the in-game journal to clarify plot points and clues for you, there are hints and bits of story everywhere in the game, from photos and memorials and newspaper clippings, which helps the town feel more real. There are a few instances of what might be called "jump scares", but they're usually fairly tame and relatively easy to spot. (Seriously, what do you think is going to happen if you click on the dark tree hollow with glowing red eyes inside?)
City of Fog is absolutely beautiful too, with a clean visual design and rich colour palette that really makes you feel like you're in a place completely sucked dry of joy and basic human goodness. (... that's a compliment.) The environments do a great job of passing along that sense of supernatural with subtle details so that when combined with the haunting soundtrack, areas never lose their creepy vibe. The hidden-object scenes themselves are beautifully drawn, and have a clean design that not only makes them appealing to look at, but keeps your object hunting from taking a detour at "muddy distorted object junction". (Don't drink the water there.)
Adventure game logic still rears its head occasionally; at one point, for example, you need to find a specific tool to reach a ladder overhead... even though at the time you may already have a ladder you could use to reach that one in your inventory. On the whole, however, the gameplay is quite good despite a bit of backtracking and repetition; getting into the habit of having to go back through areas you've already visited to see if any new item or old hidden-object scene has "reactivated" is a little annoying, but hardly a dealbreaker. The mini item puzzles within the hidden-object scenes go a long way towards keeping you engaged; it's not exactly a new mechanic, since other titles have made use of it sparingly before, but it helps break up the tedium of staring at a picture for extended periods of time.
Dark Dimensions: City of Fog will probably run most players around five hours or so depending on their play style. (You know, whether or not you're dirty rotten puzzle skippers.) With the quality on offer here in every department, that's hardly a raw deal, and fans of the genre who were looking for a game built like a rock, but infinitely more appealing. It doesn't break any new ground and it isn't particularly scary, but it's exceptionally well made in virtually every aspect and if mysteries are your bag, you owe it to yourself to give the demo a try. Highly recommended.
A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter to play, wallpapers, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.