The Darkside Detective
Those of us old enough to remember the early 1990's (sadly, I do) may also remember playing the original Monkey Island series. At the time a heavily-pixelated Guybrush and Le Chuck were at the forefront of design and a list of controls on screen were praised as a flawless innovation in Adventure gaming. 25 years later thankfully the world of graphics has moved on and those images are a fond memory of what life used to be like, however Monkey Island's low-res animation appears to be coming back into fashion. Amongst many other games we've had The Last Door series and three installments of CGDC winner Deep Sleep, and now we have The Darkside Detective to get our teeth into.
Francis McQueen cuts a lonely figure. As a young cop his family vanished into thin air, most likely swallowed by a Talisman he'd stolen from an odd crime scene. Blaming himself McQueen becomes obsessed with the paranormal, much to the derision of his colleagues on the force. That is until Chief Scully asks for his help with an apparent possession of her husband. McQueen is able to rid Mr. Scully of his demons and, with a new ally at the precinct, is moved to the woefully underfunded Darkside Division to keep the town of Twin Lakes safe from all that lurks in the shadows.
In the detective's first case - Malice in Wonderland - McQueen is tasked with finding Jenny Jones, a privileged seven-year-old who has gone missing. Her distant Father, hysterical Mother and shifty Nanny are being less than helpful with your investigation but you won't let this slow you down. You've already seen one family ripped apart in strange circumstances, you won't let it happen again, dammit! Lending a helpful pair of hands - or at least offering some company - is officer Dooley, the Yin to McQueen's Yang. Dooley is the more skeptical of the pair but trusts the detective's bloodhound nose for sniffing out the paranormal and follows him willingly throughout the story. Think Mulder and Scully only with more sarcasm and less sexual tension.
Whilst the graphics are cute they aren't enough to keep your attention by themselves and the game needs more to keep us interested for a long period. Thankfully it has a genuinely interesting story-arc that presumably runs through the entire series (6 episodes according to the Twin Lakes Police System), plenty of character interactions and fun puzzles to overcome. Best of all though it has comedy in bucketful's. It doesn't just look like Monkey Island it feels like it too, if someone told you it was part of the Lucas Arts portfolio you'd have no reason not to believe them.
So what does the future hold for Detective McQueen? Will he and Dooley save Jenny? Will he ever find his family? Will his waste paper basket get emptied before Chapter 2? Who knows but I'm looking forward to finding out with him. The developers at Spooky Doorway promise the series will be available on Steam this year so, either way, we don't have long to wait.