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Darkness Reviews
Author: Richard Otter
Date: 2004

Reviewed by Red-Sith 

Darkness, I think, was a very fun game. It was very short and easy, but still fun. The game is about a lighthouse where “mysterious things” have been happening. You character hasn’t heard from the three workers in a week and is starting to become worried. So, you go to this lighthouse to try and figure out where they are and what has been going on. 

For some reason, I think the game starts out a little like Myst. You begin on a boat at the Jetty on the lighthouse. You have to move east a few times and then you get inside of the lighthouse, where you have to move up and down a lot. There’s actually one certain item in the way beginning that if you don’t get you won’t get anywhere in this game. So after you have the torch and can see everything, the rest of the game is a bunch of examining. You basically have to go from room to room examining everything you can. Once everything has been examined and every item has been retrieved, all you have to do is put them in the right place, which is very simple. You really don’t have to think throughout this whole entire game. 

The game is written well enough. It makes you feel like you’re in this lighthouse and you’re all alone. The game spits out little events every other turn that say things like: You’re sure someone was behind you, but there’s no-one there. [7] 

These lines are a little freaky in the beginning. You actually expect something to jump out at you, but once the 15th line happens and you realize nothing is going to jump out at you, you learn to completely ignore the words. Besides that, there are a bunch of spelling mistakes in the writing. Richard Otter made this game so fast I’m guessing he had didn’t take a chance to check for bad spelling. Also, the guess the verb can get pretty annoying. For example, there’s a lever in one of the rooms. You can’t say “switch the lever”, “move the lever”, “turn the lever on” etc. You can only say “Pull the lever”. It gets a little annoying. 

The game is also very short. It took me about a half hour to beat, and I only used the hints once. As I said earlier, the whole game is basically examining things, and fixing a broken generator. However, even with all these minor flaws I still had fun playing this game. This game is for anyone who doesn’t want a huge brain-busting game to play and just want a simple, short game they can beat in 30-60 minutes. 

5 out of 10 

Reviewed by Greg Boettcher

Richard Otter released his first game barely four months ago, but in four short months he's written four whole games. Although I didn't like his second game, Where Are My Keys?, he seems to be headed in the right direction, since Darkness is a lot better. The puzzles in this game are well designed, and some people may enjoy playing it, as long as they don't require a flawless playing experience.

The opening premise of this game immediately caught my interest. "For the first time in living memory the lighthouse on the Croxton Rock was in darkness." As the harbor master, you must investigate.

Unfortunately, the game contains both programming bugs and writing flaws. It's the writing flaws that seem the most serious to me, since they are less likely to be corrected. For instance, the game has an exasperating tendency to measure the dimensions of things, without giving more pertinent information.

> x lighthouse
You remember being told by Tosh that lighthouse was built in 1847 and the total height from the foundation to the very top is 110 feet 5 inches (33.6m).

The reason I'd looked at the lighthouse was to see if its light was still out. Well, this description gave me no such information.

As you explore the lighthouse you get little messages that say things like "Someone sighs, just behind you" or "What was that noise! Something made a noise!" At first these made me feel a bit uneasy, but as they happened again and again, it became obvious that they were all false alarms. This was so much the worse because of the game's status line, which changes to reflect your mood, describing you as increasingly frightened as the game goes on. Apparently I was supposed to feel frightened because of messages like "Something made a noise!", but I didn't. Instead, I felt increasingly less and less involved with the game, secure in the knowledge that all such messages were false alarms.

I can't help but comment on one more flaw... the game has some awkward guess-the-verb moments. The good part is, these are explained quite well by the readme file (and in the game, if you type "details"). The bad part is, this kind of external documentation isn't a very satisfying solution to guess-the-verb problems. It covers things up and smooths things over, but it would be far better to actually solve the underlying problem.

But enough with the game's flaws. As I said before, the story here isn't bad. The puzzles are good too, getting you involved with solving the mystery of the lighthouse. The game has a decent hint system -- small, but just enough to get you by. Best of all, I liked how the game ended.

I solved the game with only 15 out of 50 points, and this impressed me, because it shows that the game has a good amount of depth, more than I uncovered in my first playthrough. A lot of people will want to play the game a second time -- not just to get the 50 points, but to dig deeper into the mystery. If you like mysteries, this game is probably worth a try.

Reviewed by David Whyld

Darkness is a slight game set at a lighthouse where the resident workers all seem to have disappeared in mysterious circumstances. You, the local harbour master, have decided to head out there and take a look (without, alas, a radio with which to call for help if you get stuck…) 

Part of me liked the idea while another part of me felt that it wasn't presented well enough. There could be the makings of a good game here but the majority of the text seems rushed as if the writer was so eager to get it finished he didn't bother looking for spelling and grammatical errors. 

The bulk of the game takes place in the lighthouse and as far as locations for games are concerned, this isn't a particularly enthralling one. It's just a set of not very interesting rooms all on top of one another. A little effort has been made to spice things up by having the player periodically hear someone approaching from behind, yet turning around and seeing nothing. At other times, you can hear someone talking and a hat which you rescue from the sea seems to have a mind of its own about where it actually moves to. The idea of someone else in the lighthouse following you around was a nice one but I felt it was done a little too much. At one point, the player seemed to be hearing someone behind him every couple of moves. 

Errors hit in Darkness from the moment you examine the first item you see and get: 

In is a wooden ladder which is attached to the jetty. 

Typing "in" when you meant "it" isn't a terrible error on its own but when the first item you try and examine has a buggy description, it's not a good way to start the game. Unfortunately, it gets a lot worse later on. 

One peculiarity of the game is its way of listing measurements in feet first of all then in metres (or sometimes millimetres) afterwards in brackets. I'm not quite sure what the point of this was (help for those who don't understand measurements in feet perhaps) but it made for a jarring read at times. If I gave a damn about mimesis, I'd probably comment that it snapped it in half like a twig but I'll leave the mimesis comments for the people who really care for them. 

Despite taking place on an island surrounded by water, there's no response given to one of the more obvious commands: "swim". There's also a hat floating in the sea which remains there for as long as it takes you to fetch a boat hook and fish it out. Is this an island completely becalmed then? Or just one with incredibly an docile current around it? Strangely, you're not able to jump into the sea and retrieve the hat. 

Difficulty-wise it's easier than the writer's other games. I was able to figure quite a few of the puzzles out for myself and I seldom needed to resort to the hints. The hints system at least is competent and should point you in the right direction if you do get stuck. 

As with the writer's previous games, Darkness comes with a huge assortment of items, most of which you'll probably never figure out a use for. One amusing thing I noticed is that there are several items which can be worn and there are no restrictions in place to prevent you wearing them all at the same time. So at one point I was wandering around the lighthouse, clambering up and down stairs, whilst wearing a sou'wester hat, a weatherproof coat, some weatherproof boots, some ear defenders, a hard hat, a lifejacket and a rucksack. I'm not sure whether the sou'wester hat was worn on top of the hard hat or the other way round but I bet I looked a bit of a state with all that clothing on. 

A radio I found seemed to be either broken or so prone to bugs as to appear broken. Turning the dial increased the number the dial was on by 100, no matter what I turned it to. As the game's intro tells you that you've already tried contacting the lighthouse via radio and received no response (hence you coming out here in the first place), I'm guessing the radio is broken but why the dial number is incremented in this fashion I couldn't say. 

I managed to get a few strange responses to what (as least as far as I was concerned) were reasonably sensible commands. "Fill can with petrol" hit me with "don't be daft!" (why is that daft?) while "fill can" just got me "I don't understand what you want me to do with the fuel can." By far the worse error was when I examined the torch and saw 

It is your trusty, powerful, battery flashlight which is %state_torch% at the moment. 

It's hard to imagine how an error like that escaped even the most cursory testing but apparently it did. Then again, judging by how the rest of the game seems afflicted with so many errors it's quite likely that testing is one thing Darkness wasn't subjected to. At best, I suspect the game was played through to completion just to ensure it could be completed and then was uploaded without further testing. 

I wonder if Richard Otter is writing too many games too quickly. He's now produced three full size games in less than four months (not counting the mini-game he wrote for the last ADRIFT comp). The first - Ticket To No Where - was quite good; the second - Where Are My Keys? (see issue 1 for review) - was patchy in places and contained entirely too many errors but was still a likeable enough game in its own right; the third - this game, Darkness - is his weakest effort yet and seems to run into problems from the word go, a good number of which I'm guessing are down to how quickly he's writing them and not enough time and effort being expended on catching errors. Each game he writes seems smaller and buggier than the last. Too much, too soon? It's a worrying progression whatever way you look at it. 

In the end, I felt that Darkness was a wasted opportunity. With a lot more effort and some time spent on a decent spell-checker, it could be improved considerably. 

3 out of 10 

Reviewed by DIY Games (December 2004)

Darkness reminds me of the graphical adventure Dark Fall II: Lights Out. It takes place in a seemingly abandoned lighthouse, and it’s trying to evoke the same feeling of mystery and dread as the game. Unfortunately, this is not entirely possible for a text adventure, and with the large amount of inventory items, you’ll be more concerned with trying to combine or use them than feeling scared. While I quite enjoyed the game, I was a little disturbed by the fact that all environmental descriptions used both Imperial and Metric measures.

Reviewed by TDS

"For the first time in living memory, the lighthouse on the Croxton Rock was in darkness. First on the scene, you discover an empty lighthouse and a missing crew. It is now up to you to discover the truth." 

Unfortunately this game isn't nearly as engaging as it sounds. Although it makes for a quick diversion. 

You start off in a lighthouse with the purpose of finding out the truth out what's happened and restoring the light and you quickly find out that this game is one big treasure hunt. You have to examine everything, and I mean everything, to beat the game. This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for all the red herrings lying around. The amount of extra fluff thrown around is just too much. A few useless items are ok but you must draw the line somewhere. 

The writing isn't too bad but there is the occasional slip-up now and then. Bugs are all over the game and guess-the-verb is present frequently. 

Ø turn flashlight on
You can't turn the torch (flashlight) on.

Ø turn on flashlight
You turn on your torch.

Things get stranger when it comes to examining a generator.

Ø x petrol
You see nothing special about the small generator. 

Ø x small generator
The red petrol generator stands about 2.5 feet (760mm) from the floor and is about 3 feet (900mm) long and over 2 feet (600mm) wide. You assume from its size that it is the backup unit for its much larger diesel brother below. The generator has two buttons marked start and stop.

With all the objects I can hold in the game I reach a limit, but it makes me wonder why was there a limit set in the first place.

Ø take paper
The paper is too heavy for you to carry at the moment. 

Ø inventory
You are wearing a coat, a lifejacket and a rucksack, and you are carrying a small key, a boat hook, a torch (flashlight), a broken spark plug, a screwdriver, some old rags, a fire extinguisher, a mattress, a vacuum cleaner, a microwave, a television, a frying pan, a saucepan, a spanner and a flare gun. A bread loaf is inside the microwave. 

Ø drop bread
You drop the bread loaf. 

Ø take paper
You take the paper.

There's more I could have carried and more things to have been worn. Playing with the items could be a game in itself.

The story is nothing to write home about, the game is short unless you're easily annoyed, you hear footsteps and voices every 5 turns, yo u solve a bunch of lock and key puzzles -- it isn't my type of game.


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