I don’t know what it is about Detective Stories, but they have the potential to draw me in almost instantly. The intrigue of the “whodunnit” is one thing, but the “why” is often what grabs me the most. The former is a more Scooby Doo style, and the latter, popularized by Columbo, often deals with what a particular crime solver has to do to actually catch the perpetrator. Both formulas work well, especially when they’re blended—like they are in Darkside Detective.
A few minutes in and you will probably start picking up on the Twin Peaks and other surrealistic media references as you jump into the fray with Detective McQueen as your avatar. With a name like Twin Lakes it’s pretty on the nose, but honestly, this works in its favour. Nearly anything, supernatural or otherwise, could be lurking around the corner. You won’t need to keep your wits about you though, as this is more adventure than point-and-click. Most of the solutions can be brute-forced by simply clicking on everything, and not in a thinking man’s or pixel hunting kind of way. Combining items or where to use them on the environment is always clearly telegraphed, like using a light bulb in something that resembles a lamp.
There are light puzzles like deciphering iconography and the like, but most amount to dragging and dropping, and typically only take a few moments of your time. Honestly, while the learning curve is fine, I wish there were more of these, or cases that were a little more involved in general. It’s mostly about the journey though. Going from room to room or location to location is fun to do, especially when it’s coupled with the muted pixel art style that’s on display in Darkside Detective. Even if you’re sick of retro-themed games you’ll probably enjoy the level of detail that’s put into most of the areas, especially when you click on something for an up-close look.
There are a total of six cases to tackle, which is just enough to not overstay its welcome. By the time you close one case you’ll be ready to go for the next, and at the end, you’ll most likely be satisfied. The silly, at times the eye-rolling writing is what made me stay, as well as the retro noir soundtrack that doesn’t go too far over the nostalgic but cloying line. The only thing I could do without are the decade references, which often do cross that line. If I have to see the phrase “Malice in Wonderland” or some variation of it one more time…
Darkside Detective hit a few notes that I fully expected it to, but it didn’t exceed those expectations in any way. If you want to dive into a ridiculous but easy adventure, this is your modest huckleberry. It could have been so much more, but with an open-ended structure, Spooky Doorway could very well open up the same formula with a new and improved sequel featuring a completely different protagonist—if they wanted.