Detective McQueen and Officer Dooley of the Darkside Division again investigate 6 strange cases, but also deal with family secrets and an entity breaking through reality.
Remembering the fun
One doesn’t necessarily require any previous knowledge of the original The Darkside Detective, but with many characters returning and jokes as well as references being made to the first game, especially with the beginning and finale of the story, one will enjoy the sequel much more if one has played it before.
Interconnected and disconnected stories
The cases one investigates offer a unique mix of horror, mystery, and comedy. While they tell self-contained stories, they’re much more character-driven this time, with Dooley’s disappearance into the Darkside from the last game becoming the main focus for the first and sixth episode, as McQueen tries to find him in the former and the two of them have to face something sinister in the latter. The second story involves Dooley’s grandmother and the third one lets the player learn more about the rest of the family, as the duo visits the Dooley’s estate in Ireland.
Screams and laughter
Each episode takes well-known mystery or horror scenarios, but adds a silly and unexpected twist to them. So possessed old people in a retirement home suddenly start acting like youngsters, clowns hold a court case at the carnival, and a demon participates in a wrestling match, to name but a few main plot points. Of course Cthulhu references are present and correct as well.
Spot the spoofs
Once again the writing is full of funny dialogues and one-liners as well as lots of puns with an illustrious cast of wacky and memorable new and old characters. Metafictional elements abound and usually make fun of horror movies and the adventure game genre. These pop culture references aren’t necessarily of one specific genre, as can be seen with The Goonies, Rocky, Pulp Fiction, Back to the Future, or Running Man parts not being used for jokes alone, but for some surprising if completely bonkers story twists.
The puzzles are fun and varied, but often quite obscure and require a lot of trial and error as well as backtracking. Even if one doesn’t carry around too many items that can be combined or used with the environment and one usually has clear objectives, some solutions are still less than obvious. Remembering in which places people and objects are is half the challenge, especially with the many entrances, exits, stairs and doors which make navigation rather cumbersome.
Mini-games en masse
Way too many superfluous mini-games add to an unnecessarily longer playtime. Some can be completed without any cerebral work, like building a table by using an IKEA instruction manual, while others feel more at home in Puzzle Agent or Professor Layton, e.g. a Sudoku puzzle. Changing the directions of pipes for water flowing through or placing cogs in the correct order to make a machine work are other examples of well-known filler puzzles, while a hacking game that involves navigating a blob through a labyrinth and enemies moving in tandem outstays its welcome after a few levels, too.
Some of these mini-games are also rather time-consuming and very frustrating, as they’re not always logical. For example, in the first episode one has to pinpoint Officer Dooley’s location on a map by using clues. However, as some of them fit multiple places, it’s a case of trial and error rather than deduction. In the same episode one also has to try various phone connections by plugging in and out different wires, which has more to do with luck than any logical thinking, despite some funny replies one receives after dialing the wrong number.
Never change a winning low-res team
Technically, the game hasn’t developed much, which isn’t such a bad thing, as the pixel art is still quite nice to look at despite the missing details in faces and some of the background objects. It’s probably the low-res soundtrack that adds much to the atmosphere, which might not be creepy, but somehow immerses the player without becoming too obstrusive. The love for 80ies synth can be felt throughout, though, as the more rocking tracks are quite catchy, especially with a sublime Dooley song that is a perfect parody of so many hits from that era, just without vocals, which is also true for the missing voice acting in general.
The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark offers more of what its predecessor already did, but is much longer with a playtime of around 10 hours. The cases are again as weird and funny as its characters and are particularly rewarding for movie fans who can spot all the different references.
However, the puzzle design is often hit and miss, particularly with the overuse of mini-games. One still perseveres through it, as the cases are short enough for quick bursts of fun and there’s always something humorous and unexpected waiting in the next scene or dialogue.
Buy the game for PS4 on
the PSN store
Buy the game for Xbox One on
the Xbox store
Buy the game for Nintendo Switch on
the Nintendo eShop