Sequels are strange. In films, it’s very rare to get a sequel that is as good as the original, as the follow-up tries to copy the template of the original too much and can’t quite live up to the highs. In games, I think it’s the opposite. For every Uncharted, there’s a superior sequel as the developers learn from their mistakes, generally with a much bigger budget to play around with for the second, third, or tenth time. With The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark though, very little has changed; neither in terms of the previous format or, I would guess, with the budget. In fact, A Fumble in the Dark is just like a new season of the first game – and you know what… I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This follows on from the original The Darkside Detective – an enjoyable old-school point and click adventure, with a mass of content and funny narrative. At the end of the first game, Officer Dooley had been transported to another dimension. This left the series at a cliffhanger moment, yet it allows A Fumble in the Dark to pick up where it left off.
The story, concept, and writing are where the meat of the game lies, and in all aspects it’s very well-done. The premise is a simple but great one: the city of Twin Lakes is a cursed one, whereby all manner of demons, monsters, and things that go bump in the night occupy all its structures. This calls for a new Darkside department of the local police force, run by Detective Francis McQueen and it is here where you are presented with six cases to investigate; weird stuff that will take you to a wrestling match where you will have to contend with a huge demon wrestling fighter, a school reunion involving time travel and a terrible house band, an old people’s home that is controlled by the supernatural and a trip to Ireland to unblock the sun. Yep, it’s weird.
All of these are tales which are told with wit, charm, and respect, obviously inspired by the old-school point and clickers from the likes of LucasArts in the 1990s. If you’re a fan of that type of humour and comedy – where nothing is taken seriously and everything is for laughs – then you’re going to love it. Much like the original The Darkside Detective, A Fumble in the Dark is great to play, leaving you forever smiling to yourself as you’re getting stuck in. And stuck in you will, literally, as there are moments which will have you wandering about aimlessly as you look for clues.
The gameplay is of the traditional point and click sort – you don’t move the player character around, but instead select several objects and characters to interact with. You have an inventory of items that you collect on your travels and you can use these items with things that you find, or can combine them to make other items that progress the story forward. This means that The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark follows on from the original game in that it can be tricky to get used to, and ideally you would have a mouse to use instead of a controller. But once you grab the ideas, it becomes second nature.
The problem I sometimes have with games of this genre is that there is a lot of backtracking to do. Obviously there are clues that point to what you are meant to be doing, both in terms of visual help shown in the levels and that of any dialogue you take in with various characters. But there will be points when you will get stuck, there will be moments when you end up travelling around just frantically trying every possible combination of items, hoping to luck in. Occasionally you will, yet sometimes you will need to look for a guide. Like the last game, certain answers to solutions are so obscure in A Fumble in the Dark, that I would have never found the answer required without some help.
Just as first time around, A Fumble in the Dark is delivered through a pixelated design, embracing a low-budget feel that it manages to execute fantastically. There are lots of visuals gags that work in tandem with the writing and a number of smart little cutscenes and great use of colour. There is no voice-over to worry about, but instead there is some sublime use of a soundtrack from composer Thomas O’Boyle.
If you are lucky enough to play The Darkside Detective and then follow straight up with A Fumble in the Dark, you’ll certainly get into the rhythm of what is required. In both games the writing and world-building are excellent with a funny, charming vibe all the way through, but similarly with both the control system takes a while to get used to; you may get frustrated at times by the puzzles and solutions. The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark on Xbox does however, once again, deliver a decent chunk of gaming goodness. If you liked what came first time around, you’ll most definitely want to embrace the weird world of The Darkside Detective with A Fumble in the Dark.