Dark Fall: Lights Out review

The Good: Much improved graphics; a large, interesting set of areas full of loving attention to detail and historical research that only gets larger and more interesting as the game progresses.
The Bad: Narrow, linear beginning; limited NPC interaction; the concluding, genre-twisting attempt to explain the mystery falls flat. Simply not as creepy or scary as the original.
Our Verdict: An intriguing and interesting--though not completely successful--attempt to head in a new direction from that of Dark Fall: The Journal.

Two truths about art and artists occurred to me while I was playing Dark Fall: Lights Out. The first is that an artist's sophomore work is always incredibly difficult, having to straddle the line somewhere between striking out in a new direction and simply doing more of the same. The second was that the fan of a once-obscure artist can find themselves in the confounding position of both enjoying that artist's newfound popularity while worrying that it will dilute the nature of their work.

The first Dark Fall was originally written, programmed and self-published by Jonathan Boakes. I discovered the game through the 'net, and contacted Mr. Boakes directly to get a copy. It arrived in an unassuming DVD case inside of which were a blank, unlabeled disc and a small piece of paper containing the game's installation instructions.

The original Dark Fall ended up being one of the best adventure games in recent memory. The railway station in which the game's story was set felt like a real place, its history fleshed out with literally generations of poor souls trapped in the evils of the place. I filled an entire notebook with notes and diagrams trying to get a complete understanding of what had gone on before I tackled the endgame. Dark Fall was one of the few games that I can say actually frightened me, and I'll admit it was with mixed feelings that I tackled the sequel.

Lights Out comes packaged as a professional product, published by The Adventure Company, who also eventually published the first game under the name Dark Fall: The Journal. It comes complete with a jewel-case for the game containing a well-written manual. Some part of me missed the home-grown feel of the original as I opened and installed the game, and it was then that the two truths of second works and the mainstreaming of artists came to mind.

Would Boakes follow the tried-and-true method of his first game? Would Lights Out simply be more of the same? Was that necessarily a bad thing? Would the combination of professional publishing and the sophomore curse make this a cookie-cutter sequel?

I'm both pleased and sad to say that Lights Out is not more of the same. Boakes has taken some of the basic ideas of Dark Fall and expanded them in new and interesting ways. Not all of them work, and ultimately the game does not play out as well as the original with regards to both the story and the gameplay, but in the end, it's an admirable attempt.

The professionalism of Lights Out is apparent from the very opening screens as the program's titles and credits are picked out by the sweeping circular beams of a lighthouse's lamp. The graphics have been greatly improved from Dark Fall's somewhat grainy 640x480 display to a much crisper 800x600.

The story begins with a nightmare. Benjamin Parker awakens after a strange dream full of images and whispered voices he cannot understand. You, as Parker, awaken in a tiny bedroom to a short, sharp knock at the door. It's still night, though, and the fog is rolling in off the bay of Trewarthan. Who would possibly try to wake you at such an hour? You soon learn that Parker is a cartographer, called by a mysterious benefactor to map the treacherous, shifting coastline of Cornwall in the spring of 1912. In his first attempts to sketch out the landscape, he sees in the distance what he believes to be a lighthouse, but no such building exists on any map he can find. And mentioning the lighthouse to his benefactor has the strangest of results...

Since Lights Out is a mystery, it's difficult to speak of the game's story without giving away spoilers. But early on, it's apparent that things aren't what they seem.

Lights Out uses a wide-screen view, with an inventory area at the bottom and a meta-command menu (save/load/quit) at the top. Each location is displayed as a rendered image, with hotspots linking to close ups and linking screens. Unfortunately, this is a portion of the game that has not been improved from its predecessor as linking hotspots aren't always logically placed and it's very possible to miss what the designer most likely considered an obvious exit.

Continued on the next page...

AD Dark Fall II: Lights Out can be purchased at:
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Game Info

Dark Fall II: Lights Out


Horror, Science Fiction

XXv Productions

Game Page »

Worldwide August 26 2004 XXv Productions

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Dark Fall II: Lights Out

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User Score

Average based on 6 ratings

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User Reviews

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About the Author
Dan Ravipinto
Staff Writer


Aug 14, 2009

I’ve just finished my second playthrough of the game, years after the first one. I liked this game, even if it’s really brief, and I liked it more than The Journal, maybe because I found the premise of Lights Out more original and thought-provoking. Surely the final twist comes a bit as an anti-climatic surprise, and the ending undoubtedly lacks a real sense of closure, but the game is undeniably funny and very creepy, especially in the first half. A complaint that I have to make is about the lack of subtitles: from my non-native speaker’s point of view, the impact of some aural clues (like Polly’s therapy) is hindered by the difficulty of trying to understand the muffled, whispered voice acting. I sure hope that Mr. Boakes will include full subtitles in Last Souls.

Fantasysci5 Fantasysci5
Aug 14, 2009

Yes, subtitles would be nice, especially with a certain Malikia. It’s supposed to sound hard to hear, etc, but I really had no idea until I looked online what the ending had actually said. Tongue Subtitles would be nice, but it’d take away a bit from the mystery.

May 30, 2011

I didn’t play the first one, and I wish I hadn’t bought this one. Certainly one of the worst adventure games I’ve played in years.
The game makes a bad impression right from the start with a very clumsy interface. In most locations you have to pan the view around, up and down, left and right. Not smooth scrolling, one screen at a time so everything takes ages.
The story is simply strange, not in the slightest bit interesting. I always try and play a game for a few hours to give it a chance. Not this one, I lost interest in the first few minutes. I would rate the game as one star.

jhetfield21 jhetfield21
Aug 16, 2011

after reading the review and comments i have to say this game is very difficult to rate.i guess being a game with many types of story parts(historic,mystery,scifi) it appeals to everyones favourites and the rest of the story becomes a bad aftertaste.

to me after Dark Fall The Journal which i loved,at first i was swamped in info from different places trying to make heads or tails of things and connect some of them.also after going to the lighthouse it was spooky enough,i played nearly the whole game at night with just a little light in the room and headphones and i have to say it made the whole game even scarier which in turn made the game even better.

as far as the twist goes,getting there was kind of difficult for me.incoherent.but looking from it after seeing the twist and knowing the whole story makes it even more interesting and original.i got to say i don’t agree with some of the comments of the others or the reviewer about it.it seems to be vague when it tries to explain things but i guess it’s just like having unanswered questions,apply a little imagination to fill in the gaps and you have a great ending.

and the thought of having technology at the source instead of a great evil is kind of refreshing.

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