By Kieron Gillen on October 20th, 2007 at 5:22 pm.
Being big fans of unnecessarily obscure adjectives and overworked prose, clearly, we’ve got a lot of time for Lovecraft’s Cthulloid mythos. Not such a big fan of his Racism , of course. Anyway, news arrives that Zoetrope’s Lovecraft-inspired adventure game Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder has a 150Mb Demo released (Or approximately 6.6 recurring Necronomicons). And it looks a bit like this.
Sexy masks, lovely booze and (er) newspaper. Now, normally we’d set Walker – the master at both point AND click – at this type of thing, but since Jim had just brought me a tea, we figured we’d have a crack. Impressions follow.
It starts like this.
Where HP weighs in on his position on the 1999 gaming hot potato of Q3 vs Unreal or something. Immediate problem here – bar something about the house where you’re in having a bad reputation – that’s all we’re told about what’s up. Why are you here? Who are you? Why are all these extremely long and rambling letters from Loath Nolder doing everywhere? It’s less the mystery that bothers us, but the motivation. We have no idea what we’re meant to be doing or what we’re meant to be achieving, so we resort to blind pointing and clicking and spinning in circles (At which point we note there’s no bloody door into this room where we start, which spooks us pretty bad.). Through this we ascertain several things – that many objects are “interesting”, without really giving any other reason why (And entirely unpick-up-able) and many labels are smudged. Papers? Can’t tell the date. Bottles? Unreadable label and can’t make out what it is (Clue: Looks like booze to me). Windows? Too dirty to see through.
There’s not much to do. The full game apparently features some kind of Thinking Screen, which allows you to combine and mess around with objects, except that’s not functional in the demo. Which strikes me a bit of a bad idea to not allow you to play around with one of the game’s selling-points in the demo, much like giving a level of GTA where you weren’t allowed to run over people or something. You do get a fancy inventory, which allows you to manipulate objects and zoom in on them and stuff, which accurately simulates you flipping something around with your hands and having a good peer. So yay for that.
However, we do eventually find a chest with a lock on. Even our vestigial adventure instincts can recognise this as A Puzzle. We set our clockpunk hacker skillz to work…
Exhausting all logical combinations, we set forth, having managed to locate the trapdoor which leads out of the room. In a corridor, we find what appears to be the combination. Rushing back up the stairs – only stopping due to some spooky noises – we unlock the code, and find all manner of junk in the chest, much of which we could actually take. So we do. Also, a book, which we can’t. This book…
Now, we know enough Cthullu-stuff to know that reading books (even pink books) is a really dangerous thing to do, due to uncanny knowledge contained herein which can drive you apeshit, but – hey – nowt else to do, so we read it. We’re left none the wiser, and get back to roaming the house.
In the other accessible room, we find the scariest thing in the demo. This…
Unnerving statue of a native black gentlemen aside, there’s nothing else of interest. Trying to leave the front door tells me that we’re not finished my work here yet. Which is probably true, but I’ve no idea what my work is. I turn, and head towards the other staircase leading out of the room. Except I can’t walk up there for some reason, which – we suspect – be that the game’s not much cop.
Anyway, here’s our arch-nemesis the staircase, which managed to confound our progress. Damn it.