Have You Played… Dark Seed?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Dark Seed spliced H. R. Giger’s art with a point and click adventure game to uneven but memorable effect.

When I was compiling our list of the 25 Best Horror Games on PC earlier this year, I had Dark Seed on the longlist. As I chipped away at the titles on that list, Dark Seed somehow remained, always lingering at the lower levels but hanging on around position 25. Right before drawing up the final list, I dipped into the games under consideration that I hadn’t played recently. Replaying Dark Seed is the best way to knock it off any list of the Best Anything.

It’s a bit of a stinker and that’s such a shame because the parts that work really fucking work. The oh-so-ordinary setting that flickers into the most uncanny and horrifying alternate reality is pitch perfect, and Giger’s contributions are superbly menacing. Sadly, in what appears to be an effort to make the horror all the more real, developers Cyberdreams decided that it should be possible to find yourself in an unwinnable state. Repeatedly. Time ticks away and if you don’t complete specific tasks to schedule, you’ll be forced to restart.

Despite that annoyance, and some poor writing, Dark Seed is worth a look for horror adventure completionists because it really isn’t quite like anything else out there.

45 Comments

  1. tomimt says:

    If my memory serves, and why wouldn’t it, Dark Seed is one of those game in which you need to know exactly what to do and when and only way to find out was sheer trial and error. I don’t think I ever bothered to finish it, despite it just drips atomosphere.

    • MattM says:

      I played this game as a kid with my father. It was impossible to figure out. There was this puzzle where you had to leave several items in a dark world location so that they would be in a light world prison cell to help you escape. So already you needed to see the future to know to do this, and it was impossible to figure out which items you needed. I wonder if anyone beat this game without hints or a guide.

    • Shuck says:

      Yeah, all I remember about the game was that at one point, you had to find a micro-dot in the library. Except you had no idea that there was a micro-dot in the library to be found, and the only way to uncover it was to put the mouse on one particular, random pixel in the library area. The game seemed to have been not just designed around punishing trial and error but maximizing calls to their (toll) help-line.

    • shadybearfaced says:

      I read your guys’ three comments, and while this game sounds infuriating, it actually seems oddly fitting for a game based around H.R. Giger’s works.

  2. Laurentius says:

    No, but like for many advetures games in early nineties I read detailed and well written walkthrough (in a form of personal diary) and watched screenshots in printed magaizne. It was good enough for me. Oh good times…

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    Hodge says:

    Yeah, it definitely falls into the category of Games That Are Basically Shit But You Should Probably Play Anyway. Wonderful premise and setting, but holy arse does it repeatedly commit every cardinal sin of adventure game design.

    It’s worth grabbing a walkthrough and playing through at least until you get to the mirror world (about 45 minutes in?) just so you can admire Giger’s art.

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    Harlander says:

    Are you going to keep up this trend of Have-You-Played-ing games with names starting with “Dark”?

  5. DrScuttles says:

    Unfortunately I’ve also played Dark Seed 2.

      • Cropduster says:

        [url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaM8wAJBQs4″]It’s true![/url]

        Honestly if you’re determined to play a bad adventure game the hilariously bad sequel is much more entertaining.

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          Risingson says:

          Why do you think it’s bad? I think it sits among Phantasmagoria 2, Sanitarium and Harvester as the only horror games that are actually adult in their approach. With their flaws and their campy bits, of course.

          The characters are very well written, the story is darkly funny… Did you pay attention when playing the game?

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            Risingson says:

            Of course the namedropping before is a bit random. But these are games that tried something that no other games tried: adult people, depressed people, in horror games. I mean, only The Cat Lady came close lately to be closer of that mix of madness, sadness and subtext.

          • horrorgasm says:

            I don’t know about OP, but you’re making me want to give it another chance

          • Asurmen says:

            Still doesn’t stop them from being terrible games.

          • Cropduster says:

            It’s an earnest attempt at adult horror that falls flat. Yes it has a lot of naive campy charm, but that comes from how ridiculous and misjudged the whole thing is. I don’t think you can compare it to Sanitarium (Although my opinion of Harvester is much the same).

            I’m not saying its not worth playing though, definitely a so bad it’s good game for me. More so than the original which imo lacks in charm or character outside of some licensed artwork.

      • Shazbut says:

        Well that was a joy. Thank you

        • klops says:

          Are these common with other not so well known 90s adventure games? What is this!? :D

  6. Pich says:

    *head explodes*

  7. ephesus64 says:

    I played this one probably a bit younger than I should have. The art and atmosphere definitely have the capability of getting to you. Never got very far either, obviously, mostly because of the reasons described here. My mother thought the game where the guy was always complaining about a headache was kind of funny, probably because I skipped past the phallic brain parasite insertion cutscene at the beginning when adults were around. Apparently you got to drive that car in the garage eventually?

    • ephesus64 says:

      Great design on the original packaging too! I have the box somewhere in my garage.

  8. GamesBrit says:

    Even if you’re not big into watching other people play games I would fully recommend watching PGB’s videos on both Darkseed and Darkseed 2 if you aren’t planning to play them. They’re both funny and a good insight into the game.

    • theninthlayer says:

      The Retsuparae channel on YouTube also has a great Let’s Play of both games. The co-commentators Slowbeef and Diabetus are really funny and do a great job taking the piss out of the games. Highly recommended!

      • Turkey says:

        Retsuprae is the reason I learned about the Dark Seed series in the first place.

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    Neurotic says:

    Jesus, this is an old one. I had this on my Amiga, on about 5 or 6 disks iirc.

  10. xyzzy frobozz says:

    “Point and cl…..”

    Stopped reading.

  11. Michael Fogg says:

    So the Lucasarts model of adventure games prevailed and became the canonical form but that’s no reason to dismiss other design philosophies. Many devs were acutely aware of the weakness of Monkey Island (short, 8-12 hours avarage playtime, little replayability other than after a few years when you forget everything) and tried to adapt the adventure game formula into more of a world simulation, with features such as passage of time, actors moving independently, more paths through the game (see also Rise of the Dragoon, for instance). The player was supposed to get more entertainment by trying to get everything ‘right’ through multimple playthroughs. An idea starkly at odds with today’s world of instant gratification but still a valid one.

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      Risingson says:

      NO. Really, no. This game was a master class in bad design and bad programming when it was released, and it still is.

      • Shazbut says:

        It is, but that doesn’t invalidate what he’s saying. The approach can be quite successful and in this day and age, choosing to be so unforgiving can win you fans out of sheer ballsiness. (looking at you Ice Pick Lodge)

    • klops says:

      Adventure games tend to have little replayability. Perhaps the only exception is the Indy and the Fate of Atlantis’s choise of different paths: team, wits & brawl.

      Haven’t played RotD, though.

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        Risingson says:

        The adventure game I have played most is Monkey Island. “Replayability” is, to me, a concept that cannot be applied to a narrative genre if you are thinking on having different gameplay. You reread books, you rewatch films, you replay adventures.

        • klops says:

          Different tastes then. I don’t see almost any replay value in adventure games.

          I did’t replay adventure games except Monkey Island 2 and Gabriel Knight 3 – both after at least 10 years because I thought I didn’t remeber everything. I do watch movies, listen records and read books again – but pretty rarely. For me the adventure games’ value is mostly in the gameplay (solving puzzles), not in the story. Although MI2 and GK3 were among the best examples of good story and writing, so it must’ve affected as well.

          • klops says:

            Unh, well of course the story and writing had a very big value for me as well, but not so big that I wanted to play a pointnclick again.

    • tomimt says:

      It’s an entirely differen matter to add replay value by adding different paths than it is to make puzzles which require you to be clairvoyant.

      Besided, personally I think 8 hours is enough for most games. For some it might even be too much.

    • horrorgasm says:

      Yeah, the kids these days, they don’t understand the pure joy of having to start an entire game over because 3/4 of the way through you find out that the game is now unwinnable because you didn’t notice a missable STICK at the exact right moment earlier in the game and have no way of even knowing that that’s what’s halting your progress because you don’t have the internet yet, among another dozen or so other similarly FUN situations in this game. Dumb kids.

      • klops says:

        Still remeber swearing like a sailor as a kid when finding out year or two later the ragequit about KQ5 or 6’s brick that was supposed to stop some gears. You could only get the brick in the early game and the gears came later. Wonderful, wonderful design.

        I was a LucasArts man, for sure.

        • Bugamn says:

          King Quest 6. I know exactly which brick was that. But the cheese was worse.

  12. sebagul says:

    I remember that game. It refused to work on my computer.

    I expected it to be something like System Shock, so I was frustrated and angry.

    Once I got youtube, I saw his entire gameplay, and found it disappointing.