The Darkside Detective is one of those games that I simply would not pick up if the Switch wasn’t around. It just always seems that retro style 2D games such as this works best and feels right at home because of the handheld nature of Nintendo’s console. That’s not to say it doesn’t work well playing on the TV, quite the contrary, but having it in the palms of your hand, ready to pick up whenever you want to finish a certain part of the game suits me perfectly.
The game takes place in the suburban American city of Twin Lakes where two dimensions intertwine with each other. You take up the role of Detective McQueen, and along with your utterly absurd and senseless sidekick Officer Dooley, you must solve the six rather amusing case files presented to you by investigating various environments, finding clues dotted around and speaking to NPC’s with multiple choice dialogue options. The story is certainly unique but if you are here solely for the story then you will be disappointed as it’s not really the main attraction, it’s more so to tie it all together, which it does.
From the offset, two case files are open for you and it’s entirely your choice which you do first. There isn’t really any benefit from doing the second one to begin with, but it’s always nice to have a choice. Each of the six cases has its own story and there is an underlying story that interlinks them all together, but as a random example, if you were to let somebody else experience the game with you and they only played a one or two chapters, they would still get just as much out of those as you would.
In terms of gameplay, this is a point-and-click game, which should tell fans of the genre all you need to know really. It is simple enough that anybody can enjoy, but for those that want a little more substance to the gameplay or a faster-paced game then this isn’t the title for you. You explore each nook and cranny, finding various clues and objects which you are able to then use on something else within that level, which in turn will usually produce another item which can then be used to progress further, and so on. Some of the items you find can also be combined together to make a completely different item and sometimes this isn’t always obvious, which makes you have to think about it a bit more.
Your character doesn’t actually move around the environment, he is completely stationary and you just click on the thing you want to inspect or pick up. Highlighting certain objects can have a varying set of results, if it’s something that isn’t integral to the plot, it could be that you just have a witty conversation with your sidekick that doesn’t gain you anything other than a laugh, so it’s often always worth checking out everything you can.
Speaking of the witty dialogue, to me that is probably the stand out performer here, but what I will say is if you’re on the younger side and don’t know your 80’s and 90’s pop culture then unfortunately you’re not going to get a lot of the references the game makes and as such you may not find the game as funny as some of the older gamers out there might. This is a shame because there are absolutely tons of them littered in here, although in truth, they even make references to newer games, albeit nowhere near as frequent. One such example is Mass Effect, which they make reference to by giving a book the title of Mass Defect, which, if you’ve played the most recent Andromeda, is pretty accurate.
All the way throughout the writing is pure gold. As somebody that got most, if not all of the references made, I feel like I got a lot more out of this aspect of the game. It never takes itself seriously at all, and the direction the developer Spooky Doorway went with turned out to be a great decision as they could have quite easily made the game a very serious affair and toned down the dialogue, given some of the events that occur during the course of the story.
As I alluded to earlier, your sidekick, Officer Dooley is a bit simpler than a lot of the other characters found in the game, let’s say. He constantly gives out terrible advice and just doesn’t piece together things as most people would. His primary job then is to act as a bit of comedy relief (not that the game needed much more in truth) and it’s funny to see what he comes out with next.
Unfortunately, the experience doesn’t last as long as it should. Six case files are all you get and each one can easily be completed within 30-45 minutes if you grasp the basics. The first two levels I found to be a bit too easy too, but after that, it ramped up a little, although I wouldn’t go as far as saying any of the cases are particularly difficult. Unfortunately, in terms of replayability, there isn’t really any. Once you have completed the game, you have completed it, there is nothing new to experience.
In terms of presentation, there isn’t much to fault. It looks great and sounds even better. Yes, the graphics look pixelated which at this point has been done countless times by various indie developers over the last few years, but there is something about the style here which is different. It can take a bit of getting used to if you’re not used to older style graphics, but even though it has a pixelated style, I found it to be surprisingly detailed, with small but significant touches of detail littered around each of the levels. Every character also looks unique and given that they have no faces, they are all distinguishable from one another. Sound-wise, it was almost like watching an episode of Stranger Things at times with some of the music and overall atmosphere the game conjures. It is all very 80’s and it’s wonderful.
Performance wise the game runs perfectly, which you would expect given that this is a rather simpler looking game that is slower paced by nature, but nonetheless it’s worth noting. The Switch’s touchscreen gets put to good use too and the game is fully playable with just the tablet if that’s how you want to play it and honestly, it works well, which again, you would expect considering this is a point-and-click game and using the touchscreen that is exactly what you are doing. I still preferred using standard controls but that will always be my preference regardless.
A highly recommended game if you grew up with point-and-click adventures of yesteryear and whilst it won’t be for everyone, even if you’ve never experienced one of those types of games before you can do a lot worse than choosing this one as your first. The Darkside Detective was yet another surprising indie title on the Switch in terms of quality. A really funny and quirky adventure that I thoroughly enjoyed playing from start to finish, it just doesn’t last anywhere near as long as I wanted it to. So my advice would be to treasure it and hope this isn’t the last we see of The Darkside Detective as a series, as there is so much potential in any future sequels.