Monday 24 June 2024

The Darkside Detective Review (Steam)

Written by Thomas Sharpe

The memorable duo list is long, and while not philosophically as potent as Rosencrantz and Gildenstern, McQueen and Dooley in Darkside Detective are far funnier. I think you’re meant to find Rosencrantz and Gildenstern funny. Or maybe ribbingly meta. Or hilariously intertextual. But there’s more of the Morcombe and Wise in McQueen and Dooley, thankfully. Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are visually reminiscent of Hall and Oates, with their rakish flocculence, and this is arguably their only real source of humour.

There’s certainly more of Sam and Max with McQueen and Dooley, but without the American bombast. When, at the time of Indiana Jones and Sophia Hapgood in Fate of Atlantis, Lucasarts point and clicks never quite peaked the surreality of Sam and Max, and one could argue that McQueen and Dooley in Darkside Detective are a successful descendant. Especially in a vast landscape of over-zany (Edna and Harvey) and perhaps over-whimsical (Vella and Shay) duos that read more like a Joss Whedon script (largely interchangeable dialogue that could be attributed to any character).

Darkside Detective, with it’s allusions to a broad avenue of spooky pop-culture, delivers magic like Penn and Teller rather than Siegfried and Roy. Joyful, ironic and minimal animal abuse. The writers have managed to not just give textual homages at the rate of Pegg and Stevenson in Spaced, but incredibly gave it breathing room where others get bogged down in a referential mire. Maybe it’s just that Spooky Doorway’s silly humour lightens me rather than paws at me, much like the comparable yet different results of Reeves and Mortimer when set next to the at times cringingly try-hard Fielding and Barratt. A similar result is the products of collaborations between Pratchett and Gaiman, who maddeningly make something less playful and fun than Adams and Lloyd, with their Meaning of Liff, a true philosophical benchmark.

The puzzles and gameplay of Darkside are balanced and largely amusing, rather than the travails of Rincewind and Luggage in the egregious Discworld point and click, which is notoriously left-field. Nico and George from Broken Sword were left in the dust by contrast, despite that excruciating goat puzzle in the first game. The big and blocky pixels are a reverse of Jake and Dinos Chapman, subsuming the player in a just-rich-enough visual style to evoke nostalgia and playful simplicity in good measure. Crucially, Darkside Detective tries much less hard than the painful conceit of this missive, and is one of the funniest games I’ve played in years.

Overall 10/10

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