Time For Another Scare
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When Dark Fall came out, I thought it was one of the creepiest games I'd played. I also thought that any sequel to it would have some pretty big and scary shoes to fill (like if Bela Legosi played Bozo the Clown"). Lights Out does that quite admirably.
Now, there is a bit of confusion over whether the game makers wanted this game to be called "Dark Fall 2: Lights Out," or simply "Lights Out." All the software, including the credits, say it's the former, but I can find absolutely no reference to "Dark Fall 2" anywhere on the packaging, and to confuse people further, it is listed as "Dark Fall: Lights Out" (no '2') with the ESRB. But since the credits refer to it as "Dark Fall 2: Lights Out," that's how I'm going to. Besides, I won't call it "Lights Out" for fear that someone may confuse this game with that old Tiger handheld game (remember that one?).
The game begins with a particularly disturbing movie of some guy having a nightmare. The images he sees of a lighthouse and other things flash onto your screen pretty quickly, and the guy awakes with a start. Then it turns out you are that guy. Looking around the room a bit, you discover you are Benjamin Parker, a cartographer hired to more accurately map the Cornish coastline. You are staying in the quaint little village of Trewarthan (don't ask _me_ how to pronounce it) until you are done mapping the local coastline, including the lighthouse that none of the locals dare talk about.
From there you are plunged into a mystery that transcends time, and visit the area of Fetch Rock in many different ways. The first place that isn't your room that you manage to visit is quite cleverly done. As you read your journal, you turn one page to find yourself in someone's kitchen. It turns out you are 'remembering' what you did there earlier that morning, but you are actually playing through it first hand. As I said, extremely clever.
Although the game seems to have nothing to do with the original, story-wise, there are a few nods and references to it. The most notable one would have to be the Chicken Chow Mein (Chicky-Chow) recipe which occurs in one of the kitchens, and was the favorite carry-out dish of one of the missing people in Dark Fall. Must be a favorite over there at XXv as well. Speaking of food, since the game begins in Cornwall, you of course run across a recipe for a Cornish pasty. Chella, now I understand what you keep on about. But if you had just said 'pot pie,' we'd have been on the same page from day one, m'dear.
The interface is the old 2-D clicking slide show, where if you want to go left you click on the left side of the screen and a new slide pops up. This is a rather old and, some would think, outdated mode of interaction, but in this case it actually helps. During the game you hear all sorts of mysterious and spooky sounds coming from all around you, and I believe they are more effective when you can't turn around as fast.
The puzzles are mostly of the "go around and find the right pieces" variety. This type has the strength of being decently challenging, but not too hard once you have the right pieces (whether they are pieces of information or actual items). It also has the potential weakness that if you can't find the right pieces, there is no way to solve the puzzle, or at the very best you are able to solve it by going through all possible combinations with brute force. All I can say is, you must be certain to look everywhere, early and often.
Probably the most frustrating example of this is towards the beginning, when you are supposed to get on a boat to go out to the lighthouse. I was told I need to get some things from my room before I go, and he wasn't kidding, because I couldn't even click on the boat, even though I thought I had clicked on everything. I checked and cross-referenced some of the walkthroughs out there, but they didn't mention anything that I don't remember clicking. I finally was reduced to starting over, and going through a walkthrough step by step until I got to the point I was before (ready to board the boat), but this time the game allowed me to click on the boat. I can't explain it.
Again at the end, I faced a similar lack of all the pieces, but as I was only missing one piece of information, I was able to go through possible combinations pretty quickly until I found the right one. I don't know if they intended it that way or not, because I could never find the last bit of information no matter how many times I looked in the same places.
As with it's predecessor, the best part of Lights Out is the sound. From whispers in the dark to creaky doors to the incidental music, all were sharpened to razor precision and used quite surgically on your sanity.
Overall, this game was a pleasure to solve, and every bit as creepy (but in different ways, oddly enough) as its predecessor. It is well worth both your time and money, and earns a laudable 4.5 Gems from me.
As a final note, the most amazing part of this game was after the endgame movie was over, and just before the run of credits. It is here that the makers of the game actually thank you for your time, and say "A game is nothing without players." A simple truth, yes, but one that it seems many game makers have forgotten. If the game had been total, irredeemable crap up until that point (which it certainly wasn't), this display alone might have been enough to save it in my eyes. As it was, when I saw this statement on the screen after a really good game experience, it made me feel like I had somehow had a hand in making that experience happen (which in a way I did), which just made the whole experience better.
So, let me just say, thank you. A review is nothing without readers.
Greg Crowe is Game Industry News Features Editor. Due to his established history of having played every game in the universe he is uniquely qualified to evaluate games based on playability, innovation and place in history. You can contact him at : email@example.com.