Have you ever noticed how good adventure games have a habit of sticking around in your head long after you've completed them? The really fascinating ones have the power to stir your emotions to the point where you can almost forget you're playing a computer game and, for a brief but satisfying period, you become totally engrossed in, and fascinated by another world. I haven't played Darkseed for about a year now, but I still remember it vividly. I still remember playing it for weeks on end with the lights dimmed and the sound turned right up and becoming totally lost in its dark, but beautiful worlds. I still remember gasping in disbelief at its incredible artwork. I still remember brushing everything else in my life aside just so I could get back to it and continue to live the fantasy to its conclusion. I feel a little strange sitting here in front of a computer screen, reminiscing about an adventure game I played a year ago as though it was a dangerous but satisfying affair - but that's exactly how Darkseed affected me.
Hello darkness my old friend
At the time of its release, Darkseed was unique in the world of adventure games for a number of reasons. Digitised characters, backgrounds and speech were only just beginning to appear in bits and pieces, in a few select games. Darkseed had the lot, but it wasn't just the digitised images that made it so visually stunning. The game designers used an impressive amalgamation of computer imagery and the incredible artwork of H.R. Giger to create the most beautiful and atmospheric backdrops ever seen in an adventure game. Even compared with any of the most recent and expensive games you'd care to mention, it still looks awesome. I can't explain the feeling you get from exploring its sinister and ethereal depths, you'll just have to play it for yourself. What I can do, though, is tell you about the plot.
Tense, nervous headache?
You take the part of Mike Dawson (one of the game's designers staking his claim to fame). Mike is chairman of an advertising agency but fancies himself as a bit of a writer. As we all know, writers need total peace and seclusion, so, naturally, he decides to buy himself a large Victorian-style house in California where he can hide himself away and create his masterpiece. At first, the house seems perfect. Dead big and dead quiet: a writer's dream. Then come the dreams. Dreams where Mike feels his head is being ripped apart by horrific, sadistic and, generally nasty, alien types. Mike starts to feel a bit under the weather (as you would) what with all this head-ripping stuff and consequently gets a stormer of a headache. That's where you come in. The first thing you've got to do is get rid of Mike's headaches so that you can concentrate on getting to the bottom of what's going on in his spooky, old house.
Picking up the pieces
The game takes place in two distinctly different worlds. The Normal World (or real world, as it were) in which you explore Mike's house and neighbourhood, and the Dark World, in which you explore a decadent, ominous environment and meet all those guys who pop up in your worst nightmares. There are many puzzles to be solved in the normal world before you can discover the gateway to the Dark World. Much of the early part of the game is spent investigating Mike's house and talking to the locals in search of clues. When you finally manage to find the entrance to the Dark World, you spend your time zipping from one world to the other. Actions you perform in one world affect different objects and events in the other one. You will not win the game unless you can suss how all the puzzles are connected and piece them together. Even then, you'll probably have to go back to an early point in the game and start from there. This is because the time factor is very important in this game. Many things need to be done at the right time before they have any effect and some things have to be done in the right location. This makes Darkseedvery difficult to master. Don't expect to pick this game up and complete it in a couple of days.
The time factor is confusing at times and sometimes people don't show up in the right place when they're supposed to but, ultimately, this makes the game more challenging and not annoying, as is sometimes the case with games that employ this tactic. The general rule is to persevere, but not to the point where you're driving yourself crazy with frustration. I got infuriatingly stuck several times in this game. You can get to points where you refuse to believe there can be any possible way to progress but, if you just leave it for a few hours and come back with a fresh mind, you'll usually spot something you didn't see before and find a way through. Whether or not you'll have the patience to stick at it despite getting stuck all the time depends, I suppose, on how much you like the game. Countdown is the only other adventure game I've played that had me flummoxed time after time but I got so deeply into the plot I refused to give up until I cracked it. At the end of the day, it's all a matter of taste, horses for courses and all that stuff.
The enhancement for the cd version of Darkseed is full speech for the characters. This increases the atmosphere of the game throughout, although it is slightly annoying to see the original text running across the bottom of the screen in unison with the speech. This is a put-off initially, but after a while, you forget it's there, and if it comes down to a choice between the two versions, I'd opt for the talkie one. At the very least it will save you 11 megs of hard drive space. If you don't already own Darkseed and you have a cd-rom drive, buy it now and lose yourself in a world you thought only existed in your worst nightmares.
Download Dark Seed
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP