I’ve been anxiously waiting for The Darkside Detective since I first got me hands on a demo in 2014 and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s short, punchy cases full of withering dialogue feel as though they’ve given me much more bang for my buck when compared to the massive undertaking that is a role-playing game.
That’s what makes this game so special. In a very perceptible way, The Darkside Detective is like a kind of poetry. I don’t mean the game itself is “poetic.” Its tight, short story and focused gameplay feel almost like the game equivalent of a sonnet. Writing this right now will take me longer than any case in The Darkside Detective and that’s brilliant. It’s the kind of experience that I can talk about far longer than the experience itself.
In a time where so many fictional detectives are entirely too serious it’s pleasant to see one so absolutely beleaguered. It feels like Detective McQueen and his trusty companion Officer Dooley would fit in more with in Brooklyn Nine-Nine than Law and Order. Their short, pithy exchanges with each other and with other characters do nothing to weigh down the narrative. McQueen and Dooley are light touches, an unvoiced, un moving, Laurel and Hardy who bounce in, solve some occult mystery, and dart away to the next eldritch nightmare.
Darkside Detective is memorable not because of its gravitas but because of its lack of gravitas. Characters verbally shrug so hard at their outlandishness. The game makes no effort to create a fully realized world or tax my graphics card. It’s a simple affair that actually colors its world beautifully with natural strokes instead of tomes left on desk in the way of an Elder Scrolls game. Even McQueen is painfully aware that he’s trapped in a point and click adventure when he ponders out loud why he narrates for every object he encounters. The game is a labor of love where none of the labor is actually evident, it’s effortless.
The only knock against The Darkside Detective is that its punchiness actually makes it difficult to pace yourself. Though each case is more detailed and intricate than the last it is pretty easy to breeze through the whole affair without allowing it to work on you. Apart from the occasional puzzle there is nothing in The Darkside Detective to dilate the experience and hold you. If you’re not careful it can feel as the though whole thing is over before it began. But even that’s okay, the game is better for how it doesn’t force you to grind through anything in order to experience it.