Dark Side of the Moon (Second Opinion)

Developer/Publisher:  Southpeak Interactive
Year Released:  1998

Review by Steve Metzler (February, 1999)

B-side of a postage stamp
Dark Side of the Moon screenshot[The 'James' referred to below was James Kay, one of my former colleagues at the now defunct Games Domain Review. He wrote the original review of Dark Side of the Moon, and the piece below was a Second Opinion to complement it - ed.]

If ever there was ever a game screaming to be put on DVD, Dark Side of the Moon is it. Simply put: this game just doesn't work at all using CD as a medium. Firstly, the in-game screen is pathetically small, occupying just about a quarter of the PC screen. Remember those little postage stamp sized vignettes that were used as transition pieces when you went between ages in Myst? Well, Dark Side of the Moon's 'Virtual Reality' game engine seems to be based on this very concept. For some strange reason, no other review I've seen bothers to point this out by showing actual screenshots that aren't videos of your character speaking to a non-player character (those aren't blurry at all). Well, I'm certainly going to show you! For maximum effect, set your desktop to 640x480 and then try to figure out that first screenshot. [People reading this review on an XP machine can save the screenshot, open it with Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, then magnify it exactly 4 times to get the same effect - ed.] Please, just humour me. You see, if viewed at 1024x768 or even 800x600, the shot becomes condensed and doesn't look as bad. You have to view it at actual in-game size to appreciate its true awfulness. Squinting is allowed. And no, it didn't lose anything in the translation to JPEG. Bit on the blurry side, eh? I kept reaching for the focus button on my monitor the whole time I was playing, only to realise that there isn't one. Not only is it headache-inducing, but a few of the puzzles require you to pick out objects that blend right in with this terribly blurry background! Consequently, I couldn't complete the game without referring to a walkthrough. Not because the puzzles were too difficult, but because of the flawed game engine.

In contrast to the backgrounds, the actors imposed on them are crystal clear, as evidenced by the second screenshot. I didn't have quite as much of a problem with the standard of acting as James did, seeing as I don't expect any more than B-movie acting quality due to the limited budget constraints a PC game has to work within. But I do agree that the dialogue tree implementation was pretty weak. Like James, I found myself thinking: "No, I can't believe he's actually going to say that!" You see, all the lines are laid out right in front of you. You just click on each one to have your character voice it. And you have to click on almost every one in order to progress the game. As far as I could tell, the order in which you asked the questions did occasionally alter the tone of the response... but alas, not the course of the game. Not to mention that Jake, the character you are playing, sounds like a right berk every time he opens his mouth. does less swaps
Dark Side of the Moon screenshotEqually as frustrating as the blurry screen is the amount of CD swapping required. I wound up having the 6 CDs arranged around my PC in a neat semi-circle, and I kept having recurring images of Rick Wakeman in concert, reaching for just the right note on one of his myriad of keyboards each time I had to change one. Yes, it becomes that ludicrous, and extremely tiresome. At one point in the game, you have to progress from the bottom levels of the mines all the way to the top administration level, just to do one thing, and then return again. That's 10 CD swaps in less than 5 minutes, and there's no way around it folks! Another good reason why this game should exist only on DVD.

Whoa Trigger!
Just like this game's predecessor, Temujin, which had my poor colleague Dan Gemmer wandering around for days until he perchance went through a room that was completely unrelated to the task at hand in order to progress the game... Dark Side of the Moon employs quite a few artificial plot devices to keep you from seeing parts of the game you're not meant to see yet. In one instance, there's even a 'monster' (I kid you not. A real, menacing, honest-to-goodness monster made out of rock) in the mines that blocks a tunnel. So you'd think you have to find a clever way to get by the monster, but you'd be wrong. Once you perform some seemingly unrelated tasks (that in hindsight were necessary to progress the game), the monster has mysteriously disappeared the next time you visit this area. Not playing nice, Southpeak!

Well, that's about all I have to say about this game that hasn't been said already. I suppose they couldn't have put the thing on DVD after all as it would have excluded a large portion of the potential gaming audience. But if they had, and made the in-game screen larger and sharper, Dark Side of the Moon would have been a much better game for it. rating:  

Copyright © Steve Metzler 1999. All rights reserved.