The Dark Eye

Developer:  Inscape
Publisher:  Warner Interactive Entertainment
Year Released:  1995

Review by Rosemary Young (April, 1996)
deye.jpgThe Dark Eye is a Windows only game that lives up to its evocative title. It's dark, and it's sinister. Which is not surprising as it's based on the writings of the American poet and short story writer, Edgar Allan Poe. And it's another title that is based in an eerie old house that has lots of surprises in store for the intrepid explorer.

Another episode of house searching
Begin playing this game and you will notice that it has many elements that remind you of Trilobyte's 7th Guest/11th Hour -- a creepy old mansion, ghostly music, the pointing hand cursor (though it isn't a skeletal hand) and, of course, the macabre nature of the story. However, the similarities don't end here. Just as the 7th Guest/11th Hour brought us something new and unique with its logic puzzles slotted into a story, so does The Dark Eye with its nightmares and soul jumping.

Also, like The 7th Guest/11th Hour, the Dark Eye isn't strictly an adventure game. Maybe even less so. In fact it is here where the similarities cease as The Dark Eye is not reliant on puzzles or problem solving. Really, it's an interactive story (or collection of stories) that you navigate your way though simply by pointing and clicking. There is no inventory, though you do occasionally pick up items and use them, and no contrived puzzles. It is simply a matter of clicking on the hot spots (when the hand icon changes from transparent to white) and watching the stories unfold.

None but the brave
Essentially the game consists of four stories, 3 from the pen of Edgar Allan Poe (though you will read and hear several other Poe writings throughout the game) and your own tragedy which unfolds as you slip in and out of the Poe tales. These tales are your waking nightmares -- in more ways than one!

In your travels you will get to experience what it's like to plan a gruesome murder, to leave someone to die a horrible, lonely death, or to be buried alive. Yes, in each of the dream/nightmare scenarios you must play both the murderer and the victim, and within the stories themselves you can shift from one character to the other by exercising the 'soul jump' option. One moment you are about to kill -- the next you are about to be killed.

The three Poe stories of madness and revenge covered by this title are Berenice, The Cask of Amontillado and The Tell-Tale Heart. If you have read them you will know what to expect. If you haven't, well I've said enough already in this review. Although I'm not sure if it wouldn't have been a good idea to include a text file on the CD incorporating the three Poe stories as there are some problems actually determining what to do. But this, of course, would spoil some of the fun of anticipating what comes next. Therefore if you aren't familiar with the tales you must take your cues from the limited commentary which is mainly in the form of your 'thoughts' as different situations arise.

The bare facts
As noted above The Dark Eye is an interactive story, not an adventure game. You progress though it by selecting hot-spots. So if in doubt just click on everything and return to places again and again. (Fortunately the game area for each story is not too large). You need to keep right on clicking because as the stories progress new items will appear as hot spots, and a second or third click on a particular item might reveal something more. There are no puzzles as such except for finding the right thing to click on and then following the stories as they evolve. As each character in each story is completed a blank area on a diagram of a head will be filled with a graphic and so you can monitor your progress. There is some challenge in completing all the areas and thus completing the game.

So pointing and clicking is truly the way to describe this game, though a couple of the items do have to be 'dragged'. Remember this because that's what held me up the longest -- failing to move my cursor once I had selected a hot spot. On one particular occasion I clicked away for hours (slight exaggeration) before I 'twigged' that I had to drag the object. Only then was I able to finally complete that scenario.

And speaking of constant clicking I found the game extremely slow to respond to my frantic finger twitching. Sometimes it took a dozen or so clicks before anything happened. Though this might have simply meant that the game just wasn't too enamoured with my mouse driver.

More comments
Another point worth mentioning here is that the play is quite slow -- there is no way to hurry it up. And there is no way to speed up the speech if you happen to repeat any of the scenarios. Although this is unlikely unless you begin a new game. The Dark Eye has a single 'bookmark' save. You can't change your mind and do something different because to leave the current game you must quit and it automatically saves when you do this. Also, there are no text cues for the dialogue, if you have hearing problems you might as well forget about playing The Dark Eye.

As for the manual I thought it could have been more expansive. It really doesn't help you to get into the game, and The Dark Eye is quite a difficult game to get into. I know, you don't usually get hold of a guide book to direct you through your nightmares, but for these particular nightmares some pointers would have helped. Very likely the biggest puzzle you will face will be trying to determine what is happening at the beginning of the game, and exactly what you have to do.

Test your constitution?
So should you take a look at this title? It's certainly not for everyone. If you are looking for a traditional adventure or even a game packed with puzzles as with The 7th Guest/11th Hour then I'd look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you are fascinated by the macabre or are one of the many fans of Edgar Allan Poe then give it a try. The Dark Eye has excellent graphics and is very weird at times, almost to the point of being surrealistic. The characters are strange too and as far as their looks are concerned (not their deeds) you will either love them immediately or hopefully grow to love them. On the whole this title does quite a fair job of introducing you to a great master of murder, madness and mayhem. rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 1996. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
486DX33, 8MB RAM, 2MB hard drive space, 2xCD-ROM, Win 3.1+, mouse, sound card.