Dark Fall: Ghosthunter HQ

Okay, the last post may have been overly harsh. The author actually does want the player to exhaustively search the hotel rooms, even the unoccupied ones, which, although less dense in pokable detail, do have a few important things hidden in them. Certainly there doesn’t seem to be any way to identify the door that the key from the teapot unlocks other than by just trying all the doors. And that’s actually a fairly good bit of player-manipulation, if I read the intent correctly, because it means you’ll have done a reasonable amount of exploring before opening it, and be all the more impressed with what you find as a result.

What you find is the room where supernatural investigators Polly and Nigel were staying shortly before the start of the story. Throughout the game, I’ve been finding the remote cameras that this pair stashed around the place, and now I have access to their data hub. This isn’t a surprise if you paid attention to that telephone call from beyond, but it is kind of surprising what a difference it makes to the experience. Up to this point, I had been straining to eke whatever information I could from the environment, trying to glean the various vanished persons’ roles and relationships. Now I have Polly’s files on each of them, confirming what I learned and filling in the gaps. At last, the story is on a solid footing, and I feel like I’m making good progress. I’m even pleased with just Polly and Nigel’s notes on little details of their investigation that tie into what I’ve seen, like how they had placed a thermometer I had found to monitor sudden temperature drops. (But why was it shut in a drawer? They had put it in front of a camera…)

Goggle goggle goggleIn addition, this room contains the game’s neatest gimmick: the goggles. I didn’t notice them at first, because they’re somewhat hidden, but they’re mentioned so often in the ghosthunters’ data that I searched the room again just to find them, and I’m glad I did. They’re some kind of high-tech electromagnetic imaging goggles, and when activated, they surround the cursor with a greenish binoculars-shaped aura that reveals things. With it, you can see the pictures that used to be on the walls, furniture that isn’t there any more, and spectral graffiti from some mad soul. But only a little bit at a time — reading the graffiti means waving the cursor over an entire wall to reveal as much as the aura covers while the rest of the wall stays normal. It’s a nice effect, and gives the scenes an interactivity beyond clicking on hotspots. It only works in certain specific places, though, and those places are hinted by a ghostly voice whispering “Here”. This seems like a cheat on the part of the designer. I know I’ve seen other games with similar mechanisms that can be applied anyplace, but I guess two versions of every single full-screen image was beyond this game’s budget.

Polly and Nigel’s notes on their investigation raise a couple of big questions. One is the matter of the cellar. Nigel in particular seems to have done most of his investigating down there, and it’s where he made some sort of vague but amazing discovery. It’s clearly an important place, but I haven’t seen any sort of cellar entrance at all. Maybe it’s only accessible from one of the few still-locked doors, but it’s also possible that I’ve just missed a hotspot somewhere, and knowledge of that possibility bothers me.

The other thing that puzzles me is the way that the two of them had to work for days to get even the slightest hint of ghost activity. My experience is that the whole place is a thick stew of ghosts, with disembodied voices or other phenomena in nearly every room — heck, the first ghost started talking to me before I even reached the station proper. Maybe this is just one of those ludonarrative dissonance things, with stuff happening more quickly than makes story-sense for game’s sake, like how the hero in a CRPG takes a matter of days to become the greatest warrior in the world and solve problems that baffled the greatest NPC minds for centuries. Or maybe there’s an in-story explanation. Either the player character is unusually sensitive to this stuff for mysterious but probably destined reasons, or there’s just been a sudden spike in manifestations, probably caused by whatever Nigel unearthed in the cellar. We’ll see.

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