Dark Fall 2: Lights Out

Dark Fall 2: Lights Out (or Lights Out: Dark Fall 2; the game itself isn’t entirely consistent about this) isn’t a direct sequel to the first game. It shifts the setting from Dorset to Cornwall, and from the approximate present day to 1912. This time around, the primary setting is an ominous lighthouse, where three men disappeared without a trace one day, leaving nothing but “a door ajar, and an untouch’d meal, and an overtoppled chair”.

That’s a quote from The Ballad of Flannan Isle, which the game is loosely based on, and which it quotes liberally. The ballad is in turn inspired by a real event. The poem leaves the mystery unsolved, as it is in real life. The likeliest theories involve inclement weather and rogue waves and lack of proper safety precautions, but apparently there were more fantastical speculations at the time, involving things like ghost ships and sea serpents. Even the poem can be read as suggesting that the lighthouse keepers were turned into birds. The game, of course, comes down firmly on the side of supernatural explanations. Mysterious disappearances were the modus operandi of the Dark Fall back in the first game, and I’ve already found notes indicating that one of the three lighthouse keepers went mad and then started glowing.

So far, I think I like this game better than the first one. It’s done a better job of conveying the story in its early stages, at least, creating a sense of mystery rather than of confusion, and the emphasis on atmosphere combines really well with the nautical theming. And it pulls some playful formal tricks. In the starting area, there’s a journal written by the player character, which contains a reminiscence about another place where he’d rather be than Cornwall. Reach that point in the journal, and the game shifts into a reverie, an interactive flashback, signaled by fuzzy edges on the viewport. I’ve found an inventory item in that state, and brought it back with me to the real world. I can believe that this is a bug, but right now, I’m inclined to see it as deliberate, especially considering how weird that item is. It’s the one concrete thing I’ve seen that suggests a link to Dark Fall: The Journal: a 3 1/2 inch floppy disc, labeled “Hadden Industries”. Yes, in 1912. Like I said: it’s wasting no time at creating a sense of mystery.

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