Lost Souls: Searching to See

It strikes me that, in addition to their shared themes and shared characters, the Dark Fall games have some common actions, things that the player has to do in all of them to make progress in the beginning. And, appropriately enough for a series named for darkness, they’re all things that help you see. You need to turn on the electricity to light up the site and enable basic exploration. You need to find a portable light source for the few remaining dark corners. And you need to find ghost-hunting goggles to reveal secrets.

I haven’t found any ghost-hunting goggles yet in Lost Souls, but I assume they’re around somewhere, because they seem like an essential part of the character of the series, much like Silent Hill‘s breast-pocket flashlights or Final Fantasy‘s airships. The portable light source this time around is just a flashlight app on your cell phone, part of your inventory from the very beginning. The game makes sure you find it by starting you off in complete darkness. It seems reasonable that it’s not bright enough to light up entire rooms, though, and thus you still need to get the electricity working.

This was the chief accomplishment of my last session, and it’s considerably more involved than in the previous two games. In Dark Fall: The Journal, your ghostly helper (or spirit guide?) tells you without prompting where to go and what to do, so all that remains for the player is a fairly simple self-contained machine puzzle. Here in Lost Souls, in the same setting, the only ghost I’ve met speaks in unintelligible backwards-masked gibberish, and the door to the power shed is blocked with a firmness that left me unsure whether I was supposed to try to get in there at all. And for good reason: the author clearly wants you to explore the grounds thoroughly before making any serious attempt at it.

We know this because activating the lights requires several inventory items that are scattered all over in hard-to-notice ways. All of the Dark Fall games have an emphasis on thorough exploration, to the point of expecting you to inspect blank walls, but here in the new engine it’s more burdensome, because there’s three times as many places to look: where the typical camera position in the first two games had hotspots for turning left and right, the default now includes up and down views as well. I haven’t yet found anything important by looking upward, but I’m sure I will at some point, and I’m fairly certain there won’t be anything indicating where I need to do this, so the upshot is that I have to do it everywhere. Add in the smooth transition animations that I was praising in my last post, and the result is that diligent exploration takes a great deal of time now.

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