Publisher: Expert Software
Platform: Windows, Macintosh
Review: If I scored games on originality, The Dark Eye would probably have the highest score. One of the few adventures that has no inventory, the player weaves through three Edgar Allen Poe stories, as well as one original, haunting tale in true Poe fashion.
The game begins with you arriving at your eccentric uncle’s mansion, simply on a trip to visit him, your brother, and your cousin. You learn quickly that your uncle disapproves of the relationship between your brother and cousin and a plot begins to develop, growing darker at every turn. However, to advance the plot you must enter the world of Poe’s stories. The three works you explore are The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask Of Amontillado, and Berenice. You get to complete each story playing both the victim, and the victimizer, unable to change the course of the original story. The farther you advance, the more of the plot you see, until the last story is finished where the game’s end is revealed.
The characters are strictly claymation, in both the real world and in Poe’s stories. At first this may seem like a turn-off, but the brilliant acting (especially by William Burroughs) combined with the dark, ominous setting draws the player into their world. The only drawback in this department is character movement, which is very blocky and poorly rendered (perhaps intentionally, but not to my taste).
However, despite being an interactive story without puzzles, the gameplay mangles some of the tension. To trigger advancement in the story, one must click on various objects on the screen, which will trigger events or, at times, memories or voices. Many times this whittles down to a monotonous exercise in guess-and-check, creating more frustration than tension. Additionally, it is often difficult to discern what direction you are heading. There is at least one time during the game where I kept turning around in circles, pleading for an exit before I was felled by carpal tunnel.
Though the game can be played without having read any of Poe’s stories, I’ll guess that it is more enjoyable if one knows the material heading in. The story and the motivations of each character should make a little more sense. There’s also the foreknowledge of the tragic end, which being forced to endure satisfies any internal sadistic tendencies one may have.
Of course, if you don’t like Poe, you probably won’t enjoy this game. For those who do, I strongly suggest playing this fascinating, if imperfect, campaign. And while I found the final Easter egg to be overlong and dull, those who win the game get to hear Burroughs do a reading of Poe’s The Masque of Red Death.
Contemporary Rating: Medium. What is essentially an interactive movie is not made intuitive, which is amazing when you think about it.
Cruelty Rating: Merciful. You can’t win the game unless you die!