A quiet, Cornish harbor town called Trewarthan is the setting in this sequel to Dark Fall: The Journal. Players take the role of Parker, a young and talented cartographer. He's been sent to map the deadly rock formations around the bay of Trewarthan, which have claimed many a fisherman's life through the centuries.
Lights Out offers numerous puzzles and clues that hold the secrets to the mystery of Trewarthan. As Parker arrives in the city, he senses tension and unrest among the local fisherman, and soon learns that much of the anguish apparent in the locals revolves around the lighthouse on Fetch Rock -- but why?
As fog roles in, the silence is shattered by the sound of a ghostly foghorn, coupled with the realization that the lighthouse has gone dark. With fisherman out at sea soon to be returning home, it is up to Parker -- armed only with his compass, charts, and wits -- to solve the mystery and save the lives of those returning home from sea.
By all accounts, 2002's Dark Fall was a rip-roaring success. Can Jonathan Boakes's sophomore effort, Dark Fall II: Lights Out, match his previous success?
In April 1912, young cartographer Benjamin Parker is sent to the southern coast of Cornwall in order to map the always-shifting Whipside Sands off the shores of Fetch Rock. After arriving in the village of Trewarthan and meeting his host, Demarion, Parker gets the distinct impression that all is not right in this tiny hamlet.
Sure enough - late one night, Demarion wakes Parker to tell him that a passing ship has reported that the lighthouse on Fetch Rock is dark. Not only is the lighthouse not casting its helpful light seaward, the entire island shows no signs of life. Demarion tells Parker that he's suspected something was amiss on the island for quite some time but doesn't want to get the rest of the villagers involved. He insists that the three keepers would never have left the lighthouse unmanned; therefore, Parker must make all haste and get to the lighthouse to investigate.
Aside from the above, I won't say too much more about Lights Out's story - after all, it is a mystery - but suffice it to say that Parker (and you) will get to know the lighthouse well in several time periods, including the distant future. (That's not a spoiler, that piece of information is right on the box!)
I can tell you that Lights Out's story is ... well ... creepy. Wandering through a dark and theoretically deserted lighthouse is bad enough, but hearing someone cough, glass break, doors close or a disembodied voice say, "over here" is enough to make me check the house to be sure I'm really alone! Two of the time periods were especially dark and sinister; however, there were a couple that were presented in the bright glare of daylight, which broke the game's mood.
Gameplay for Lights Out is presented in time-honored, mouse-driven point-and-click. Without exception, players will always view the world in the first person, through Parker's eyes. All actions are accomplished by left-clicking on an object to pick it up or clicking on the directional arrows in order to travel through each node-based scene. The interactive cursor will change to a magnifying glass for close-up views, a hand to manipulate items or a wrench to use an item from your inventory.
As is standard for adventure games, you'll spend most of the game reading other people's mail, searching through drawers and cabinets, picking up stray objects and negotiating the odd puzzle or two. Strangely enough, there aren't a lot of puzzles in Lights Out, but the puzzles that exist are reasonable, fair and not too difficult. I do want to mention that the game suffers from "sweep the screen looking for the ever-elusive hotspot" syndrome, so bring lots of patience. Also bring pencil and paper as you'll need to take quite a few notes, given that you're never really sure what could be a clue to the mystery at hand.
There were some really clever touches in Lights Out that shows the affection that Boakes has for his craft: as you riffle through the belongings of a missing scientist, you'll find an MP3 player with three musical tracks. The tracks are named Hal 2000, Shodan and Mother. In another room, fortune cookies make reference to an adventure game site.
Visually, Lights Out is quite a treat. Backgrounds are all prerendered yet reasonably lifelike. Colors in a couple of areas aren't especially vibrant, consisting mainly of blacks and greys, but you are wandering around in the dark. There were a couple of oddities - like the aforementioned fortune cookies, which looked more like lumps of clay than actual cookies; while water effects were similar to cold gelatin.
I should mention that as you play, you may want to have a magnifying glass handy in order to read some of the letters and journals in the game. No, it wasn't that the print was too small, it was too fancy! In attempting to read the journals, I had to go for "gist" because I couldn't decipher the actual words.
The sound effects for Lights Out are the best I've heard in a game, and they really contribute to the eerie nature of the game. I've already mentioned the disembodied voices and mysteriously breaking glass. There were also lots of squeaky doors, rustling paper, water lapping at the shore, birds and, of course, the requisite foghorn. There's even a pull chain that activates the foghorn for those of us who can't get enough of that melancholy sound.
Lights Out's voice work is pretty good considering the voices are provided by friends and family. I do have to take issue with some of the ghostly dialogue. More often than not, it was quite difficult to hear what was being said due to the liberal use of overdubbing or the lowered overall sound level. I realize that ghostly voices should be just outside the range of hearing to make you question whether or not you heard the sound, but when it's fundamental to the story, players need to hear it! Wearing headphones and turning up the sound helped, but then ambient noises were too loud.
To be honest, I didn't really notice the background music that much, but when I did the music was appropriately dark and forbidding.
As I drifted from place to place looking at the pretty pictures and listening to the dark, I found myself asking, "Where's the game?" For the majority of Lights Out, I felt that I was simply wandering through a museum - lots of things to look at or read, but not much else. I liked the non-linearity of the game, but it would have been nice to have a better idea of how Parker fit into the scheme of things. For me, I think the game would have played better if it had started in one of the latter time periods and then worked its way from there. Also, I wasn't particularly enamored of having to reexamine everything once I'd acquired the ability to time travel, and I felt cheated when the game abruptly ended, leaving me with more questions.
People who downloaded Lights Out have also downloaded:
Lighthouse: The Dark Being, Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes 2 (a.k.a. Case of Rose Tattoo), Lost Eden, Moment of Silence, The, Little Big Adventure, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Justice is Served, Missing on Lost Island
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