Last Half of Darkness is an adventure game that takes place entirely in and around a haunted mansion, complete with graveyards, crypts and foreboding swamps. It is considered by some as the forerunner of the Horror genre in adventure gaming, featuring a gloomy atmosphere, spooky music, creepy sound effects, and a spine-tingling, suspenseful storyline.
Your aunt was a type of voodoo witch in New Orleans who made potions to help friends and neighbors with their afflictions. She was killed, and you have inherited her entire estate - with a catch! In order to receive the fortune coming to you, you must finish the potions she was working on and solve the mystery of her death.
Explore the scary old house, endure the sudden noises and ignore your pounding heart. Search for clues and objects and solve puzzles to unravel this mysterious story of terror.
Graphics in the original version are 16-color EGA and are a collection of stills. The main screen is divided into 5 major sections: Graphic Gameplay Screen, Inventory, List of Exits, Commands, and a description box at the bottom. Position your mouse on a command (Move, Examine, Take and Operate) and left-click to perform that action.
There is also a VGA version of the game, released in 1991, featuring revamped graphics. The rest of the game is exactly the same as the first EGA version.
In the Windows re-release, the story remains the same. This version has improved graphics, sound and video cut-scenes. However, puzzles and locations are different from the original DOS releases. The gameplay screen is expanded to full size with the command menu placed at the bottom of the screen.
The Last Half of Darkness is a text-styled horror adventure, with simple but effective VGA graphics to make life more interesting. Before you start have a glance at the manual included with the game files as it contains the back-story, plus information on the character you're playing. The basic idea is that you've inherited a mansion - along with crudely drawn priceless antiques - from your aunt, a witchy lady who used spells and potions to help people. The catch to receiving your inheritance is that you must carry on her work. Nice idea for a game story, I thought, hoping it wouldn't be all downhill from there.
The game opened onto a screen called 'Front Yard' and was accompanied by loud beeps supposed to resemble haunting music. Reminding myself this was a 17-year-old game made by an independent game-maker, I set off towards a typically creepy mansion, which, of course, was surrounded by dark, skeletal trees. You'll encounter a few more haunted house clichés along the way. The atmosphere and graphics weren't scary enough to give the heebie-jeebies, but enough surprises popped up to keep things suspenseful.
At first the storyline was a little disappointing. I'd have preferred it to have some semblance of believability, but there's little effort made to give any realism, rhyme or reason to what happens, other than the explanation that your aunt was a witch. You could compare it to a superficial comic book take on the supernatural. I decided to accept the game for what it was and concentrated on playing for fun and quirky surprises, rather than for anything immersive and meaningful. There are a few silly ways to die in the game, but if you save in nearly every screen you can resurrect back to the moment before your demise.
One of the most obscure horror games ever made, SoftLab's Last Half of Darkness attracted a small following when the first part was released as freeware in 1991, and quickly spread over BBS (= Bulletin Board System.. a rudimentary precursor of the Internet, for those of you who are too young to remember ;)) and shareware ftp archives.
So what is memorable about a shareware adventure game that boasts only 16-color VGA graphics? The answer, as with all good horror games, is simple: a strong plot and sufficiently creepy atmosphere. While it won't make the next Stephen King bestseller, the game's premise is much better than your average horror flick. From the game manual: "your aunt sure was a strange one. She was some sort of witch or something. A good witch though, practicing only good spells and magic. In fact, she was working on a potion just before she was killed. Now the secret will go to the grave with her... unless you can find the missing ingredients.... you, being her only living heir received news and came quickly to find out [that] she had plans for you to continue with her work. You [will] gain title to her estate and her fortune, [but] only if you continue with her studies in the field of magic."
Gameplay is standard point-and-click affair-click on verbs (examine, take, operate etc.) to interact with the game. Puzzles are logical, and will seem too easy to die-hard adventurers. A few (e.g. figuring out what each potion does, and finding the password to the computer) are more difficult than others, but they are overall not very taxing.
What is most memorable about the game is the many horrific images, such as the dead girl in the closet and the hooded figure. These, combined with a decent plot and fair puzzles, make Last Half of Darkness one of the better shareware adventures that's worth a look. If you like the game, also check out an even lesser-known shareware old game, The Nine Lives of Secret Agent Kat, which was based on an upgraded version of this game's engine.
People who downloaded Last Half of Darkness have also downloaded:
Last Half of Darkness II, Last Half of Darkness III, Legacy: Realms of Terror, The, Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes 1 (a.k.a. Case of the Serrated Scalpel), Maniac Mansion Deluxe, Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes 2 (a.k.a. Case of Rose Tattoo), Laura Bow, Leisure Suit Larry 2: Goes Looking for Love (In Several Wrong Places)
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