Game review: Dark Fall: The Journal

Dark Fall: The Journal, created in 2003 by XXv Productions (now a part of Darkling Room) and published by The Adventure Company, is a superb example of what a spooky horror game should be. It doesn't rely on gratuitous gore or cheap scares, which most of us are desensitized to by now anyway, but settles instead for a low-key atmosphere of unease. Its ghosts project an aura of melancholy rather than menace, which turns out to be far more affecting.

Your search takes place in the old Dowerton Hotel, which seems to have arrived straight from the 1940's with its contents, and its secrets, barely disturbed. Watched by its ghosts, you must try to discover both what happened eighty years ago, to the people who once inhabited this hotel, and just a few days ago, when three more people disappeared -- your brother, and a pair of ghost hunters who were investigating the haunted hotel.

The majority of your task involves information-gathering, studying the documents and artifacts you find and piecing together the stories of the ghosts' lives and their last days at the hotel. It involves a lot of wandering, backtracking, poking through drawers and shuffling through papers, and sometimes, pausing to listen to voices from the past. It's quiet, slow work, and it's all about absorbing and understanding the place. You may get used to the voices whispering in your ear, but you never feel quite comfortable.


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