Review: Left in the Dark: No One on Board (PC)

leftinthedarkcoverLeft in the Dark: No One on Board
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Moonrise Interactive
Genre: Hidden Object/Adventure
Release Date: 08/29/2013

Halloween is right around the corner, and thus it’s the perfect time of the year for scary stories. Since roughly ninety or so percent of hidden object games are horror themed, they kind of make for a great option for those unwilling to plow through an old survival horror game.

Left in the Dark is a great option. It basically gives you the chance to run through a classic horror setup in the nineteenth century. It even features a cloaked figure that uses a trademark hook to dispatch his victims, and it takes place on a derelict sailing vessel. I swear I’ve seen that movie before.

So, does this game fit the horror bill, or is it just another lame attempt to get you to part with your money?

leftinthedark3You play as Madam Detective. Yep, that appears to be her actual name. There’s even a newspaper article that refers to her as such. Anyway, she’s called to the town of Port Providence to investigate a derelict ship. It appears the crew and cargo have simply vanished into the night, and it has the whole town spooked. It turns out there is supposedly a curse that takes effect on the anniversary of when a young family burned to death in their own stables. Undaunted, Madame Detective makes her way onto the ship to figure out what happened.

From there, you’ve basically got a straight forward supernatural horror plot. You’ll be chased around by the hook-wielding madman, get caught in booby-traps, strike up a conversation with a ghost, and find the grisly remains of the killer’s previous victims. To solve the case, you’ll need to not only explore the ship, but solve the mystery of the supposed curse as well. It works well enough, and there are some fun moments that might even illicit a jump scare or two out of you. That’s actually impressive for this kind of game to be honest.

Visually, the game is kind of dud. The art could be okay, but the style leaves a lot to be desired. It has this awkward etched look. It could have been cool, but it comes off as though a first year art student handled everything. Textures are vague and blurry, making it hard to distinguish things at the time. The animations are choppy at best. Worst of all, there’s one bearded character who appears to have part of his beard glued to his chest. When he moves his head, that one section stays put. It’s creepy. Still, it can mange a decent atmosphere at times. It’s not completely hopeless.

leftinthedark2Aurally, the game sticks to the standards. If you’ve ever played a horror game or watched a horror movie, you’ll know what to expect from the music. The effects are classic as well, from the creaking floorboards to the chatty owls, there is plenty of creepiness to keep you on edge. The voices are okay for the most part. Madam Detective spends a lot of time being afraid, which is okay considering she’s dealing with ghosts. I only really disliked one voice, and I thankfully didn’t have to hear him much. It’s a solid overall package.

It’s been like a month since I’ve written a review for a hidden object game. So, in case this is your first taste, I’ll give the run down. These games come with three different sections. You have the typical adventure gameplay, the hidden object sections, and the mini-games. This is the industry standard, and Left in the Dark sticks to it blindly.

The adventure sections are pretty much what you’d expect. You move around different locations, looking for areas of interest. Some items can be picked up and used at another location to some sort of effect. For example, you might pick up a knife in one room so that you can cut that rope on the pier. For this game, logic generally serves you well. You can tell what key goes to which lock, where you need to use those chopsticks you just picked up, and what kind of object you need to open that door. I only had issue with one section, but that’s more of a question as to whether or not a snake would go for a toy mouse. I haven’t tested this, but I suppose it is possible if you got a particularly dumb snake.

For hidden object sections, the game sticks to standards as well. You have a list of items to find and a static screen within which to find them. When you find the item, it gets crossed off your list. Some items require a trick to find. So, for example, you need to smash a piggy bank with a hammer in order to get the gold coin inside. Completing the section rewards you with an item what will help your progress in the game. Many of the hidden object sections get revisited, though you’ll have a new list of items to find. The game is nice enough to keep all previously found items off the screen, making the second time go a bit faster.

leftinthedark1As far as mini-games go, things are pretty simple. It’s mostly rotating objects to complete some sort of puzzle. You might need to create a picture or simply get water to flow from one pipe to another. It’s basic stuff, but it works well and serves as a nice break from the action. I only had a problem with one puzzle, which was because I goofed at the beginning and didn’t want to restart. As usual, you can skip these sections after a short period if you like, so none of them are required to complete the game.

To make things easier, the game comes equipped with hints and a map system. Hints find objects for you or simply point you in the right direction. They take a bit of time to reload, but they can be used quite often. The map allows you to travel to any open location, and the lower settings allow you to find which locations have available action in them. As such, I rarely even needed the hints. It was a pretty easy game overall, which is partially due to the fact that there aren’t that many sections where logic doesn’t prevail. You can always play on the highest setting if you want to avoid all of the help.

This is a decent game. It only clocks in at a few hours in length, but the low price makes up for that. While the story is a bit predictable and cliche, it fits the horror theme well enough to be enjoyable. As far as the rest of the package, everything here is solid. You won’t be blown away, but at least you don’t have to worry about getting frustrated.

Short Attention Span Summary

While I wasn’t blown away by Left in the Dark, I found it a surprisingly fun distraction, at least for the few hours it took to finish it. The story is amusing and might even make you jump once or twice, and the rest of the package is solid enough to see you through. Apart from some rough art, I don’t really have any complaints. This an inoffensive, decent way to kill some time.



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