Not much change from the beta.
Not Like The Last Dark Strokes****
BASED ON DEMO
This game is not even remotely like the first Dark Strokes game. I am having a hard time imagining any excuse for releasing it under this series title. It is nevertheless a well-made and enjoyable game, which at least is that much it has in common with the first game. The opening is excellent; exciting, intriguing, and the graphics are fantastic. This is a somewhat dark fantasy, with enough of the unusual about it to make it stand out among lesser games.
SIGHTS & SOUNDS
The graphics are great. Clear and detailed, with strong colours and excellent artwork. It is fairly dark for much of the demo, perhaps a little too much so for some. The animated cut-scenes are a delight, and the little touches are fun. Clicking around at anything interesting provided me with lots of gratuitous fun, as owls turned their heads, butterflies flew away, and rabbits escaped down their holes. The story is told in many ways – shadow plays, scrolls, and mini-games, all of which adds variety to the visual experience.
The sounds are a bit loud, but after lowering them, the music was very relaxing and pleasant. I would have enjoyed more ambient sounds. The voiceovers vary. The narrator’s voice is wonderful. The girl’s I could really live without, and I am of two minds about the heavy Southern US (?) accent of one of the other characters.
You are a forester who rescues a beautiful young maiden from a seriously scary attacker with unknown intent, but black magic at his finger tips. She stays with you, brightening your life, until a hot air balloon drops a gift on the porch. Upon opening, the package freezes absolutely everything in your cabin, and assaults your girl – I’ll leave you to find out the results of that. In any case, it is clear you must follow the balloon to the city to find out how to undo what has been done, and to discover the mystery of the young girl’s past.
The gameplay is a little different than your standard HOPA. Although it is primarily puzzles and HOPs, both of them are unusual in style. The 3 HOPs in the demo are an interactive search for pieces of an item you must assemble, a multiples of (musical instruments), again interactive, and a more traditional interactive word list. The mini-games/puzzles are unusual too. They include more than one panorama-style game, each of a different nature, and a game in which you must choose the right path, on the go, to avoid obstacles. Another is one where you choose the way, hoping to avoid unseen obstacles. Many involve small amounts of easy assembly or construction work. As well, items in inventory can be combined, or changed by extra clicks. Sometimes they have other items inside them.
The hint is directional. The interactive jump map indicates where actions are available, and you can choose from 3 difficulty levels. There is a shadow box that stays above hint and gives back story when the slides for it are found. And there are potions that stay with us and grant special powers.
There is a helper, and it is cute, also very useful. As well, there is a fair amount of interaction with other animals along the way. I really had a hard time with the other 'help' we got from the girl we saved - her inane assistance was driving me batty! It all fits into this story, but seems strange to have so much cute in a Dark Strokes game. Many who enjoyed the first game will probably be very disappointed with this one.
Achievements and collectibles – 12 scrolls, 35 dreadfully easy to see snowflakes, and 10 ‘magic’ (morphing and hard to see) items found in the HOPs. The achievements are displayed with the pet in its room. There are both story and performance achievements. The demo covers the first 3 of 10 chapters, and the bonus play is a further 3 chapters.
The strategy guide is pictorial only. I have never tried to use one like this, and I am intrigued about discovering how useful it really is. The gallery has the usual wallpapers, concept art, music, videos, and character dossiers. There are also replayable “mini-games” and “puzzles”. Seeing I couldn’t get a look at any of these extras without buying, I cannot tell you whether HOPs fall into either of these categories, or how many there is of anything.
This is a fine game, and I really enjoyed playing it – for what it is. Which is a darkish fantasy game with some unusual touches. Linking it with the first Dark Strokes, though, seems almost like false advertising.
I recommend this game!