|Developer:||Cyberdreams|||||Release Date:||1992|||||Systems:||PC, Amiga, PSX, Saturn, CD32|
Today on Super Adventures, I'm taking a quick look at the long awaited, repeatedly requested, HR Giger illustrated, horror adventure Darkseed!
This was released on more systems than you'd think, even making it across to the PlayStation and Saturn in Japan, but I'll be playing the original PC version released back in...
Actually no, I can't do this. There's a reason I put this off for so long, and that's because I really can't stand this game folks. I can't really remember why exactly, but my brain's telling me I want none of this and it's usually right about this kind of thing. Life's too short to play terrible adventure games, and you don't want to sit there sifting through 30 screenshots worth of complaints and whining anyway. So instead I'm skipping ahead to something else, something less dark...
|Developer:||Nintendo|||||Release Date:||1990 (JP)|||||Systems:||SNES|
Today on Super Adventures I'm taking a nice good long look at a classic Nintendo platformer! I can't believe it's been 8 months since I last featured a SNES game on my site, I don't even know what happened there, but consider this my apology. 9 out of the 10 of the internet lists I just checked agree that this is a top 5 SNES title beloved by all, plus it's even got 'Super' in the title, which is always nice.
It became a thing during the 16-bit era to tag SNES games with 'Super' to help make it clear to customers they weren't accidentally buying a NES or Sega game (or whatever), with the result that over 10% of the system's library begins with the word. But the Mario games had been super since the NES, so for the plumber's SNES début Nintendo dropped his 'Bros'. and added the 'World'.
But anyway, check out this world map! It's always a pleasure to see one of these turn up in a platformer, especially when I get a choice of where to go. Both of my choices here look equally flashy though, so I suppose I'll go left.
Super Mario Bros. 3, but... OH SHIT THAT'S A BIG BULLET! Damn, I can't believe I managed to lose a life less than 10 seconds into the first stage. I mean usually I'd be able to believe it, but I've been playing a lot of Mario this week and you'd think I'd be better than this.
Super Mario Land on my first try without losing a life as well.
You know, I bet that's what it is: all that Super Mario Land has wrecked my aim. Has to be it. I can't be this bad at video games, it's utterly implausible. Or maybe there's something else on my mind, stuck in my head, distracting me...
Oh FINE, let's get get this over with then.
|Developer:||Cyberdreams|||||Release Date:||1992|||||Systems:||PC, Mac Amiga, PSX, Saturn, CD32|
So here's Dark Seed then, for serious this time. You knew I wasn't really going to pull a bait-and-switch on you (especially if you scrolled ahead to check). It's weird though that I'm playing a game with a 'three days until doom' timer so soon after Majora's Mask, and a parallel universe nightmare world right after Super Mario Bros. 2.
This is the first game developed by Cyberdreams and also the antepenultimate one, as they only made two more (CyberRace and Dark Seed II) before transitioning into more of a publishing role, with the development work handled by external studios. Then two games later they transitioned into being defunct.
The company had a habit of working with big name creators to make their games stand out from the crowd, with Blade Runner and Tron artist Syd Mead contributing car concepts to CyberRace and notorious sci-fi author Harlan Ellison co-designing I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. But for their first game the name they got belonged to legendary Alien creator H.R. Giger, who was hired to bring some of his idiosyncratic biomechanical weirdness to the project (well, they were allowed to use his library of existing art at least). These collaborations proved to be a smart plan in the end, from a marketing standpoint at least, as it's probably the reason people still talk about these three... well two of the games to this day.
Whoa, I never realised this until now, but that's no ordinary dark seed that's been planted in his cranium: that's one of Giger's famous birth machine bullet babies!
"My head is killing me!"Honestly after listening to this music I know how he feels. I could only find the Amiga version of the tune online, which sounds a bit less harsh than the MIDI track, but I'm sure you could still get a mild headache out of it: youtube link.
"My head feels like it's going to explode!"
"Boy my head hurts!"
Mike Dawson is actually a strange example of a game designer starring in his his own work, as he was photographed Mortal Kombat-style performing all the actions to provide his namesake's digitised sprites. He even provided the voice for the CD version I'm playing, according to IMDb anyway.
|The Secret of Monkey Island (MS-DOS)|
I can cycle the mouse cursor between 'walk', 'examine' and 'use' modes, so I can look at items to see what they are, but you saw how much use that was in this case. "I look great. Then again, the mirror is dirty!" isn't telling me that it's actually a cupboard door with painkillers behind it!
Right, with that task taken care of... I have no other goals! It seems that I've successfully completed the game.
This is actually a pretty tiny game window for an adventure game now that I think about it, but then it is running in an unusually high resolution for its time. 640x350 is a pretty unusual resolution in general actually, but considering that this came out a year before games like Sam and Max and Day of the Tentacle, it's downright futuristic.
|Actual size of a 1992 adventure game (Curse of Enchantia)|
Okay, so what's in the package then?
Well can't think of any immediate use for that right now, but I'll keep it handy just in case. Or not, as it doesn't seem to have made it across into my inventory. Well pointless creepy doll interludes with distorted lullabies playing over them are always fun, even if Mike himself had absolutely zero reaction to it and nothing to say.
I suppose I'll carry on exploring the house then, in the absence of anything better to do.
I assumed that time in Dark Seed kind of works like it does in Gabriel Knight, with the day ending once I progressed far enough in the story, but the clock chimes I've been hearing have me worried that I have an actual time limit here. I need to get finished with this house so I can jog down to the library.
Mike's only just moved into this place, and it seems that the house's previous owner was a bit of H.R. Giger fan as his art is all over the walls. The clock and the mirror are the only things that seem relevant though, as one needs a key and the other has a corner missing.
Every time I enter a new room I have to sweep my cursor across the screen checking if it changes to show there's something I can interact with. But 9 times out of 10 the only reward I get for finding something is a message from Mike telling me it's not worth his attention. Well stop letting me click on it then! I can't click on the curtains, I can't click on the toaster looking thing, I can't click the cabinets along the left hand wall, so why can I waste my time on this equally irrelevant crap?
Oh hang on, is that an item there on the desk? Holy shit, I think I've found an actual item in this game!
I could be really pedantic and point out that the first column of numbers isn't bold like the rest are, but there's no time for that! I've got something to investigate at least!
I got a rope out of it at least, and the passage might come in useful later if I need an escape route for whatever reason. Though there's only one way out of the house and that's on the ground floor, so I'd still be stuck unless... hang on, I've just thought of something.
Well Mike either doesn't know what the word 'relic' means, or he's hedging his bets in case this turns out to be a time travel plot. That room on the top left of the house is definitely out of time though, as by the time I get back inside it'll be gone again. There's only an attic and a balcony on that floor, unless the blueprints are lying to me and there's another secret door somewhere.
Anyway, I need to visit the library (and maybe a hospital if I spot one along the way), so I'll head down the road to the left and see where that takes me.
It turns out that this is the final resting place of Guybrush Threewood from Monkey Island and Harry Mudd from 'Star Trek'. Those were easy, though I'm struggling more with the others. Nostromo was the name of the ship in 'Alien' (and the title of a Joseph Conrad novel), but that S is a mystery to me. Could be short for Sulaco perhaps, the ship from 'Aliens' (also the place the book is set). John Campbell may be the guy who wrote the story that 'The Thing' was based on. I imagine that Sherrie Daze is probably a reference too, but I don't get it.
Weirdly it was female voice that said "Step back! You're on hallowed ground!" when I investigated the last tombstone, and this game doesn't have a narrator. Was it a spooky ghost or just some kind of electronic tombstone security system? All I know is that I've only encountered two people in the game so far and they've both been disembodied voices. Well there was the postman too I suppose, but he might as well have been a cardboard cut-out with a box in his hand, and I didn't even get to keep the box.
Anyway, I kind of have an impending head explosion to deal with, so I need to find this library already.
It's all gotta come off eventually, when the neurosurgeons finally cut that skull of his open to scoop out the alien. Might as well get it over with now.
Okay fine, shower first, then library.
ONE HIKE BACK TO THE HOUSE LATER.
ONE TREK BACK INTO TOWN LATER.
Our hero's having another one of those 'melted doll' visions, but this time it seems to be working in his favour as there's a message printed here especially for him! Or perhaps he's just reading the paragraph out of context, he did open it up on a random page after all. Uh, I mean I'm reading it out of context, Mike himself doesn't react to, or comment on anything plot related. He's got plenty to say when I tell him to touch something dusty, but he zones out whenever it comes to mind-bending parallel universe weirdness.
Yeah, I'm sure she doesn't notice you staring at all mate.
I tried to chat with her further, but the best I got was that comment up there about it being "the sort of thing that your former co-worker Larry would've tried to do!" Going off those gravestones I'm guessing this is a Leisure Suit Larry reference, but for all I know it's just a weird in-joke. Have you noticed I've said the word 'joke' a lot more so far than I've said the word 'scary'? Isn't that strange for a horror game?
Anyway, I need to find a radio now to tune it in to the 'right station' mentioned in the book. Or a television I guess.
"Steal from those who protect you, or you will not be able to protect yourself in the Dark World."Another message from a disembodied voice, this one slightly more cryptic, though I think I get the gist of it. Time to pop back into town and pay a visit to those who protect.
I guess all I can do now is go home and sleep, and throw the last few hours of day one away. Two days left until his head explodes.
Another night, another dream, this time about the mirror in the living room. In it he sees his alternate universe double. A disturbing reflection of himself stares back, identical except for his white shirt. Hey he had a white shirt in the intro as well, I wonder if that's a Dark World thing.
I should probably do another quick sweep of the house as well while I'm here to make sure there's nothing I missed.
I just started a new game to double check and yeah, it gives you a different message the first time. You need to examine it TWICE before you can collect the library card from it. Well I guess now I'm clicking twice on everything just in case. And then I'm sending Mike back down to the police station to follow the radio's advice.
LATER, IN THE POLICE STATION.
Crap, it turns out that my money wasn't actually infinite, and I just ran out after buying crackers, insecticide, and soy sauce. Well I guess I'm loading a save game now, as I'm pretty sure I just lost. In fact after fucking up so badly in day one I think I should probably start a new game. I didn't want to resort to a walkthrough, but for this shop I'll make an exception.
A FEW MINUTES LATER.
I'm going to go ahead and give the game the benefit of the doubt and assume that there was going to be some clue here eventually that I'd need to do this. Right then, I should deal with that library card I found in the coat pocket while I'm here in town.
"I had a light moment the other night when old man Tuttle grabbed the key to my clock and swallowed it. What a joker!"So old man Tuttle swallowed this person's clock key and they were seriously thinking about breaking into his final resting place and rummaging around in his remains to get it back? They must have been pretty fond of that clock.
LATER, BACK AT THE GRAVEYARD.
Oh no, don't tell me I have to dig up the owner remains now too! But I haven't found a spade yet.
Fortunately I've just learned a new trick: pressing 'T' will skip ahead an hour, so I can fast forward through Mike's last days and get this over with!
It turns out that Mike needn't have worried about his skull splitting open after all, as the Dark Seed creature actually erupted out of his mouth! Man I'm glad that's over with now. Except it isn't, is it? I need to get at least one screenshot of H.R. Giger's Dark World before I turn the game off.
Right, where did I put that walkthrough?
I don't know which is the most bullshit here though: the fact that I had to be waiting inside my house at 10am on day two to get the missing bit of the mirror to turn it into a portal to a parallel universe to collect a shovel, or the fact that touching a near invisible lever was an immediate game over.
Neither issue is quite as bad as what I had to do to collect a bobby pin though. Remember the room where the librarian was stamping books?
I would recommend Dark Seed without hesitation to anyone interested in developing a point and click adventure game of their own, as you could likely learn a lot from it. I'm not sure I've ever seen anything in the genre screw up in so quite many ways.
- It doesn't display the names of items when you hover the mouse over them, so you have to click on them with the ! cursor to tell what they are.
- Half the time objects don't stand out from the background so you have to sweep the screen and watch the cursor to tell what can be interacted with. The whole screen. Even that tiny crack in the floorboards.
- Being on a timer means you can't relax and explore new places properly, but you do have to identify everything twice as you never know what's important to trigger some other event.
- You have to be home at certain times on certain days, but the watch you need to tell the time out of the house is well hidden enough that I never found it. Plus you apparently need to remember to wind it occasionally.
- You have no way of knowing what times you need to be home for most things unless you've been there by chance at the right time on an earlier playthrough.
- Mike is not a LucasArts character and can get himself killed off and shoved inside a pod for touching a lever. You have to keep saving just in case, but use different files so you have something to go back to when you accidentally end up in an unwinnable situation.
- You can't tell if you've ended up in an unwinnable situation.
- Certain items have to be collected on the right day or else you've lost. Fail to open the chest in the attic or buy Scotch on day one and it's all over.
- Some of the music is horrifying for the wrong reasons (though it does help you feel like an alien's about to burst from your skull.)
Plus there aren't even any dialogue choices in the game! There's barely any interesting interaction going on with anything at all, and the story is a real let down after the intro. It wastes its hook immediately, as Mike is basically happy enough once he takes his headache tablets and shows no interest in investigating his condition or the house.
On the other hand, it looks very nice for a 1992 adventure game, especially considering there's only ever 16 colours on screen. H.R. Giger's Dark World art is as incredible and distinctive as anything he produced (as it's pretty much made from everything he produced), but the real world backgrounds are good too, and somehow the digitised Dawson fits in either way. It's a shame none of the backgrounds scroll, but they're fine. Dark Seed actually plays and controls just fine on a technical level. To be honest I don't want to sound so down on the game as it's clear that a ton of work was put into it. It's definitely an interesting game, and with H.R. Giger's artwork, the designer playing himself, and the brain-burster alien set-up, it's going to be remembered for a long while.
It's just... a bit crap really.
Next time: Super Mario World, the rematch.