Last Half of Darkness -
Shadows of the Servants
Release date: 2004
Developer/publisher: WRF Studios - William R. Fisher
Game language: Englisch
A review by slydos 8th April 2005
Adventure games of independent studios may possess some unprofessionell weak points, but they have a big advantage over their brothers and sisters marketed by big publishers - the developers can take as much time, as they want to create a game. And that is why WRF Productions, notably William R. Fisher, is already engaged with Last Half of Darkness since the end of the 80's. The title already exists in older versions as download and CD game. I approached this revised version, which can be ordered without problems through the homepage, without previous knowledge of the older releases.
The location is a typical Southern State country mansion in the middle of the Bajou, the wetlands in the Mississippi delta. And this game serves our imagination of swamp land dipped into magic light, Voodoo shops with bizarre assortment and magic rituals where blood, bones and some other strange things play a role.
During her study of witchcraft in South America Dr. Muretta made friends with a 'cute' little monkey. But the trustingly, lovable pet named Jaja was bitten by a weird ape-like primate and got sick. She felt responsible to help the embosomed animal and took it to her home. After the monkey recovered, it changed its nature and became a malicious beast. A curse emanated from the animal, which transformed its environment into a dark nightmare and pursued all who lived therein, which shows once more that one should rather handle sweet, little monkeys with care.
Dr. Muretta saw no other solution than killing the small chap and burn its remnants. But it was already too late, the curse was too strong and the bad returned from the grave! Before her death the scientist still tried to control the horror with DNS experiments, but all her attempts only seemed to strengthen the evil. Also Dr. Murettas daughter Mira, a painter, tried to get rid of the curse by means of voodoo - in vain. Now she's likewise haunting the house and lures strangers for help. We follow her call. She and her sister give us hints for a last ritual, but the 'shadows' try to prevent us from carrying out ...
Our appearance in 1st-person-perspective begins in a room of the nearby, nearly abandoned village. We know directly from the first second that we are not alone, but observed by dark powers, who want to panic us everywhere. And they succeed mind-blowing well. Not only that one is often frightened to the core by short, flashing video sequences of out-flicking skeletons and other ghosts - with me the effect did repeatedly well, although I already knew the places, where such things could happen and I actually was able to prepare very well for it. The whole game has something of a really grueling ghosttrain ride actually. But it's compared to this a maxi shocker with approx. 18 hours game time.
Each room and each scene has its own sound with howling, crying or whispering ghost voices - distorted, alienated, terrible. Even if sometimes they seem a bit exaggerated, the noises and voices as well as the fast-animated scenes cause most of the shudder. Nothing for sensitive minds. However I would have wished more understandability with most of the spoken texts which are provided with reverberation. Sometimes, particularly with the storyteller, who speaks without sub-titles, one can hardly understand anything, what militates still more, since Last Half of Darkness has English voice-overs. Even native speakers will get their problems here. The very rare, low-key music can be adjusted in the option menu exactly as the volume of the voices and noises.
The background graphics are nice however not mind-boggling, I personally liked the outside views of the buildings most. On the other hand what is presented us as the few character graphics, is stiff and puppetlike. There are already better examples even in the independent scene. The locations on the one hand and the subject of the story reminded me of games such as Laura Bow 1 - The Colonel's Bequest, 7th Guest (of course the staircase), Gabriel Knight 1 - Sins of the Father's, The Forgotten and the freeware adventure game Voodoo. Last Half of Darkness must under no circumstances hide graphically behind them.
We move at night within a small town, the mansion of Dr. Muretta, a nearby swamp and visit the cemetery. From time to time even camera movements are inserted, to make scene changes more dynamic. These and the inventory animations look professional. Other film sequences, which are often triggered by solving puzzles, are of very different quality, sometimes very good and sometimes a bit off-key. Very positive was the fact, that the scenarios were never too dark for your search of hotspots. In almost every case there are enough sources of light to provide the scenes with scary light and shade effects and if a bulb should burst, then we are the ones who must find the necessary replacement.
Last Half of Darkness is an adventure game in ego view and exclusively mouse controlled. I must especially praise the cursor design. Although it's only a simple arrow cursor, which changes its color over hospots, I consider it worth mentioning that here - so far as I can remember - for the first time someone thought about the left-handed people. The arrow points diagonally upward right, so that the movements with the left led mouse e.g. while selecting menu options or hotspots/objects can finally come very naturally and relaxed from the left side. Inventory and main menu appear in the lower respectively upper black screenbar during mouse contact.
Not very comfortable on the other hand is the closing procedure of he text windows after one has looked at an object. These windows cover always a part of the screen and should be fast closed with one mouse-click on the correct spot. If there was however another hotspot beneath it, then this was clicked sometimes too and one has executed actions not intended at all. This bug was fixed with a patch (which can be installed by the way without loosing your savegames). One should download this patch from the homepage to benefit from this easement just from the beginning. In the current version 1.4.3 this change is already merged to the program code. Sometimes you can also notice, what I call inhomogenous control: even if the cursor doesn't show the red or violet action color, actions and zoom views can be activated. Intention or not, it means for the players not to overlook one of the many text hotspots.
After the patch installation I was generally content with the handling. I would have appreciated more than 10 savegames, but I could deal with it.
I felt very comfortable with the free access to most of the many locations. The game is nonlinear to a great extent and the players can solve many puzzles in different order.
Approx. 70 % of the puzzles are based on finding and using objects. Sometimes we have to manipulate these objects or combine them in the inventory. From the information, which we get usually in written form, we must draw our conclusions and convert them in actions. These actions are about actuating machines, open doors or establish a current entry. You have to deduce codes or find passwords. There is a kind of reactivity board game, a thimble game dares us once again and we can also die in a 3D-labyrinth which is only confusing at first sight. All puzzles have a logical relation to the story and don't serve as occupational therapy for all-too bright adventure gamers.
The degree of difficulty varies from easy to very hard, while the very difficult puzzles have to do with interpretation of the found documents. If one is stuck in one place, the non-linearity offers us a success exprerience in another place usually. The complex final puzzle is also challenging for experienced players, can however be solved like all other puzzles by clues and their logical interpretation. One needs at least as much English knowledge or a better dictionary to translate the often metaphorical texts correctly into any other language.
The hotspot factor (the relation of all hotspots to hotspots, which don't only bear pure text descriptions) lies between 10:1 and 3 to 4:1 (which is more rare). The inventory can fill fast, remains however clear by one-step-scrolling and sorting (players can determine the display position of the objects in the inventory). By the way the final film sequence shows the contents of the always locked room.
The installation of the 1GB runs fast and smoothly. In the DVD box you find beside the CD a manual with the prehistory and short operating instructions. There is also a strange map, which we must use later in the game. In the version 1.4.3 Last Half of Darkness ran without errors, long loading times or crashes.
Atmosphere, fright potential and puzzles succeeded well. The story was unfortunately only outlined in the game and lets too many questions unanswered to produce a deserved feeling of satisfaction at the end. But that doesn't cloud the fun during the game much. Also advanced adventure players are challenged while beginners are by no means easily frustrated.
Very different to the quietly sneaking up horror and the thriller-like creepy feeling during Dark Fall, in Last Half of Darkness scare is spread with fun fair-mallet-methods in a very different way, however quite effective too. Therefore sensitive minds should be warned. Who however goes for adrenalin episodes and moments of shock, will be well entertained.
Rating: 72 %
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for hardcore-adventure-freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal system requirements:
- Windows 95/98/2000/XP
- Pentium III 500 MHz
- 64 MB RAM
- 16x CDROM
- 32 MB DirectX compatible graphic card
- DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card
- 1 GB on hard disk
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Ultima Artec)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
Copyright © slydos for Adventure-Archiv, 8th April 2005
Skeletons and bones can be found everywhere
Our starting point
Not very crowded
We must fix this wiring
A voodoo store
Dr. Morettas mansion
Memories of The 7th Guest ...
... and Psycho
One of the many rooms we have to search
A mysterious chest in the attic
A Voodoo ritual was celebrated
Some easy jig-saw puzzles must be solved too
Within the inventory we can examine objects
Dr. Morettas 'witches kitchen'
The gate to the cemetery