Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe Murders in the Rue Morgue is a hidden object adventure based on Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story. You’ll help Dupin, an amateur detective with incredible powers of observation (who would inspire later fictional detectives like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot) solve a grisly murder in 19th century Paris.

The game takes a few liberties with the novel’s plot. For one thing, there’s only one murder victim in the game (instead of two in the short story) – the second woman has merely disappeared and must be found, along with the first victim’s killer. The only clue you and Dupin have to work with is the tuft of hair that the murdered woman is clutching in her hand.

Gameplay seems based on adventure / hidden object hybrids like Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst and Dire Grove — in other words, you’ll explore scenes, pick up items to add to your inventory, and occasionally zoom in on part of a room to find a list of hidden objects, among which is always hidden one key inventory item. Sometimes you’ll have to open cupboards and other containers to find additional items.

However, Dark Tales doesn’t pack the same punch as some of the other hidden object adventures on the market. ┬áIn what is becoming an increasingly flat and predictable formula, like countless mystery-themed HOGs before it you’ll spend your time in Dark Tales going from location to location and interrogating people who are associated with the crime in some way, such as the banker who remembers the victim withdrawing a large sum of money just before her death.

The graphics are pleasing enough, but the scenes themselves — typical hidden object game fodder like kitchens, studies, bedrooms and hallways — are hardly memorable. Most doors, of course, are locked, so you spend a great deal of time searching for various keys, or, in many cases, pieces of the locking mechanism itself that have to be pieced back together and a short mini-game solved before the door will open. All mini-games can be skipped after waiting for a minute or so.

Dark Tales offers two modes of play: Regular, which offers shorter recharge time on the hint meter, and highlights active zones with sparkles. Expert mode apparently offers longer recharge times and doesn’t indicate where the active zones are.

We played through the game in Regular mode, and even in this mode the hint meter took longer than average to recharge. What’s worse, it only recharges when you’re in the hidden object scene itself. You can’t exit the scene and walk around exploring to kill time. You have to simply sit there, stuck, and wait for it to refill.

The game seems to lack a certain logical structure at times as well. Often you’ll find yourself clicking on items to pick up having no idea what they should be used for, except you know that you need them because they’re sparkling. Areas of the screen that can be zoomed in on for hidden object searches also sparkle, and you’ll sometimes have to search the same scene more than once. Sometimes the gameplay involves nothing more than walking back and forth between rooms waiting for new areas to start sparkling to indicate what you should do next – with no clear idea as to why, for example, a carpet that was just part of the background before suddenly needs to have its corner turned up.

Without the sparkles to help you, though, you might find puzzles too obscure. for example, in one scene you have to click on a staircase banister for a close-up look, and it’s only when you zoom in that you realize there’s blood on the banister. There’s no blood on the zoomed out view, or anything to indicate anything out of the ordinary about the banister otherwise, however – in fact, the only reason you know to click there is because the sparkles drawn your attention to it.

On top of the unmemorable graphics, we were disappointed by the lack of voice-acting or any significant animation that might justify this title being offered at a premium price point. What’s more, the game can easily be polished off in a single evening, and the bonus room (available to those who purchased the Collector’s Edition) adds only perhaps 20 or 30 minutes to the completion time.

It’s not that Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe Murders in the Rue Morgue is a failure, but it is a bit of a disappointment.

Note: This review was based on the Collector’s Edition of the game. The standard edition will be available for $6.99 in two to three weeks, according to the game’s distributor. The Collector’s Edition includes about 20-30 minutes of additional gameplay and the following bonus features:

  • The ability to listen to three musical selections from the game’s soundtrack, or save them to your computer’s desktop as Windows Media Audio (.wma) files.
  • Five desktop wallpapers of in-game scenes, and 1 screensaver
  • The original Edgar Allan Poe short story, which can be viewed in-game or downloaded to your computer as a Word document
  • A short teaser trailer for the next game in the series, Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe’s Black Cat
  • Some concept art for both Dark Tales games