Stop the Darkness from destroying Prague in 9: The Dark Side.
In 9: The Dark Side, you take on the role of a descendent of the Guardians, tasked with finally putting an end to a war on darkness that saw a powerful group of nine priests unleashing a poisonous mist in Prague in the 1300’s. It’s up to you to retrieve the Nine’s amulets to put a stop to the spreading mist before it can poison and destroy the world at large.
While 9: The Dark Side relies on a few cheap scare tactics (a ghost of the Nine appearing in front of your screen, a werewolf leaping at you from the forest), the majority of the gameplay is simply more gloomy than scary. This is also a case where the gameplay is much more focused on adventure and puzzle mechanics than on hidden object scenes. Scenes themselves are fairly few and far between in this lengthy adventure, but they’re easy to complete with larger items and a nice balance in the amount of objects found in each junk pile. You’ll take key items from these scenes, and must combine those with items you find in the open world to unlock doors or chests, with most of these instances introducing puzzles to the gameplay.
These puzzles are varied but challenging, with a combination of standard tile sliding puzzles and those that require lots of abstract thinking (as you must manipulate items in your mind before actually taking an action in the game). Depending on your difficulty level, you may have to wait a considerable about of time before you can skip these puzzles (if you choose to do so), but know that you’ll inhibit your ability to earn all of the game’s achievements if you take this easier path to success.
One additional feature sees you inheriting a magical red gem early on, which will illuminate when you’ve reached an area of special significance to the work of the Nine. You’ll need to use this semi-transparent gem to uncover ancient symbols that combine to reveal secret passages or areas otherwise inaccessible to you. This is a particularly nice mechanic, as it breaks up the standard template of hidden object scenes or puzzles.
As you continue to investigate the fortress of the Nine, you’ll come across spirits of both former Guardians and the Nine, with each coming with full cutscenes and voice acting. The voice work here is disappointing and slow, making it easier to skip most of the dialogue after simply reading the subtitles, but it’s a rarity in the genre so the effort is definitely appreciated.
While much of the game’s length can be attributed to the amount of time you’ll spend staring at puzzles, the overall experience can easily last up to five hours of more. This, again, can be skewed a bit depending on your difficulty level (with three to choose from), as you’ll lose the Hint ability altogether when playing on the hardest setting. You’ll also be able to flesh out your experience by gathering scrolls or lost journal entries detailing the history and secrets of the Nine, leading up to the release of the mist.
All told, 9: The Dark Side is a solid entry in the hidden object genre, even though some of the puzzles might be a bit too challenging for the most casual of gamers. However, with three difficulty settings catering to the diehard fans of the genre along with its long length, the game is recommendable, especially to those fans looking for a break from the “scary haunted house” rut the genre seems to have adopted.