This bite-sized vampire romp offers little to chew on, but tastes pretty darn good.
In the town of Wallachian, it isn’t a very good idea to go bar-hopping at night. In fact, violence in the town has gotten so bad that one local bar-maid has resorted to removing the door-knockers off her tavern. Bodies are filling the morgue, and even the doctor inspecting them has wound up dead. But luckily for the villagers, the town cleric had the wise insight to hire you, a renowned Constable known for sorting these kinds of messes out. Unluckily for you, however, it looks like you’ll be dealing with something more than your run-of-the mill killer.
Just take a look at the sort of greetings this guy leaves on his victims:
“My wrath has raised me from the depths of Hell to rage against those who have wronged me...I will not be so easily rid of this time, as the essence of those I execute will sustain me.”
Dark Lore Mysteries: The Hunt for Truth sees you tracking this crazy killer, whose hatred of holy water and tendency to leave bite marks all around town reveals him pretty early on to be something of the vampire variety. Apparently the town magistrate had some luck ridding the village of this terror, but after he winds up dead, the town was forced to outsource, employing your talents to do away with this batty lunatic once and for all.
The vampire theme runs thicker than blood here, with garlic hanging from the walls of a tavern, cluttered hidden-object scenes spilling out of coffins, and bats at every turn. In fact, these airborne rodents adorn the sides of your inventory menu at all times, and will swirl into action should you require a hint, fluttering around points of interest.
Coming in at only four brief chapters, this is a rather short game. However, the limited scope of content seems to have afforded the developer Gogii Games an opportunity to pour a ton of attention into developing the game’s environments, both visually and aurally. There is tons of gorgeous detail spread all over the town, and most scenes are infused with some sort of animation. Clouds move slowly over the sky, waving trees about the street, rain falls steadily, spattering droplets on a river in the canal, and flickering light shines from candles throughout the game. But it is in the static 2D visuals where the game really shines. You’re treated to a beautiful vista of the town from a tower early on, and go on to explore foliage-filled gardens, inspect decorative suits of armor within fancifully adorned castle walls, pick over forgotten skeletons inside a mildew-y dungeon jail, and piece together clues in a library covered in decorative woodworking. The game may be short, but the world it inhabits is simply spilling over with thematic detail.
Voice-overs and sound effects are used throughout the game as well, really helping to bring the town to life. Rustling horses trot over cobblestone streets, wagons creek, and the sound of downpour is heard during much of the game. Activating machinery or other mechanisms usually involves animated motion and sound, and there is a decent amount of cutscenes used to break up the hidden-object-heavy gameplay.
Hidden object scenes are what make up the largest bulk of the game, and while these scenes look great, they don’t offer much challenge, as they are simply click and collect affairs. This is a sad fact considering the mini-games and puzzles you are sporadically treated to are actually pretty good. On the other hand, the object-based environmental puzzles aren't quite as smart, as they usually leave little mystery as to what needs to be done. For instance, early on you find an apple, which the protagonist notes would be handy in case he ever encounters a bat. Two seconds later, you find a bat that apparently “looks hungry.” Not much to think about there.
There is also some pretty silly writing, like your character wondering why the magistrate would carry around acid after you find some in his jacket, noting that he was “a very paranoid man.” Isn't a little paranoia to be expected from someone fending off vampire attacks? Another gem gets repeated a few times, occurring as you find parts of a ladder you'll eventually piece together. Each time a segment is collected, your character explains that “Whoever dismantled the magistrate’s escape ladder sure made it hard to find again,” adding that this was clearly done to slow down the investigation. Wouldn’t it have been far more effective to simply break the wood into pieces and toss it in the fire?
While the game does come across rather simplistic or easy at times, there are a good amount of customization options available to help you tweak the difficulty and personalize the experience. There are two difficulty settings, Casual and Advanced, with the former refilling your hint and solve meter faster and the latter slowing down your hints and doing away with the solve option completely. Interestingly, you can even create a custom difficulty setting that lets you finely tweak the amount of help you receive. Here, you can turn off the tutorial, visual aid or in-game tips, adjust the difficulty of hidden object puzzles and set your hint and solve meter to recharge at three varying speeds. On top of that you can adjust the sound by changing the volume of music, sound effects, dialog and cutscenes. The slew of adjustable options really let you personalize the entire experience to your liking.
The game may be over pretty quickly, but the sound and visuals are great, and the low price point reflects the limited amount of content on offer. This is one of the cheaper HOGs of recent, and while the game may offer little in length and challenge, it makes up for it in presentation and design. The time you spend exploring Wallachian is a treat, presenting a world that is filled with more than enough lighting, skeletons, and bats to set an appropriately vampiric mood. Just don't expect there to be a whole lot of content to sink your teeth into.
- Fantastic visuals, spooky theme and a high level of detail come together into an impressive package. Great use of sound helps further set the mood.
- HOG-heavy gameplay offers little variety or challenge. The game could benefit from more mini-games and puzzles. The whole thing is very short, and a bit on the easy side.