Dark Ritual is a bit generic but ultimately an enjoyable HOG
Dark Ritual is a fanciful HOG thriller where you star as an FBI agent looking for her sister, who went missing after undergoing some kind of… well, dark ritual. The plot turns into fine web of paranoia and mysticism, as you find out a scientist has discovered an ancient Incan mind control serum and must be stopped from using it to… well, the game is vague on this point. He probably intends to rule the world, but seems content to work toward that goal very slowly.
The game takes you through four different locations, which you can eventually move between freely. First you explore the evil Dr. Brown’s mansion, then a decrepit hospital, then a water treatment plant, and finally a bizarre airport. Dark Ritual works the HOG segments of the game into a more adventure game-like framework. You always advance by using an item on something in your environment. Typically, playing the HOG segments is how you get hold of these key items.
This approach does offer a little more challenge and length than the typical HOG, but overall Dark Ritual‘s gameplay is still quite standard. You investigate things, combine objects, and solve puzzles as you pursue Dr. Brown, your sister, and your partner Agent Johnson. The game is long enough to feel a little repetitive at points (you inevitably have to play each hidden object scene twice), but the strong sense of mood and atmosphere helps make the game genuinely engaging.
Vogat Interactive is a Russian developer, of course, so Dark Ritual is a localized game. The localization is largely good, though you’d never mistake it for a game originally written to be in English. There are a few hidden object scenes where objects are referred to by names that most native English-speakers probably wouldn’t use and a few where it seems like a term has been mistranslated. You easily can use hints to get around this on normal difficulty, but it might be more frustrating to players going through the game’s advanced difficulty.
Dark Ritual is not a seriously flawed game in any way, but it is a little bit generic. A devoted fan of HOGs won’t find anything new here. To Dark Ritual‘s credit, it’s not very linear past a certain point and you can opt to work toward solving certain puzzles out of sequence. The plot itself is still ultimately very linear, though, and once you’ve beaten it there won’t be any reason to go back and play it again. The plot’s ending isn’t even especially conclusive or satisfying, instead conveying more of a feeling that the game has run out of puzzles so it’s going to stop now and won’t you please come back for a sequel?
Depending on how quickly you play, Dark Ritual should offer around five hours of gameplay. The game isn’t broken up into chapters, but you spend a little over an hour in each of the game’s four main locations. The hidden object scenes have a gothic, dreamlike quality to them and some of the art is genuinely memorable. If you like the idea of an HOG that offers a genuinely creepy world to explore, then Dark Ritual is certainly worth a try.