Dark Side of the Moon

In Dark Side of the Moon, the player steps into the shoes of protagonist Jake Wright, who has inherited his uncle’s mining claim on Luna Crysta. The fact that everyone seems to believe that the claim is worthless doesn’t quite jibe with the mysterious circumstances surrounding his uncle’s death, and Jake soon discovers that there is more to Luna Crysta than meets the eye.

5Luna Crysta is an expansive setting that offers largely open-ended exploration and plenty of interactive distractions. The obstacles that do exist are logical and believable—security passes are needed to access certain areas, and dangerous animals block extensive exploration of the mines until you learn how to deal with them. At a time when “mysterious gadget” and slider puzzles have pushed adventure games to the brink of extinction, it is refreshing to see a title that refuses to resort to cheap tricks to slow the player down.

The game is powered by SouthPeak’s Video Reality engine, and tragically it is the engine itself that is the game’s biggest failing. The concept sounds great in theory, and the engine does allow the player to move freely and rotate the in-game view 360 degrees at any point in the environment (even while moving), but that is where the glamour ends. Because, when you draw the line, everything is blurry. It is a bit like looking at a beautiful painting through the wrong end of a pocket telescope with a dirty lens. Strangely enough, the video overlays for the characters are crisp and clear, making them look a little bit out of place against the muddy backdrops.

Navigation tends to be jerky and slow, fostering a good deal of frustration in a setting that is large and often requires backtracking. It is possible to speed up forward movement, but rotation is painfully slow and can not be adjusted. Rotation is controlled by positioning the cursor over wafer-thin bars on the edges of the view window; in practice this tends to be clumsy and imprecise. Keyboard shortcuts would have been a welcome addition, and an option to set rotation speed even more so. With the control limitations in place, however, Dark Side of the Moon’s gameplay feels like it drags on through knee-deep mud.

Outside of the puzzles, Dark Side is a pretty much ‘by the books’ adventure with a few twists and novelties. A few surprises litter the path that leads to the answers to these questions, and while the story is largely predetermined, exploration and gameplay are not overtly linear.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win95

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