Thursday, October 06, 2016
COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN BLOGPOST #6: THE DARK EYE
Edgar Allan Poe wore many hats: Author, poet, editor, critic, orphan, widower, drug fiend (disputed), and creator of the detective story. The dark romanticism of his writing continues to have an impact across multiple genres and mediums, and in 1996 that influence extended to video games, with the release of The Dark Eye.
The Dark Eye was a weird hybrid. It combined 3D graphics, which were really coming into their own around this time, with stop motion animation. The game play was unusual, in that there were no real stakes involved. The player would wander around looking for locations that would trigger actions within the game. Ultimately, The Dark Eye was like playing a very atmospheric novel. Different areas within the game would activate a story in one of two ways: the player would either walk through an Edgar Allan Poe story as a character, or they could trigger a recitation of one of Poe's works.
Here's a trailer that was issued for the game before it was released. It will give you an idea of how the 3D and stop motion animation worked together to create an unsettling atmosphere.
The voice acting is good in The Dark Eye, but one particular voice has allowed the game to remain a cult classic. William S. Burroughs lent his talents to the project, and his slow drawl really brought out the growing dread of The Masque Of The Red Death and the longing of Annabelle Lee.
Creepy, right? Burroughs has one of those voices that can evoke an emotional response from you. Also it's weird, because essentially when you find the Red Death part of the game you're expected to just sit there for a quarter of an hour and listen to him tell you story. I mean, it's GREAT to listen to, but it's kind of a momentum killer as far as game play is concerned.
Speaking of game play, The Dark Eye is kind of aimless and slow, and it isn't helped by the fact that you're just looking for triggers to move a story along. Any discovery you have along the way is merely to move an Edgar Allan Poe story to its next step, and there aren't any real achievements other than you get to move through a classic story from beginning to end. This might make the game feel kind of pointless, but the stop motion graphics and generally spooky atmosphere make it compelling. If you know the works of Poe you won't be surprised by the outcomes, but because you know the outcomes you're moved to see how they pan out in this medium.
Revisiting these early CD-Rom games today is kind of like playing an Atari 2600 after the NES came out. It's quaint to see how The Dark Eye looks and how the game is played, but it's PAINFULLY slow compared to even a game you play on a phone today. I can't help but wonder how this game would look if was was made today, or if it was given the remaster treatment that so many classic games receive. That's unlikely, as The Dark Eye will probably always remain a cult classic. The clips above, however, reveal just why it remains an enduring cult classic. As of this writing, there are two copies on Ebay, and they're both surprisingly pricey. Then all you will need is a Windows 95 computer, and you'll be set.
I'll end this post with the slow conclusion to the game. Quoth the blogger, NEVERMORE