Playing with Reed: The Darkside Detective & The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark

The Darkside Detective Official Trailer

The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark Official Trailer

I know, pixel art games aren't for everyone. Even with the success of games like Stardew Valley, there are some people who balk at the idea that a game that is a throw back to pixel graphics could be good. 

Well, buckle up, buttercup. I'm here to tell you that not only is this game good, it's got a lot of good sweet humor that makes it feel like a cool breeze on a hot day. The hot day being games like the ever infuriating Elden Ring (which is beautiful, but I can only die so many times before I have to put the controller down). 

The Darkside Detective and it's sequel The Darkside Detective: Fumble in the Dark are point-and-click story adventures. Each game has individual cases that you work through and each are unique. They build an interesting world (or worlds?) and the characters are lovable, weird, and did I mention lovable? The first game has nine cases, including some holiday themed ones that really had me giggling. The second has eight more (which I'm still working through, because let's be honest, each one is like a giant piece of cake that you just want to savor). 

Five people stand around a two-tiered pink and white cake with a lit red candle on top. A sign hung above them says Happy Retirement. There are two billboards on the wall, and on the far right is a door with an exit sign above it. There is a pile of presents to the far left. Two of the people are in police uniforms. Two are in "detective" uniforms, and a woman in a skirt. There are pipes above this whole scene, and the wall looks cracked.
Like this cake, only better. Because I get a slice. 

The setting is Twin Lakes City, and I can't really explain it better than what's on the developer's website itself: 

" Twin Lakes is just like any other American city – mean streets, twenty-four hour diners, transdimensional doorways… wait, no. No, that last thing isn’t right. It is, in fact, far from right. But it is common in Twin Lakes.

Something is wrong in the city, an evil exists here, overlapped but out of sync with the world as we know it. A place that shouldn’t exist, but does. A place that goes unwritten about in their papers, full of things that go unjudged in their courts. A place that Lonely Planet described as “Indescribable.”

When flesh-hungry tentacles rise from the sewers, when the moon shines extra red, and when one sock goes missing from the dryer, you can bet that somehow the Darkside is involved…"

 The main characters, Detective McQueen and Officer Dooley, are like the odd couple of the paranormal detective scene. When bad things happen that can't be explained, they seem to be in the thick of it (usually saving the day, even if they are chronically underfunded, underpaid, and underappreciated). Dooley is like a big teddy bear, who McQueen can't live without. (Not going to lie, when he hugs Dooley after the first case in A Fumble in the Dark, I shed a few tears). 

The characters aren't the only thing that make these games great - it's the humor. Coming from a kid who grew up in the nineties and has always enjoyed terrible horror movies, there are a lot of references in these that can be easily missed. It's not harsh humor, most of it poking fun at the ideal of a paranormal detective and unit to begin with. But even with the fact that it doesn't take itself too seriously, there are moments of genuine emotion that make this game worth it. 

While there isn't really any voice acting, the music is really well composed and really sells the campy/pixel atmosphere. 

This is what I would also label a "cozy game". While it's easy to get stuck on what to do next, clues are not hidden. You can talk to people, combine items, and slowly the puzzle begins to make sense. While you could plow through them in about three or so hours for each game, it's definitely worth taking the time to savor them. I tended to play them when I got frustrated with other games (like Hollow Knight or the aforementioned Elden Rings). 

I played this on the Switch and I can say that in some respects, the point and click nature of it was difficult to deal with. It would be much easier to play this kind of game on the PC, but I really loved being able to take McQueen and Dooley with me when I went somewhere. 

Officer Dooley and Detective McQueen stand in front of a motel entrance. The sign says Baits Motel with a fish hook and a fish. There is a vacancy sign. The signs are all done in turquoise and pink. The car is parked just under an Exit sign. There is a trash can next to the entrance of the Motel.
Who doesn't love a vacation at the Bate's... I mean Baits Motel?

Honestly, if you want something lighthearted and fun to play, with a game that's campy in the best ways, I highly suggest these two games. 

They are developed by Spooky Doorway and published by Akupara Games. The official game website can be found here. You can find Spooky Doorway here. Please like and support these indie developers so they can make more games.