Dark City: London is an entertaining adventure mired with Victorian cliches…and one harmonica

Has anyone else wondered about the (probably not recent) trend of casual games suggesting that they are “best played with sound?” Has this been a problem in the genre, with millions of players missing out on the truly immersive experience of searching for items in a jacked-up carnival stand? While the voice acting and sound design of “Dark City: London” is well done, I can guarantee that presenting me with a harmonica-playing street waif isn’t the surest way to get me to turn up my speakers. Only second to the bagpipes, the harmonica is a guaranteed way to get me to turn the sound off. Make a note.

Well, old chap, looks like you’ve had a bit of a scrape.

The Victorian setting in “Dark City: London” goosed my academic gland, and while you play as a nondescript Sherlock Holmes type, the rest of the cast and settings are straight out of Olde Tyme Tropes catalog. The filthy-faced street urchin, the mysterious engineer, the cockney cab driver, and the headless demon haunting the newly erected clock tower, all of these are just variations on themes typically used to set the atmosphere during the time of Empire. Unfortunately, the writers at 4 Friends Games also sprinkled in a little of the “Oriental” stereotype, introducing us early on to the Romany “gypsy” fortune teller who signals the doom of the city: “When the great clock strikes, London shall fall.”

Yes…yes. I am sure this banana will be essential to my investigation.

The beginning of the game, working its way through some tutorials of its special features, feels slow and I felt as if it did much more hand-holding than was necessary for the average player. While I appreciate the deduction mechanic, the assembly of clues into particular circles, and then disseminating that information in separate steps felt redundant. Too many years playing escapes games have trained my brain to remember clues and patterns that the mere fact that I have to put the paper on the contraption in order to read the code seems so…elementary to me.

“Excuse me, gov’na, but I’m not sure what kind of ‘play’ you’re wanting, but it’ll cost extra.”

“Dark City: London” is perhaps the beginning of a new adventure series coming to Big Fish Games, and I would be interested to see where they place their protagonist next. The HOG games and puzzles are adequately challenging without being irksome and the time setting and sense of Britain’s empire lends itself to a multitude of adventures, as long as the writers become of aware of lazy stereotypes. If you’re into the Victorian era, Sherlock Holmes, deduction, or just an interesting story, definitely give “Dark City: London” a try.

Totally-not Aladdin match-3 is totally-not good.

My god.

I have nothing against an inoffensive match-3 game. I was playing Bejeweled back in the day. Cubis was my jam, and Qbeez, my only friends. So I get the appeal.

But Legends of India*, newly released at Big Fish Games, is what happens when you take a simple gaming mechanic, wrap it up in some ethnic stereotypes, and desperately try to skirt the copyright lawyers of Disney Studios.

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Let me introduce you to Totally-not Jasmine.

I’ve got no words for the gameplay, because I was so offended by the stereotype (I’ve a humanities degree, I am legally obligated to be offended) that I powered my way through eleven or twelve levels of mundane matching.

Correction: there was one mini-game where I had to find ten bananas.

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We’re moving past ethnic stereotypes and straight into species-ist territory here.

Totally-not Abu may have stolen some bananas from Totally-not Aladdin, but the two become quick friends and help each other out because, as we all know, Aladdin, I mean Totally-not Aladdin knows what it is like to be hungry.

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“monkey Shiny” is the name of my Bloodhound Gang cover band.

Ganesh appears in an LSD-induced slide across the screen to teach you how to match-3. Every time. Every level. Ganesh does not trust your intellect.

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And by rights, he shouldn’t. I mean, look at the type of game you’re playing.

Legends of India is the casual game equivalent of those sketchy Lord of the Rings DVDs your grandmother bought you from the dollar store. Don’t bother. Stay away. Go read a good translation of One Thousand and One Nights or Hitopadesha instead.

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Totally not a street rat.

Rating: Why?!

*I ain’t even linking to it. Go find it yourself.