6 min read

Supper Club, Starling House, Darkside

November 24, 2023 - Stone Soup Digest
Supper Club, Starling House, Darkside
Photo by Kevin Schmid / Unsplash

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Alasdair Stuart Review: The Darkside Detective 

Published by Spooky Door, the Darkside Detective Duology is fun to both say and play. These are classic point and click adventures with a lovely 8-bit aesthetic that robs everyone of faces but gifts them all character. The first game, The Darkside Detective, was published in 2017. The second, A Fumble in the Dark, was released in 2021, and a third one is very gently being talked about. Each is divided into individual chapters, each chapter is a case, and the two games tie together, although you can play them separately. Playing them in order is even more fun.

Let’s discuss the ACAB in the room. Detective Francis McQueen, with his trench coat of action, earnest nature and no manner of luck whatsoever is closer to a down-on-his-luck, moon-feuding (McQueen and the Moon genuinely feud) Tenth Doctor. Officer Patrick Dooley, pure of heart and dumb of ass and one pixel taller than his common-law partner, is what would happen if you put a golden retriever in a police uniform. If that’s still too much cop for you, I understand, but the game centres the conflict between the job and the person in the gentlest, most perceptive of ways. Fozzie Bear’s description of himself as ‘a bear, but barely’ very much applies to Twin Lakes PD’s finest and their job. Plus, later cases throw the spotlight on other characters too. This is a series that feels like an ensemble and is built on the idea that Dooley and McQueen’s job is to deal with the supernatural, not throw it in a cell. 

‘Loch Mess’ is a good example of this, a case which opens with Dooley’s Bloodwolves chapter (like the Scouts, but with more arson) pack asking McQueen for help in finding him. By the end of the case, you’ve met Nigel the local lake monster and helped him escape the government with the help of a tinfoil hat and a Bloodwolf chapter committing small-scale crimes. A later case, ‘Buy Hard’, is set at a mall at Christmas, and yes, you do have to crawl through the vents. These games know who their audience are and they love puns almost as much as they love non-cutesy fourth wall breaking. ‘A Fumble in the Dark’ is especially great for this, featuring a  cameo from the ghost of Nikola Tesla and a gag which proves you don’t need a face to look to camera and throw shade.

Also, they’re just really sweet. There’s a moment in ‘Tome Alone’, set in a haunted library, where you get a pair of glasses that lets you see the ghosts and you realize they’re all famous authors. McQueen’s response to seeing Sir Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams playing chess is so sweet, and genuine, that writing about it almost two years later still makes me tear up a little. Plus, Dooley and McQueen are so clearly a couple that recent plushies of them were advertised as being able to hold hands. They are 8 entire bits of adorable, and I defy anyone to not be cuted into orbit by the hug they share at the top of the second game or the way McQueen has just been accepted as Dooley’s ‘partner’ by everyone in whatever definition works best at the time.

If you love puns, pixels, the supernatural and the platonic ideal of the dad joke, you’re going to love these games. And we’ll be seeing Dooley and McQueen again. There’s a case in Seattle that needs them—but we’ll talk about that next month…

Both games are available for Linux, macOS, Windows, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox X/S, and Atari VCS. 

A phyiscal edition of both games, with trading cards(!) is available now.

Alasdair Stuart is a professional enthusiast, pop culture analyst, award-winning voice actor, and writer behind the award-nominated weekly newsletter The Full Lid. He co-owns the Escape Artists podcasts. 

Currently Reading: Starling House by Alix E. Harrow

Opal is a lot of things―orphan, high school dropout, full-time cynic and part-time cashier―but above all, she's determined to find a better life for her younger brother Jasper. One that gets them out of Eden, Kentucky, a town remarkable for only two things: bad luck and E. Starling, the reclusive nineteenth century author of The Underland, who disappeared over a hundred years ago.

All she left behind were dark rumors―and her home. Everyone agrees that it’s best to ignore the uncanny mansion and its misanthropic heir, Arthur. Almost everyone, anyway.

Opal has been obsessed with The Underland since she was a child. When she gets the chance to step inside Starling House―and make some extra cash for her brother's escape fund―she can't resist.

But sinister forces are digging deeper into the buried secrets of Starling House, and Arthur’s own nightmares have become far too real. As Eden itself seems to be drowning in its own ghosts, Opal realizes that she might finally have found a reason to stick around.

And now she’ll have to fight.

Barnes & Noble | Bad River Website | Local Library | Find an Indie Bookstore

SHILL, BABY, SHILL! Poison Ivy has sold out to Big Fracking?!

With a new mission, a renewed outlook on life, and a burgeoning new sense of purpose, Ivy is back and better than ever before. Poison Ivy Vol. 2 is a brand-new era collecting Poison Ivy #7-12!

Barnes & Noble | Bad River Website | Local Library | Find an Indie Bookstore

Remember: Care for yourself and the people around you. Believe that the world can be better than it is now. Never give up.