Dark Seed is a psychological horror point-and-click adventure game developed and published by Cyberdreams in 1992. It exhibits a normal world and a dark world counterpart, which is based on artwork by H. R. Giger. It was one of the first point-and-click adventure games to use high-resolution (640 × 350 pixels) graphics, to Giger’s demand.
You play Mike Dawson, an ad company manager who, in pursuit of his goal in life to become a writer, purchases a solitary mansion in a small town called Woodland Hills. Although the low cost and hush-hush transactions when purchasing the house do raise your suspicion, the solitary environment and sheer beauty of the house crush common sense and you decide to buy the house. That’s when the trouble begins. Upon reaching the house, you suddenly feel tired. You find a bed and fall asleep…
… and wake up from a terrible dream, only to find out that your life has just become a worse nightmare: an unknown source has implanted a seed of darkness in your mind, and you only have three days to find a way to stop it.1
I have a feeling this is an issue with the environment I was playing the game in, but I could not get past the first section of the game no matter what I tried. I would go through the initial motions to take a shower and take pills, go downstairs and answer the door, go outside and pick up the package … and the game would just restart! I honestly thought this was on purpose the first few times, but when I’d go to save or load the game it showed an error message … which seemed odd.
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve busted out the
After cruising the internet I stumbled on a discussion that seemed to cover the exact issue I was experiencing, and the solution was to change the properties of the installed files.
On the off chance anyone reads this review that has this problem, the solution is to go to the install directory for Darkseed in DOSBox and run
ATTRIB -R *.* to remove the readonly attribute on the game’s files.
Once I could successfully pick up the package on Day 1, the game allowed me to progress an there were no further issues.
Dark Seed takes place over the course of 3 days, with each day of game time taking roughly an hour of actual time. Time and timing is a huge factor in this game - certain events only happen at certain times, and if you take too much or too little time you can miss things. This is actually extremely frustrating as there’s typically no indication that a certain event will be triggered at a specific time.
If it gets too late in the day Mike will decide it’s time for bed and go to sleep. Assuming you’ve done nothing about the headaches or you pass the 3 day mark, the alien embryo implanted in your brain will hatch and it’s game over.
Seeing as time is such a huge element of this game, it’s a bit surprising that you don’t have a default mechanism at your disposal to tell time right from the beginning. You can find a watch in the attic (hidden under a trunk you need to push out of the way), or you can backtrack to your living room and look at the grandfather clock, but I would have expected it to be a lot more prominently displayed (maybe in the main game UI).
The game’s Quick Reference Card tells you you can press the
T key at any point to advance time to the top of the next hour in case you find yourself “with lots of time to kill”. They allude to the fact you need to wait around for certain events to trigger, but not what they may be, when they’ll occur or on what screens.
My gameplay process (once I better understood the time mechanic) was to save the game, go to various screens and mash the
T key a bunch of times to see if anything triggered before Mike said he was tired and it was time for bed. This would at least give me some clue as to what might be needed on that screen (and at what time). This isn’t particularly fun - but it at least helped me progress.
The interface is that of a typical point-and-click game from this time period. You have your inventory at the top of the screen and a handful of interaction options you can cycle through by right-clicking the mouse. Mike can be moved around the screen, and if you mouse over a hot-spot you can cycle through various action icons like
The game world is pretty small and is split into two main areas: reality, and the dark world. Reality is Mike’s house, the town and a cemetary. These make up about a dozen areas you can explore, which have a mirror version in the dark world. This is actually a pretty cool dynamic, as part of the puzzle solving process is changing things in reality to see how it changes the dark world.
For example, when you get thrown in jail you can stash some items under the pillow. When you find yourself in jail in the dark world, those items will be waiting for you.
Getting to the dark world is done by walking through the mirror in your living room. You need to fix the mirror first (it’s missing a chunk in the bottom corner that gets sent to you in the mail), but this happens pretty early in the game.
Navigating the dark world is pretty straightforward once you realize it’s a mirror image of reality. There are some aliens you’ll need to interact with and a couple puzzles to solve, but you actually don’t have a whole lot to do here - which is a shame because it looks awesome.
Since the artwork was inspired by H. R. Giger’s work, everything has this Aliens vibe. The creature designs definitely have that unique Giger style, and every cutscene plays out so much better as a result.
Unfortunately it’s not obvious what you need to do most of the time, and it’s VERY easy to miss things and find yourself in an unwinnable situation. For example, if you enter the dark world too late in the day Mike might fall asleep on a random screen if he decides it’s bed time - and this results in you dying. The game doesn’t actually tell you that’s what’s happening though - you just randomly fall over and the game restarts.
Save early, save often - maintain MANY save files!
Most of the clues you get are from examining items you find along the way. They do help point you in the right direction most of the time, but this game can be pretty challenging where there are gaps in the narrative.
As you proceed you’ll find yourself listening to the same short music samples looping on each screen. These are very repetitive and very annoying. You spend a lot of time roaming around your house, and the house “theme” is the worst of them all. If the goal was to create a sense of “you’re going insane” - mission accomplished!
It’s a bit of a slog to get through this game, but thankfully it’s easy to find walkthroughs … and the game itself is pretty short.
Apparently your objective was to smash the mirror in your house to sever the connection between reality and the dark world. Building the magic hammer you need to smash the mirror is the only item combination puzzle in the game, so it’s not intuitive - and also it’s not really obvious this is what you’re supposed to be doing.
Regardless, you make this hammer, go back to reality to start the car in the garage, go back to the dark world to launch some spaceship (that is the mirror version of the car I think), go back to reality to smash the mirror and the game is over.
I struggled a lot with the endgame as nothing you had to do made any sense. I tried … failed … consulted the walkthrough … and was done with it.
This game had a lot of promise. I really liked the premise, and the story is actually pretty interesting but you find yourself rushing through everything because of the rigid time mechanic.
It’s also not a very hard game, though certain puzzles aren’t intuitive which can be frustrating.
Though I wouldn’t recommend this game, I can’t say I had a bad time playing it. I’m actually looking forward to the sequel (Dark Seed II) to see how they build on the initial story and if they can iron out some of the rough edges.
|Amiga, Amiga CD32, DOS, Macintosh, Sega Saturn, PlayStation
|How Long To Beat?
|DOS via DOSBox-X
|Walkthrough, Quick Reference Card, Manual
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