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Last Half of Darkness: Shadows of the Servants – PC

Last Half of Darkness: Shadows of the Servants – PC

Platform: PC

Developer: WRF Studios

Publisher: WRF Studios

Release Date (NA): February 2005

Genre:  Point and Click Adventure, Horror

Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed by Space Invader

I’ve been scared by video games before. I’ve jumped in surprise at demons in Doom when my health is low, gritted my teeth while navigating dark hallways in Silent Hill — hell, even the bent-over-backwards zombies in Deadly Premonition gave me the creeps a little.

I count only one time, however, that I completely lost my shit. It was something like the early-to-mid-1990s, and I was something like 12. I’d unearthed a shareware title called “Last Half of Darkness” and was having a blast clicking around, reading the eerie descriptions, and gazing at the gloomy shades of blue that rendered the creepy casa.

Sure, it looks primitive now, but these two girls scared crap out of me as a kid, provoking a lifelong Fear of Everything ™

Suddenly, I found myself in a room in this abandoned, gloomy, cobweb-filled house that nevertheless featured two girls in bright pink playing patty cake. My blood may have frozen, and when I hastily tried to escape, one of them got right up in my face, stabbing me to death, and I may have screamed, quite involuntarily, like a girl.

I turned the computer off, vowing never to revisit the ghouls of Last Half of Darkness. It lasted about a day. I couldn’t resist answering the game’s constant call, and dedicated a significant bit of that summer to solving the riddles of the late, haunted, Aunt’s mansion. Mind you, with a white-knuckle death grip on my mouse and a habit of holding my breath when turning new corners.

Modern Times (Relatively)

She’s actually quite friendly once you get to know her.

Imagine my surprise to discover, years later, that William R. Fisher III (of WRF Studios) has been churning out versions of Last Half of Darkness on the regular ever since that first volume. The newest entry was released in 2011, and the current version, available on Steam, comes packaged with three entries that rebooted the series in the mid 2000s.

At the low, low price of $5 for the bundle, I quickly realized I’d be a blithering idiot not to patronize the deal and soon found myself plunging into Last Half of Darkness: Shadows of the Servants.

All the old charm is still there, albeit with the drastic graphical and audio upgrades that more than a decade of development will lend. Impressively, Willy Fisher is a one-man band for the most part, with the credits citing only a few voice actors and a composer, meaning all the programming, art, and sound came from one fella. Pretty unusual in this 21st century.

Graphics are effective and pretty excellent considering this is a very small studio that features one lone hacker weaving the tapestry of this spooky world.

Dark, check. Cobwebs, check.

Then, we have the baker’s dozen cheap scares Last Half has to throw at you. If I hadn’t been hardened by years of frightful gaming (which started with this bastard’s original title), I’d surely have soiled myself on more than one occasion. Every time a door creeks open, you can’t quite help but tense up, lest a creature come slithering out. Some of the most nerve-wracking moments merely involve the threat of a scare which never comes. A slow, creaky descent down a spiraling wooden staircase comes to mind. By the time I got to the bottom, I was a basket case for my anticipation of some spirit popping out at the most inopportune time.

Puzzle and puzz ’till your puzzler is sore

Puzzles are a mix of logic and inventory-based puzzles. The logic puzzles, more fair than those found in, say, The Seventh Guest, tend to offer hints for yet other puzzles. The game has a non-linear structure, and thus I occasionally stumbled upon one of these hint puzzles long after having staggered through a puzzle’s solution, which isn’t entirely unlike stepping through a hole in the floor and then hearing someone yell “watch your step, mac!” from the surface.

Nevertheless, all puzzles are well-integrated and work in no small part because of the title’s eerie ambiance, which starts the moment the game boots up, as you find yourself in some strange bedroom, and you hear ethereal, labored breathing bordering on ghostly emphysema weaving in and out with discordant musical flourishes, while groaning floorboards suggest you are not alone.

The non-linear structure discombobulates an already iffy story about some evil monkey named Jaja, and a mad scientist who did experiments that somehow harmed people all the time (“The doctor has killed too many in the name of science,” croaks a creepy lady you find in a rocking chair in a swamp house, which makes one wonder just how many is the appropriate number to be killed in the name of science, and what number ticks over to “too many”).

Oh sure, he looks scary, but this fella is just patiently waiting for you to guess which cup the pea is under. Looks like he’s been standing there for a while.

Happily, backstory is really secondary with this sort of thing. What counts is the story being told at the moment, and if you can’t quite piece together all these tidbits from ghosts and creepers, don’t feel bad, just let the art flow over you and enjoy the jump-scares and atmosphere.

At the risk of sounding a little stuck-up, Willy’s grammar hasn’t improved one iota since the old days, and you’ll see dialogue the mentions people who “should of” never done this or that. If you’re a writer, or even an avid reader, you’ll grumble a little whenever these show up. Interestingly, Willy’s poetic bent shines through, and his natural ability to sew rhymes together in creepy, hint-laden prose is in no way hindered by his occasional syntactical gaff.

Also, I must admit with no small amount of shame that I consulted a walkthrough on a handful of occasions. Some instances, it turned out I just hadn’t clicked the right portion of the screen, others it had to do with a puzzle I’d figured out but hadn’t determined how to execute within the game’s interface. Yet another revealed that the magical incantation I had to recite must simply be typed in at the right location – without a prompt!

Happily, none of this detracts from the overall vibe of this thriller, and I suspect that in my adventure gaming prime, I’d have figured these items out on my own. Don’t consult a walkthrough before a few hours of seemingly aimless wandering and you won’t feel too guilty.

All in all, if you miss the adventure game format, and want a good scare here and there, It’s hard to imagine a better fit than Last Half of Darkness: Shadows of the Servants.

There is nothing, repeat, nothing, scary in this swamp house. Go on in.

Written by Space Invader

Sometime in the early 1980s, in the heart of the Silicon Valley was born one Angelo. No one knew it yet, but he would grow up to become the mighty Space Invader, master of the old technology and writer of the third-person profile.

The Atari 2600 and Xbox 360 vie equally for Space Invader’s heart, but he can’t seem to choose one and settle down. Something is just so appealing to consoles that have names featuring numbers between 300 and 3000.

Little is known about Space Invader’s past, but he is rumored to drive a Buick and is said to have a tremendous singing voice.

 
 

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