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The Dark Eye

Avg. Rating: ( 9.06/10) [336 votes]
Part of: CD-ROM Adventure Underdogs Collection
Reviewed by: Underdogs | Gamehost: doowopman
One of the rare games based on literature that "get it" right, The Dark Eye is not so much a "game" as an electronic novel in the same vein as Portal : it is a melange of Edgar Allen Poe's most famous stories, changing the characters' names to fit an overarching plot while preserving the contents. The game uses three classic Poe stories: "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amantillado," and "Berenice." You go through each story twice - first as the victim, and again as the perpetrator. As if that's not creepy enough, the game also uses as a framing device an original story that is a very intriguing pastiche of Poe mythos.
Gameplay involves clicking on various objects and people to trigger events to advance the story. Despite this limited click-and-watch, the game's haunting atmosphere and style (with unique claymation actors) make it a must-have for horror fans. If you are a fan of Edgar Allen Poe, you'll tremendously enjoy this CD-ROM; if you're not, this is one CD that will spark your interest in his works. A must-have, and a proud entrant into our Hall of Belated Fame.
Haunting, Spectral Dreams of a Dark Visionary
Edgar Allan Poe is a name synonymous with haunting, twisted tales and a mastery of the macabre. His tales have become literary classics and have made the skin of many generations crawl. The Dark Eye, by iNSCAPE, is a strikingly original and psychologically terrifying retelling of three of Poe's best known stories.
It's hard to decide where to begin when reviewing a game unique as this. These three tales (Cask of Amontillado, Berenice, and Tell-Tale Heart) are interwoven into a greater story that is steeped in Poe legends. You've been invited to your uncle's house in the country. Your brother Henry has asked you to help him gain his cousin's hand in marriage. No begging or pleading will work and the uncle refuses to let the two marry. Telling more back story would give away too much and would ruin some very shocking plot twists.
This uncanny and open premise allowed the designers to smoothly parallel the 'real world' of the house with the 'nightmare world' that is the setting for the three tales. The largest key to Dark Eye is exploration. To shift the house into "nightmare mode" and to be able to visit the realm of nightmares you have to trigger a key piece of dialogue or meet with a certain character. After that dialogue is triggered, the house becomes a strange blue color and you can shift between both worlds.
The most terrifying aspect of the design in this game is that to complete the game successfully you must play each nightmare through twice; once as the victim and once as the antagonist. Playing from both points of view proves that there is no terror greater than psychological terror. The 'actors' are unique Claymation models with severely dramatized and pale features that make the player feel even more uncomfortable. Providing the memorable voices is poet William S. Burroughs and the eerie score was written and performed by Thomas Dolby and Headspace (yes folks, that Thomas Dolby that made She Blinded Me with Science).
Don't expect a typical inventory based adventure. Dark Eye is far from being such. It is best described as an interactive movie. However, the whole package and presentation is so compelling, that you'll barely even notice.
Among any genre, The Dark Eye is a rarity and a gem. It is a game that shows us classic pieces of literature can be a fascinating piece of interactive media without being a clunky, lifeless adaption of said works. Dark Eye is also that rare title that can spark an interest in a particular literary work or works. Whether you've never heard of Edgar Allen Poe (and shame on you if you haven't) or are a fan of his work, or just a fan of darkly themed games in general, The Dark Eye not only fits the bill but will scare you right out of your seat.
The Dark Eye review
by Dan Ravipinto - posted on December 4, 2003
The Dark Eye is an adventure game based on three works by Edgar Allen Poe. All are contained within a framing story which, while original, manages to capture much of the flavor of Poe. Each narrative is told twice, with the player experiencing the same tale through a different character's eyes—once as murderer and once as victim. To reveal the specific three works the game is based on would spoil the surprise.
Visually, the work is a wonder. The very first menus, based on a "phrenological reading" of the player, evoke a feeling of mystery and unease. The game begins with a half-seen face reflected in a pool, while a narrator asks his audience to please be patient with him: the narrative he is about to tell may seem unbelievable, but is surely true.
A ripple across the water reveals a massive house, and a twist of perspective leads to the player standing before its doors, a knocker waiting to be used. The door opens to reveal the house's first inhabitant, and the carefully crafted atmosphere reveals yet another layer: all of the characters you interact with are neither 3-D polygons nor hand-drawn 2-D images.
They're puppets.
They're strange creatures—faces like Greek masks, eyes nothing more than thumb prints in clay. Their clothing is meticulously real, however, each costume perfectly suited to both time period and personality. They're brought to life using stop-motion animation, and every movement they make is incredibly evocative.
No attempt is made at true realism, however; the characters are not lip-synched to their speech. In fact, their mouths don't move at all. The final effect is both incredibly stylized and disturbingly real.
The story proceeds as you meet the house's inhabitants: your uncle, his servant, and his ward. Your brother is also here, after a long time abroad. Suddenly, you feel faint. The screen wavers, turns black. When it lightens again, you find yourself in a nightmare version of the building, done in shades of black and blue. Strange voices whisper from the walls.
It is from this dark version of the world that the three Poe stories are told. Different objects in the house set off the stories, which can be played in any order. The game proceeds in this way—a portion told in the "real world" and one in the world of Poe's tales. Once all have been told, the framing story concludes, its ending connecting wonderfully to the smaller ones.
The interface at first appears to be that of a typical post-Myst first-person adventure. The screen shows what your character sees and the mouse controls a cursor (a hand) which can be used to manipulate objects in the environment. What is different here, though, is how the interface interacts with the player. The hand is very much alive — it speaks its own language in its movement. Place the cursor at the edge of the screen and it points in the direction you'll walk in. Click on a torch and it will grasp and place it in hand. At different points in the game the hand will run its fingers gently over an object in remembrance or claw frantically at a barrier seeking escape. It's a wonderful use of the interface and truly drew me into the stories — the hand became an extension of myself.
Unfortunately, it's when one begins to look at the actual gameplay of The Dark Eye that it falls apart. Each story has a particular, single narrative line through it - one that must be strictly followed. This makes sense, since all are based on existing, linear writings, but can be incredibly frustrating if you don't know where the story's supposed to go next.
Worse yet, even if you do know what's supposed to happen next, it might be impossible to deduce how to make it happen. There are several actions required of the player that are completely uncued and can only be found by randomly stumbling about. One action might be looking at a particular object from a particular angle. The story will simply refuse to continue until you look at the object - even though there seems to be no narrative or logical reason for you to do so.
One of the most frustrating portions of the game involves a literal maze of tunnels. The worst part of it is that you'll need to negotiate the maze two times - once for each character you play. Annoyingly, even though one character leads the other in the original story, your character somehow ends up in front in both cases.
Finally, the game provides a feature that confused things more than anything else. At various points during the Poe stories, a character's eyes will shine. Clicking on the eyes results in what the manual calls a "soul jump," in which you leave the character you're playing and enter the body of another. Since each story must be run to completion as one of the two characters, soul jumping really doesn't accomplish anything that choosing the other character from the beginning would do. At worst, you may accidentally jump into a character whose story you've already completed and not have an opportunity to get back to one you haven't before the story ends.
Still, the accounts themselves are beautifully told. The audio is commendable, the music appropriate to each section, and the voice acting professional and wonderfully done (William S. Burroughs plays the house's owner, as well as providing readings of Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" and "Annabel Lee"). There are wonderful twists of narrative, portions where the standard first-person view is warped by visual oddities, and places where the standard interface is turned on its head to better serve the story. It's clear that the team behind the game was both incredibly talented and huge fans of Mr. Poe's work.
In the end, The Dark Eye is simultaneously one of my favorite games and one of the most frustrating that I've ever played. It's stunningly beautiful, well-thought out, atmospheric, eerie and frightening—much like the works of Edgar Allen Poe. At the same time, it really doesn't work as a game. There are portions where, even if one knows the source material, it's almost impossible to guess the action or actions that will push the story forward. As such, I can't unreservedly recommend it.
The game's developer, iNSCAPE, is unfortunately now defunct and finding a copy might take some doing. I found mine in a bargain bin at a computer show and considered myself lucky to have done so. Despite its problems, fans of unique gaming experiences and Poe alike will find the well-told narrative and haunting atmosphere of The Dark Eye make it well-worth seeking out. Dan is a fanatic of all things gaming. Pros: Atmospheric, and beautifully envisioned with a fascinating interface that pulls the player into the narrative(s).
Cons: Permits minimal interaction and exploration of the world's environments, requires actions to continue the story that may be impossible to discern without knowing the source material.
Bottom-line: An inspired attempt at creating an interactive world based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Highly recommended as a unique experience, much less so as an actual game.

The Dark Eye

Hall of Fame Entry #4

Developer/Publisher: Inscape

Release Date: 11/95

Platform: Hybrid

By Ray Ivey

Can we put an obscure game in the lofty JA Hall of Fame? Just watch us.
The Dark Eye is that rarest of adventure games: one that is so creative and distinctive that it simply can't be compared to any other title.
The brainchild of a madman named Russell Lees, The Dark Eye is based on Edgar Allen Poe stories, and the miracle of The Dark Eye is that it actually captures the creepy feeling of the Master's work.
The graphics are beautiful in this point-and-click, slideshow, first-person game. The characters are empty-eyed puppets designed by artist Bruce Heavin, and their static quality adds immeasurably to the disturbing atmosphere.
The game uses three classic Poe stories: "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amantillado," and "Berenice." It also uses as a framing device an original story (by Lees) that is a very effective Poe pastiche.
What makes experiencing Poe's stories so bloodcurdling is that you go through each one twice--once as the victim, and once as the victimizer. I can't even begin to tell you how this messes with your mind.
The sequence near the end of "The Tell-Tale Heart," when the police are unwittingly pushing your character to the breaking point, is one of the most brilliant sequences in any game I've ever played.
The game isn't for everyone, because it has no puzzles in the traditional sense. It's more of a macabre ceremony or ritual that the player move through. It's very experimental, which of course is a pretty dirty term in the adventure game genre. But this time the experiment truly pays off.
I played this game in one long, fevered sitting, and I have never forgotten it. Trust me, this hard-to-find title is worth the search.
The Dark Eye
Rien de tel qu’un bon bouquin assis au coin du feu n’est ce pas ? Alors pourquoi pas un jeu vidéo au coin du feu, pour vos nuits d’hiver? Je vous propose The Dark Eye, un jeu vidéo tiré des contes de Edgar Allan Poe, qui vous transportera dans cet univers inquiétant de Edgar Allan Poe.
* Le jeu *
Le jeu s’apparente à un Myst like basique, c'est-à-dire qu’on se déplace tableau par tableau, grâce à la souris qui nous permet de passer de l’un à l’autre. Un Myst like, les énigmes en moins. En effet, il n’y a pas vraiment de moyen d’être réellement bloqué dans le jeu (à moins d’un bug ?), car le jeu ne dispose d’aucune énigme. Au pire, on aura à avoir un objet dans les mains à un certain endroit, ou bien il faudra avoir bien tourné en rond pour être sûr d’avoir vu tous les tableaux, mais ça ne va pas plus loin. On ne se creuse pas les méninges sur le jeu, mais plutôt sur ce qu’il nous raconte. Le jeu s’habille d’une mode « jeu PC des années 95 qui découvre le Quick Time ». Entendez par là un jeu d’images, avec quelques animations pas bien costaudes, et quelques « effets » de transition au cas où. Ca reste agréable dans l’ensemble, même si certains effets de transitions sont abusés. Au niveau du son, c’est nettement moins vieillissant. Les musiques sont glauques, les bruitages très bien faits, mais surtout, le doublage français est hors du commun, chaque doubleur joue son personnage et sa voix à merveille, ce qui donne une énorme ampleur au jeu, et à son ambiance. Le seul point qui semble réellement négatif serait la durée de vie. Assurément, le jeu n’est pas long, je l’ai d’ailleurs fini en 2 soirées, mais il n’en faut pas plus ni moins pour rendre ce jeu agréable.
Je lui met 7/10, pourtant, je vous invite vivement à vous le procurer*, car il ne vous prendra pas beaucoup de temps, et il n’en demeure pas moins un jeu très intéressant, dont les points forts ne se retrouve pas dans les jeux de nos jours. Si le début ne vous convainc pas, forcez vous un peu, c’est un peu plus loin que le jeu s’avère intéressant. Pas encore convaincu ? Je vais donc vous en parler un peu plus, mais cette partie pourrait vous gâcher un peu de plaisir de la découverte.
* Analyse *
Tout d’abord, la base scénaristique. Vous incarnez un personnage, accueilli par sa famille dans le manoir, qui va incarner d’autres personnages. Ce personnage a un visage presque vide. Il n’y a qu’à voir son reflet dans la mare au début, ou dans les objets qui vont vous permettre de passer à un autre personnage. Ainsi, ce personnage, ce ne sera pas n’importe qui, ce sera VOUS. L’immersion est un point important dans The Dark Eye, sinon LE point le plus important du jeu. C’est pourquoi je vous conseille de jouer dans de bonnes conditions : dans une salle sombre, aucune nuisance sonore, et en état de vous plonger dans le jeu. Ce personnage n’a aucune caractéristique, aucune particularité, aucun caractère, à l’opposé des autres personnages. Cette façon de nous immerger dans l’histoire n’est pas sans rappeler Tintin de Hergé, sauf que The Dark Eye, c’est glauque.
Le manoir du personnage principal est délabré, triste, et absurde à la fois. Les murs sont recouverts de ce qui semble être un vieux papier peint, mais il semble en y regardant de plus près qu’il s’agit d’écriture (de Poe ?). L’humidité règne dans ce manoir, où tout semble pourrir peu à peu. On se croirait en plein déménagement, avec ce manoir presque vide de meubles, mais il n’est pas question de çà. Remarquez à quel point ce manoir semble étrange. Cette pièce par exemple, où un des côtés dépourvu de mur, aboutit au ciel (!). Remarquez aussi certains objets, qui ne se trouvent apparemment pas à leur place, où bien certaines pièces, dont on ne comprend pas bien leur utilité. Et que devrais je dire de votre famille (votre oncle et votre cousine en fait) ? Votre cousine semble cacher une tristesse, alors que votre oncle affiche une mélancolie. Il n’y a guère que l’amant de votre cousine pour vous accompagner dans votre histoire, même si apparemment, ce sera plutôt à vous de l’accompagner. Pour sortir de ce manoir, il n’y a qu’une solution : faire avancer l’histoire. Pour ce, vous allez devoir vivre plusieurs histoires, à travers différents personnages, en ayant pris le soin de prendre le dissolvant qui vous permettra de plonger en transe. Vous évoluez donc dans la Phrénologie, qui consiste à déterminer la philosophie d’une personne selon la forme de son crâne. Cette Phrénologie était chère à Edgar Allan Poe. Il sera effectivement question de vivre différents personnages et avec ça, vivre différents physiques, vivre différents esprits, vivre différentes façons de voir les choses. D’ailleurs, vous constaterez dans l’image de la tête humaine qui s’affiche lorsque vous débutez une partie, par laquelle vous pourrez revivre les différentes histoires, que l’histoire du personnage principal, c’est l’œil, les autres, c’est le cerveau. Je commence à comprendre, l’univers du personnage principal, ce n’est que le concept, les bases, le papier sur lequel l’histoire s’écrit.
Il y aura donc différentes histoires : trois histoires que vous vivrez + deux qui vous seront racontées + l’histoire du personnage principal. Celle du personnage principal, je vous ai déjà tout dit, elle évoluera tant que vous accomplirez une des histoires. Les histoires racontées seront en fait de longues cinématiques. Ce ne sont pas ces passages qu’on retiendra du jeu. Les trois histoires que vous vivrez, c’est le truc fort du jeu. Chacune se vivra de deux manières différentes, car vous les vivrez à travers deux personnages différents à chaque fois. Ces deux personnages suivront ce schéma : une victime et le tueur. Vous vivrez donc l’histoire à travers la victime, innocente, ou naïve, mais paniquée lorsqu’elle se fera tuer ; mais vous vivrez aussi le tueur, froid, ou fou, sans pitié, qui tuera sa victime sans trop se rendre compte de ce qu’il fait. Ces histoires seront un véritable voyage. Un univers différent à chaque fois, de même pour l’époque, mais surtout, les personnages que vous vivrez. Lorsque vous incarnez un personnage, vous le vivez, vous entendez ses pensées, vous ferez ses gestes, vous aurez SES sentiments.
Cette manière de raconter une histoire à travers deux personnages est ahurissante. Si cette méthode peut s’avérer amusante pour un film ou un livre, elle prend carrément toute son ampleur dans un jeu vidéo, à tel point qu’il en devient étonnant que cette idée n’est pas été tellement reprise. En se basant sur l’œuvre de Edgar Allan Poe, les créateurs ne s’y sont pas trompés, l’esprit des recueils y est parfaitement rendu, poussant la qualité jusqu’à dépasser le maître. Si The Dark Eye pouvait faire partie de l’œuvre de Edgar Allan Poe, nul doute qu’elle en serait une œuvre majeure.
Mais je garde le meilleur pour la fin : l’univers. Ainsi, les personnages sont des marionnettes, caricaturales, non pas modélisées en 3D, mais entièrement faites, puis retranscrites dans le jeu, en les ayant filmées ou prises en photos. Si cette idée peut paraître étrange, elle révèle toute sa force grâce aux personnages, qui sont tous caricaturaux, qui sont tous de vrais marionnettes. Même leurs gestes sont caricaturaux, tout comme leurs dialogues. Et pourtant, on pourrait croire qu’un dialogue caricatural serait grotesque, mais il révèle en fait tout son coté humain de cette manière. A l’excellente qualité du doublage donc, de confirmer ce fait. L’immersion dans cet univers en devient forte. Le jeu ne fait cependant pas dans la surenchère, ainsi, il n’y a pas de violence « picturale ». De la violence morale, mais pas de sang, de corps mutilés, de gore. C’est une violence en parfait accord avec l’univers imposé. Le jeu n’est pas malsain, mais met mal à l’aise.
Je crois qu’on peut dire, que The Dark Eye explore une voie du jeu vidéo qui n’a jamais été exploitée, et qui ne l’est pas non plus aujourd’hui. The Dark Eye en devient ainsi un jeu très particulier dans l’univers du jeu vidéo, si bien que je vous conseille d’y jouer, ne serait ce que pour constater le potentiel scénaristique que peuvent avoir les jeux vidéo.
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