Last Half Of Darkness

Ah, adventure games. They’ve existed for about as long as computer gaming has, they come in a variety of settings and themes, and of course, all kinds of qualities. You have your all time classics, your Monkey Islands, your Leisure Suit Larries. You have the obscure stuff you may haven’t touched, but still worth a look, like Blazing Dragons, and then you have your… well, anything that doesn’t belong to those first two categories, like Armeath The Lost Kingdom, or Les Manley. I’ll be getting into one of those some other time.

So, guess which category Last Half Of Darkness fits into. First two guesses don’t count.

“So, anyway,” you ask, “What IS Last Half of Darkness?Basically, it’s a first-person, verb driven adventure game. If you’ve played any of the old ICOM adventure games, like Deja Vu, Shadowgate, or Uninvited, you’ve basically got it. If you haven’t, you basically have a picture of your current surroundings, along with a list of verbs on the right hand side of the screen. You click a verb and then click on some part of the picture to interact with it. Repeat until victory (not bloody likely), your death (very bloody likely), or your eventual boredom and quitting of the game.

The game itself was made by a company called, redundantly enough, SoftLab Laboratories. Maybe it’s just me, but if you’re just making weird adventure games for DOS, I wouldn’t really say that’s a ‘laboratory’. They made four of these in this series: There’s the first game, the one we’re doing now, the sequel, which is more or less more of the same, and the third game, which, among other things, adds a health bar. There’s also a VGA version of the first game, with redrawn graphics, a different interface, and, rather disappointingly, no death.

Here’s the funny thing: They’re still around. SoftLab changed their name to WRF Studios, and they’re still making games for the series. I myself haven’t played any of the new LHOD games, but they seem to be more first-person adventure games, only now they’re more Myst-esque, with pre-rendered graphics, voice acting, and all that good stuff. I guess they’re good if that’s your kind of thing?

So, what exactly is the goal of this game? Well, let’s crack open the text file in the game folder.

“Your aunt sure was a strange one. She was some sort of witch or something. A good witch though, practicing only good spells and magic. In fact,  she  was working on a potion just before she was killed. Now  the  secret  will go to the grave with her…  unless you can find the missing ingredients. You, being her only living heir received news and came quickly to find out she had plans for you to continue with her work.  You gain title to her estate and her fortune only if you continue with her studies in the field of magic.”

You know how it says she was supposedly a ‘good’ witch? Keep that in mind for later.

Best. Phone number. Ever.

You probably WILL need that hint book. Well, at least you would if you weren’t lucky enough to live in the age of GameFAQs and Google, where even the most obscure and obtuse adventure games could be cracked wide open. Unless you don’t, in which case, what’s time travel like? Trust me, though, unless you had a patience of a saint, you might as well send in that $10, because you weren’t getting anywhere without that hint book.

Nothing frightens me like seeing graphic modes dripping with blood. 256 colors of HORROR!

Keep in mind this game was made in 1990, where, for the most part, things like ‘good puzzle design’ and ‘fairness’ weren’t really things yet. This WAS the same year that King’s Quest 5 was made, the game where you have to throw a boot at cat for more or less no reason, or you can’t win the game. It was… a different time.

Screw you game, I'll check it out if I WANT to.

So, yeah, this is basically the whole game right here. The picture is where you actually do things with one of the verbs on the right hand of the screen. The ‘Exits’ window shows where you can go, while the Inventory game currently shows you what your standard adventure game protagonist tendencies have deemed worthy for you to stuff down your pants. The bottom text box describes what’s going on and what your actions did, when it’s not trying really hard to be spooooooky.

Yeah, this house is so old the sheets need sheets on them.

Your aunt apparently didn’t bother leaving the door locked, so you can just head to the porch and waltz right on inside to get into the house. Kind of anticlimactic, sure, but at least you didn’t have to break open a pumpkin, take the key inside it, and use it to unlock the front door.

A quick word on something, before I continue. Some adventure games have a ton of messages for doing everything, no matter how stupid or useless they may be. Some games let you look at everything, use everything, TALK to everything, animate or not, and use everything on everything. This game, however, is not one of them. If it’s not a thing the programmer thought was worth giving a description or if it isn’t vitally important to the game, the game will just generally treat it like it doesn’t exist. Including passively-agressively telling you to try looking at an ‘interesting’ object if you look at something without a description.

OK, game, I’m looking at Shadowgate instead. Is that an interesting enough object for you?

So, I’m gonna be honest here. I have no idea what to do in this game without a guide. I found a couple of random inventory items, including a box of matches, a locked box, and some cash, but that’s about it. Sadly, I can’t use the money on anything, so I can’t just bribe the monsters out of the way.

Monsters, you say? Yeah, remember when the game said our aunt was a good witch?

I get the feeling our protagonist isn't quite the brightest crayon in the box.

Oh, well, isn’t that adorable. I guess I’ll just be going n–

For a dead girl, her hair's pretty intact.

So, yeah, if you go into this room at all without the thing you use to get rid of the vampire girls, you’re pretty much screwed. You can’t leave, talk to them, or do much of anything, because… well, 1990. We DON’T want to play again, but let’s just lie and say we do.

The skull lamp adds a delightful touch to this room.

The only book you can actually read is the one next to the skull. It basically tells you how to make a potion that will bring a dead girl back to life. This isn’t actually your aunt, because this girl ends up dying shortly AFTER you get to the house. I don’t recall if the game actually ever SAID who it was, really. The book also says there’s a secret lab behind the bookcase, but really, did you need the game to tell you that?

Wait, what does a witch need a computer for? Does she just take a break in between bending the laws of science and nature and open up a game of Freecell?

There’s not really much to do here at this point in the game besides open th–

Aw, but he looks so happy to see me!

…I’m really starting to miss the Les Manley games right about now.

So at some point during the game, the game will say you hear a scream. It doesn’t tell you this, but you’re supposed to go into one of the bedrooms on the upper floor and check one of the closests, even if you already did so. And then you find this:

"Yeah, I guess there's also a dead girl, too, but your dead aunt is much more interesting, trust me."

This game can’t go a single room without talking about your aunt, and you don’t even ever see her. Because she’s, you know, dead and all.

And that’s really as far as I want to go for now. Maybe I’ll continue this particular game some other time, but I’m not really up for doing a walkthrough. I may or may not get into the sequels some other time, too. If you’re into old, confusing adventure games with lots of random death, which give you no clear idea what to do, you’ll probably love this game. If you’re not insane, however, well..

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