|Dark Side of the Moon, by SouthPeak
Interactive, is an ambitious six-disc futuristic mystery-adventure similar in many ways to
the Journeyman Project series. The denizens of Luna Crysta, with whom you interact, are
portrayed crisply and clearly, the game design is well implemented, and a contorted plot
keeps things interesting.
You step into the shoes of Jake Wright, a young innocent with more than enough adventurous determination to get into trouble. You have been granted a mining claim on the frontier world of Luna Crysta, also known as Cepheus-6. Unfortunately, your means of obtaining this claim are less than auspicious, as the previous owner, your Uncle Jacob Wright, has died mysteriously. For once, he appeared certain that he had found something important, and your mission is to determine the value of his claim and unravel the mystery surrounding his demise.
Immediately upon beginning Dark Side of the Moon, an introductory movie documents the events leading up to Uncle Jacobs death, but the mysterious shadows and the unknown Cepheid who are his assailants provide a few clues that Uncle Jacob was not a very willing suicide. Interracial tensions are obvious, and it is also clear that even Uncle Jacob was over his headcaution is necessary.
Jake is aided in his venture by several items easily accessed in a well-designed interface. The first item of importance is his Video Digital Assistant (VDA). This handy little gadget receives v-mail, records conversations, stores scanned documents, and provides maps. Below the VDA is a human figure representing you, upon which you may use inventory items to simulate eating, wearing, or personal use. The figure also provides important hints when you deem it necessary to ask for help. A backpack that may be opened or closed provides storage for various sundry inventory items that you will accumulate throughout the adventure.
The bottom third of the screen is reserved for conversation options, leaving a somewhat small rectangular window upon the world of Luna Crysta. A larger window may have precluded high-quality video images, but I still found the game screens size to be constricting. In addition, I found that the characters lacked reasonable video segues between one response and another. In other words, each conversation with a character seemed to consist of various canned responses in which the character would jump from one posture to another in a single frame according to the dialogue option chosen.
A more important limitation to the game is its problematic movement system. Despite the claim on the back of the box that "Dark Side of the Moon is a sci-fi adventure that will immerse you in 360° of completely seamless, incredibly realistic, motion-picture quality gaming," your movement is much more limited than it is in an adventure game like Kings Quest: Mask of Eternity. Rather than allowing you to move at will throughout the world of Luna Crysta, you move from one set "node" to another, although you are free to rotate Jake the full 360° at each node. In certain nodes, you may also look up or down if appropriate. This limitation would be much less annoying if the environments were more impressively detailed, or of the same quality as the characters.
Fortunately, you are not also limited by a linear plot. Many of the puzzles may be solved at any time (or not at all), and various segments of the game may be completed in any order. The music provides atmosphere (in spite of, or perhaps because of the occasional cheesy theme), and I found portions of the game to be quite humorous. Additionally, the game itself provides many hints within the framework of the story without appearing to give anything away. The pace of the game can range from very intense to somewhat slow, although you can drastically increase travel times if you find the sequences to be monotonous. Various puzzles are interlaced with the main plot to provide for some additional challenge and entertainment.
Dark Side of the Moon provides an intriguing mystery with good character interaction within the confines of a small viewport and restrictive movement parameters. Nonetheless, it does provide a certain ambience which lends itself well to sci-fi episodes of the Star Trek variety. Gamers fond of mysteries and science fiction are well-advised to check out this game, although hardcore adventure gamers might prefer the action-based Kings Quest: Mask of Eternity or the pure puzzle-solving mayhem and humor of Curse of Monkey Island or Grim Fandango.