The works of Edgar Allen Poe has never really been translated successfully to other mediums. While the series of films directed by Roger Corman were pretty good, they are questionable as adaptations. The skin-crawling psychological horror missing in those 60s B-movies are here in full force with The Dark Eye, a 1995 adventure by Inscape.
A lot can be said about the history of horror in gaming, but one thing that seems to be universal is that the monstrous jump scare is primarily used to incite fear in the player. Even the more subtle of survival horrors rarely delves deeper than what's lurking in the darkness. The Dark Eye, thanks in part to the rich source material, is not like this. Although the wraparound story is a heavily fictionalised biographical account of Poe's life, the main bulk re-tells three of Poe's stories in adventure form; The Cask of Amontillado, The Tell-Tale Heart and Berenice. It also takes the time to recite some of his more famous prose and poems in some beautifully realised hidden scenes.
The graphics are mostly rendered in some freakish stop-motion (although some may argue the use of marionettes), their expressionless faces adding to the otherworldly feel. You go through each tale twice, once as the villain and again as the victim, changing characters at by gazing into the eyes of your antagonist. Much like the internal monologues that are very much a part of Poe's prose, you are forced into the shoes of a killer and the paranoid consequences of it. These thoughts attempt to rationalise the nasty things you are about to do. Then you transfer into the consciousness of the victim, witnessing every moment, every panicked thought as you are buried alive or worse. The horror is not caused by monsters in the literal sense but in the mental.
As a game, the interaction is very minimal. There are very few moments that could even be considered as puzzles. Instead, The Dark Eye perhaps most closely resembles an interactive media disc that was very common in the early years of CD-Rom. Whether or not this is a bad thing all depends on the player and his expectations, but I found it to be completely absorbing and well put together. The linear story and lack of difficulty did not put me off as the experience is one that is so rare in video games - scary in a hugely intelligent in a downright disturbing way.
The game could easily have been a simple interactive re-telling of Poe's work, but it distinguishes itself by going deeper into the human subconscious than original stories. Here each tales has more than one narrator, with a far greater emphasis on the victim's point of view. It even touches on Poe's fascination with the popular 19th-century pseudo-science of phrenology. It was a theory that once thought the brain was separated into emotional states such as friendship and secretiveness. The shape of your head was even considered to be a mark of your personality. Naturally, it's now been debunked. In the game, the progress menu depicts that of a phrenological brain, separated into sections. Each story segment relates to one of the sections, with the brain completing at the same time as the game.
The voice work is also well done. Casting the famed author William S. Burroughs in selected scenes adds a gravitas few could give. The only downside is that his slurred speech is often intelligible, making it difficult to take in his recitation of Annabel Lee or The Masque of the Red Death. The character of Uncle Edwin uses his iconic speech patterns to its advantage. He does not appear in any of Poe's work and only features during the wraparound story. It may not be Poe's work, but it is definitely in keeping with his style, and it's unfamiliar plot genuinely took me by surprise on my first playthrough.
Certain elements of this tale are taken directly from Poe's own life. His wife, Virginia, suffered from consumption which first became apparent which she sang to him as he played the piano. This is directly referenced in the character of Elise who suffers the same fate, though later events are entirely made up.
I often feel the need to return to The Dark Eye like I occasionally do with Poe's written work, though the ease of playing it on modern systems has declined drastically in recent years. Thankfully it is very playable when emulated in DOSBox running Windows 3.1. It still holds up fantastically since I last played it about 10 years ago. Revisiting it was a creepy joy and without a doubt, it's the best adaptation of any of Poe's work.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox running Microsoft Windows 3.1 to get the game working on modern systems. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 258 Mb. Install Size: 750 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
The Dark Eye is © Inscape
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me
I absolutely LOVE The Dark Eye. Thanks for this review and release!ReplyDelete
You're welcome. It truly is a great game - one of the few I replay almost every year at this time.ReplyDelete
Hi, I have some problems to play. After installation the game works fine, but when I try to run the game again, the following error appears under windows 3.1. "Unable to copy the driver file C:\WINDOWS\dirdib.drv to your windows directory. Your disk may be full. The first time I played I exit from dosbox pushing ALT+F9. Thanks for your help.ReplyDelete
Hello, I can't say I've ever encountered this problem before and I haven't been able to replicate it. You say this error comes up under Windows 3.1. Is it as soon as the game tries to start or when you've loaded a saved game / reached a certain section in the game?Delete
It doesn't sound like it would be the latter as the file is to do with Macromedia and not the game itself. You may want to try re-installing to a different directory and copy the HDD\DARKEYE\SAVEDDKY folder (your savegame) over and see what happens. Something may have corrupted when you terminated the game without exiting.
Same issue as above. Issue occurs after one successful run of game. Subsequent runs fail with message shown.ReplyDelete
OK, I'll have to investigate. It may need a reinstallation of Macromedia. I've got a lot taking up my time at the moment, so I'll keep you posted when I have news.Delete
Hello! Sorry, I forgot to reply (I did add the info to the FAQ though). This issue will happen if you've installed in Program Files and have run the game without Admin priviledges. Right click and run as admin and it will now work.Delete
Thanks for putting this together! Question: have you ever run into the problem where the in-game cutscenes have no audio and play reaaaaaally slowly?ReplyDelete
I haven't no. From what I remember it ran pretty smoothly. I'm very busy with work for the next 2 weeks so won't be able to check this out for a while. Try looking at some of the points in the FAQ to see if any of them help.Delete
I'm getting a "I am unable to save or retrieve games. You may need to reinstall The Dark Eye" error.ReplyDelete
Any ideas? Thanks!
This could be an admin issue. Try running as administrator or install in a folder other than program files (which is where the default install goes).Delete
Hello. Seeing that there's no manual for the game included you probably don't have it, but would you happen to know where I might be able to get it? I know it can be found on www.oldgames.sk but, despite looking fine on the online page, if you download the PDF and open it with Acrobat, it's a real mess of colors, totally unreadable. I contacted them about it but got no answer. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.ReplyDelete
Sorry for late reply - been a manic month!Delete
The manual is present in the package. Looks like I forgot to mention it in the blurb. I'll edit it now. (FYI I got it from Home of the Underdogs back in the day)
Thank you for uploading this, though I should mention some sound clips didn't play during certain FMV's (mostly in The Cask of Amontillado), and the game crashed on me during the end of the young man's section of The Tell Tale Heart, which erased all of my progress. Not sure if these issues are fixable, but wanted to give you a heads up!ReplyDelete
I love this game so glad to be able to play it again. Will definitely be doing a series about it in October this year. Great game for that time of the year.ReplyDelete
thank you for your review and upload. I think I have encountered a bug. The police doesn't knock the door, it seems I'm stuck. Any advice?ReplyDelete
I tried a second run, this time my game is stuck because I am not asked to leave the torch on the wall, so I can't progress in any way.ReplyDelete
I believe you're talking about the TellTale heart section. If I recall, there is a specific number of actions you need to do to trigger this. I believe it's something to do with the clock and the window, but I'm going by memory here. Maybe the mirror and the knives by the stove too. I do know I get stuck at this point every time I play it too, so just keep looking at everything.Delete
Hello, download corrupt? Errors out opening the RAR. Cheers!ReplyDelete