Monday, 31 October 2016

DARK SEED 2


It's Halloween and what better way to celebrate than to travel deep in the psyche of H.R. Giger? Dark Seed 2 began development as soon as the success of the first game was evident when it hit store shelves and became a surprise hit (it even won the prestigious Codie award in 1992 against the more popular likes of King's Quest VI, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and Ultima VII). The result of such a success is sequels and one finally arrived in the December of 1995...

A lot has changed in the three years since the first Dark Seed came out. For starters, the adventure genre had far stiffer competition with LucasArts and Sierra riding high at the top of their game. Compared to its peers, the original comes off as all style and no substance. These faults didn't go unnoticed. Producer David Mullich, who at the time was also working as the designer for I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, saw that more effort needed to be put into the story. The result is a sequel that's superior in almost every way, even if it doesn't have the same gravitas of Harlan Ellison's classic.

The story takes place almost immediately after the events of the first game and Mike Dawson has suffered something of a nervous breakdown. He has returned to his home town of Crowley, Texas to live with his mother and get some much-needed rest, but it's not long before things take a turn for the worse. His high school sweetheart, Rita, has died in mysterious circumstances and you are the prime suspect. Has the evil inter-dimensional beings known as the Ancients returned to complete their task of destroying humanity or are you just crazy? The game keeps it vague, teasing either answer as true.

What is definitely crazy is that for years I'd always thought the same actor played Mike Dawson in both games. The first Mike Dawson was played by the real Mike Dawson who also co-designed the first game (hence why they called our hero Mike Dawson). Since then the real Mike Dawson had left Cyberdreams leaving the character of Mike Dawson open to more experienced actors (who may or may not be called Mike Dawson). Whoever was responsible for the casting did an awesome job as he's spot on in my opinion, right down to the cheesy moustache and blase demeanour. Either way, he and the premise are far more intriguing.

It takes a while before you enter the H.R. Giger themed 'Dark World' with the first few hours taking place in the real world. Much like the first game, there's a definite Twin Peaks vibe to the Middle American suburbs and the extra time spent there only heightens it. The use of colour here also adds another ethereal quality too. The backgrounds are computer generated and bright, almost over-saturated compared to the greyish brown tones of the original. Contrast this with the digitized sprites of actual actors and you have visuals worthy of a David Lynch movie. It also makes for a nice juxtaposition to the Dark World when it eventually encroaches on the real world. The biomechanical world of Giger is a shocking place to begin with but placing it side-by-side with Dark Seed 2's depiction of the American dream truly makes it even more disturbing.

Giger himself had more of a creative input too, in his own weird way. Both games use only pre-existing art with the only guidance from Giger in the first being the resolution and how his work was presented. This time around his input actually affected the game. At the time he was being haunted by certain images and wanted to see them included in the final product. Among others, he requested that they use his "Shaft" series of pictures which feature some very suggestive and foreboding architecture. Next, he wanted the protagonist to get caught on a meat hook, which is why Mike gets dragged to the Hall of Death on one. By this time, writer and designer Raymond Benson (who designed MicroProse's Return of the Phantom) had completed his work and had moved on to other things outside the company. Science Fiction author John Shirley, who had written for The Crow and Heavy Metal comics as well as contributing towards the screenplay for the former's first movie, was brought in as a story consultant to work these demands in.

The result is a game that fits. The first game didn't quite grab me as much as this one did, probably due to a lack of focus and vision. It seemed to exist solely to showcase some Giger art without much thought to story and characterisation. The borrowed artwork here doesn't seem misappropriated, acting like a plausible (if weird) reflection of a real-world environment. That being said, a lot of the original's faults still remain. Mike's personality hasn't developed at all. His quips are dry and emotionless making for a rather mundane protagonist. One could argue that this is - and always has been - a proclamation of his mental state but in reality, it just keeps you from investing in him emotionally.

In the end, both entries in the Dark Seed series are still interesting attempts at psychological horror in video games. Both effectively weave threads of uncertainty, even if the minutiae aren't very good in isolation. It's a game whose whole is better than the sum of its parts and the result is a minor classic. I'm probably in the minority thinking that, or maybe some alien beings are playing tricks with my mind. If there's one thing that's certain it's that H.R. Giger can give you one hell of a nightmare. And what more could you want for Halloween?


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.
  22.01.2019 - Version 2 - Fixed sound stutter in speech

File Size: 300 Mb.  Install Size: 549 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download



Dark Seed II is © Cyberdreams
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

Like this? Try These...

Dark Seed  Shivers 2: Harvest of Souls  Return of the Phantom

20 comments:

  1. Great treat on ghosts day (night). Thank You greatly, B-man!

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    1. You're welcome! Hope it gave you nightmares :)

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    2. Sowing the eagerly awaited Dark Seed 2 with its special touch ensures for a round Halloween finish! Thanks, Biffman 101!

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    3. Cheers Thomas! I'd hate to see what those sowed seeds grow into

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    4. Haha, that's for sure. Touché, Biffman 101! :-)

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    5. Looks like your version has the stuttering on the voices too. I've been working on this for hours trying to get the speech smooth. Saw a few people on forums claiming they were able to do it without any problems, but they aren't very much help.

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    6. I've just booted it up again, and there is a small stutter at the beginning of each line. I didn't really notice it when I tested the game - I guess it didn't bother me so much. I'e been trying to fix it for the last couple of hours or so and have not been able to. Both the DOSBox Daum and Daily builds don't fix the issue, nor do any tinkering with the .conf.

      Normally a stutter would be due to the cycles being too high, but that's not the case here as other audio like the music plays fine. I've found that some people have solved it by using a fixed ir32.dll (making me think it's a WinG compatibility issue) but that didn't work for me.

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  2. Special Agent Dale Cooper24 October 2017 at 09:14

    Does anyone have a download for the fixed ir32.dll file? How to fix the speech stutter?

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    1. Hello Agent Cooper. I've added it to the download link if you want to tinker with it. It didn't help me with the issue, so I won't be working on a revison.

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  3. There is a solution to sound stuttering found by Silanda on Vogons: "After the game has installed, there should be a file in the Windows directory called wavemix.ini. Inside that file is a bunch of settings that Dark Seed 2 seems to use for audio playback, and if you scroll down a bit you'll see that there are settings for specific sound cards, however, those do not appear to be being applied. What you'll want to do is alter the default settings to the ones for the SB16, so from the top of the file change WaveBlocks=3 to WaveBlocks=5, add WaveBlockLen=4096, and change SamplesPerSec=11 to SamplesPerSec=22. Stutter be gone!"
    It might be worth of posting an updated version of the installer.

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    1. Good find! I've been looking for a fix to this.

      Just tested it and it works! Will create an update for it now.

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    2. Great, I tried the new installer and speech now works fine. I only had to change fullresolution in Dosbox config from desktop to original as the desktop option lead to image moved to the right part of the screen and also missing mouse cursor. I have 1680x1050 monitor.
      http://i66.tinypic.com/etf6fk.jpg

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    3. Hi I had same sound problem with Darkseed2, speech doent understandable, so I tried everything shown above but it didnt work. So I found another emulator for retro games :PCem Pc emulator. It worked like a charm! if you use this emulator you can choose your what ever you want like cpu , graphic card, bios ect.. than install OS . I built my own old pc and all my retro games came back! https://pcem-emulator.co.uk/

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    4. Hello, I use PCEm for games running on Windows '95 and '98, but it does have some down sides. Not only does it use more resources resulting in sound stutters if your CPU isn't up to snuff, it requires the use of virtual hard drives which are a pain to use. DOSBox also has a lot more options to play around with, though they're hidden within the .conf file and require some knowledge of how they work.

      Basically, PCEm is worth it if that's the only way a game will work (it is ultimately more compatible when it comes to Win 9x games), but I doubt I'll use it for Windows 3.1 games.

      Plus, the sound issues that affect the end of each sentence on Darkseed II is now fixed in the current version! Played a good chunk of it when I tested it myself.

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  4. Update: With original it was much better but still slightly moved, so I tried few more options and got best results with 1024x768.

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    1. Hello. I kept the same .conf setting as the original so I'm not sure why it's changed. Ultimately the best solution is to specify your own desktop under 'resolution=', but I've found the general 'desktop' option is best for the large variety of potential users.

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    2. The default fullresolution after installing the game was "desktop". It did not change, but I had to change it as it lead to screen moved to right side on my monitor. When putting my monitor specs 1680x1050 under fullresolution, the result was the same. It is now fine with 1024x768. You may let "desktop" there if you think it is best for most users but this info might be useful if somebody will have the same problem as me.

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  5. Just discovered this - works great! Is there any way to get General MIDI music to work through VirtualMIDISynth? I have it working in DoBox with DOS games but can't get seem to get it working with this. Many Thanks

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    1. Managed to get it working - installed Win 3 MPU-401 driver from Roland website in Win 3 and setup a new Generak MIDI map to use it. Music in game sounds much better now!

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