• December 25, 2014

Going Casual: Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher

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Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014 2:02 am | Updated: 12:49 am, Fri Apr 4, 2014.

Remember when I said I wanted more games based on literature? Take this casual series as an example of how to do it correctly. It is, as the subtitle implies, made up of adaptations of classic Poe stories.

 

The player character is the friend of C. Auguste Dupin. Dupin, the prototypical genius detective (early progenitor of my beloved Sherlock Holmes, in fact), is only in a few of the Poe mystery/horror stories. Here, he and his friend the Narrator are the detectives called in to solve the mysteries based on a wide variety of Poe stories, from the original Murders in the Rue Morgue to The Black Cat to The Premature Burial.

 

In this latest game, you and Dupin must travel to the home of the Usher twins, who share an empathic bond and mysterious failing health. It’s a detective spin on this classic psychological horror, as you and Dupin have arrived just before the climax of the story and must attempt to save the twins from the mysterious force that seems to mean them ill.

 

I’ll be honest: Compared with Rue Morgue or Cask of Amontillado, Usher is not a favorite of mine. I don’t dislike it, because Poe at his least interesting is still one of the most electrifying writers to ever set quill to paper. However, I’ve never been able to figure out if the story is meant to be truly supernatural or metaphorical, or reconcile the idea that it could be both.

 

Maybe I’m just a fool, but, if the game is any indication, I’m not the only one having that difficulty. The story makes noises about the creepiness of the twins, but they’re quickly pushed aside in favor of showing the maliciousness of the sentient Usher estate. There’s not a lick of ambiguity here: The house is alive and must be constantly satiated with blood.

 

Whereas the previous games have managed to balance the Poe stories with a vibrant aesthetic and crime-procedural pacing, this game plays like a passionless take on one of Poe’s darkest tales. The puzzles are downright obnoxious in how they’ve been implemented into the locations, and there are some baffling story threads about ghosts which never seem to go anywhere.

 

If the idea of a game series based upon the works of Poe intrigues you, start with The Black Cat, Rue Morgue, or Masque of Red Death. This game, while still good for what it is, is not really for someone looking to try the series out.

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