Of Evil and Darkness is an interactive visual horror novel from developer Jay Carvajal and publisher CinemaComics Entertainment. You play as Richard Wells, a family man and fisherman in the 1920s, and Matt Lawson, a paranormal investigator in the present day. In both timelines, you’re faced with an ancient evil set loose upon a remote island.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE A VISUAL NOVEL
This game is described as an “interactive visual novel.” When you hear the words visual novel, there are few common features that come to mind; character sprites, speaker boxes, text options, big branching endings. This game has none of that.
While breaking free of genre norms and trying out new things is important, these changes come to the detriment of the gameplay in Of Evil and Darkness. First and foremost, let’s talk about style. The lack of character sprites is not an issue, as characters are drawn into the variety of backgrounds – and there are a decent amount of different backgrounds. However, the text box does not contain speaker boxes at the top to tell you who is speaking. Instead, the speaker is stated within the text itself. Though this is not confusing, it quickly gets old reading “you say” and “he says” over and over again, instead of simply seeing who is speaking via speaker boxes.
The game is interactive, as you are given choices to pick from. While these choices do bring up new scenes and dialogue, most of them do not greatly impact the story. The biggest change you can make is being able to save one or two extra people and change part of an afterlife ending, but beyond that, the endings and the main characters’ fates are basically the same. In other words, you never feel like you have a big impact on the story, which negates the purpose of playing a visual novel.
Additionally, there are no options. You can’t adjust the text speed or the background music volume, nor is there a text skip button. The lack of a text skip button is especially annoying, as each route has about seventy-five percent of the same text as the others that you must repeat for each playthrough. There is not even a return to menu button or an exit button once you start a playthrough – you have to put the game in windowed mode and exit out that way.
EVIL UNLEASHED… AND UNKNOWN
Looking past the issues with the presentation, the story itself is interesting. You get to play the past scenario and see firsthand what leads to an ancient evil being unleashed upon the island that you live on, and you get to play the present scenario knowing all of those details. There is definitely a sense of horror in knowing you’re surrounded by water and cannot escape as you please, which is an intriguing take.
Unfortunately, the story does not have much build up or explanation. You are not given enough time with the characters to really care whether they live or die (one full route can be completed in around an hour and half, with replaying for other routes taking much less time than that), and much of the lore surrounding the monster is left out. You won’t find out what the monster is, where it came from, why certain characters summoned it, or why it wants to murder everyone, apart from a generic “I enjoy human suffering” type of explanation.
Skip to the verdict paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers.
I also ran into an error that completely took me out of the story. In one of the present-day routes, you can choose to take either Henrick or Jimmy with you to investigate. If you take Jimmy, his throat gets sliced and you then go into a flashback scene, after which Jimmy dies. During this, Henrick remains at the cabin. If you take Henrick with you, Henrick gets stabbed and Jimmy remains at the cabin, yet after I came out of the flashback sequence in Henrick’s route, Jimmy was somehow dead on the ground and Henrick was no longer stabbed and instead magically back at the cabin. I’m not sure if this is a choice branch coding error or a writing mistake, but it’s an error that immediately takes you out of the story.
Additionally, at the end of the past route, even if you manage to save your son and he is there as a witness to see who killed the townspeople, the present-day scenario starts the same as if he had died, stating that you were ruled the killer despite having saved a witness that proves otherwise and the son is not mentioned at all. This, again, goes back to how it seems like your choices do not have much of an impact on the story.
The Verdict: Fair
Of Evil and Darkness is not great in its current state. Though the story is interesting and there is a nice variety of background art, the choices do not have enough impact, there are not enough options, and the errors can completely take you out of the story. The price is low enough that you can probably afford to check out the story if it seems interesting to you, but I can’t recommend it at this time.