Release Date: Spring 2008
Two weeks playing an "adventure of dark mystery" sure does leave an impression, but whether it's a good or bad one is up in the air.
You start off in 1941 playing Jim Pearson as he begins his new job as a CIO agent investigating the Brotherhood of Thule, a group of Nazis situated in the United States. Your investigation leads you to believe your case is tightly involved with that of the Torso Killer, a gruesome case of psychotic murders plaguing the residents of Cleveland. As it turns out, everything relates to a treasured gem known as the Black Dahlia. It is said that whoever owns this black rock has the power to rule the world, or so they believe.
As your adventure progresses, you solve the case of the Torso Killer when America goes to war. Your position requires you to fly to Germany and fight for your country, but your previous case stays on your mind the whole time. You're quite surprised when you come upon the gem once more in a secret Nazi vault, but it is quickly stolen away from you. In pursuit of the Black Dahlia, and the suspected Torso Killer, you're led to Los Angeles where your quest sadly ends ... and what an ending! Trust me on this, you will probably never see an ending as good as Black Dahlia's.
Throughout your adventure you meet a wonderful bunch of characters acted out professionally by both big and small names. While Dennis Hopper and Teri Garr are a part of the cast, they're not playing in starring roles. Take Two's marketing department went a bit too far plastering their names all over the box and advertisements. The small-name actors did excellent jobs even compared to Dennis and Teri, some outperforming them in many areas.
What brings Black Dahlia down are its puzzles. Poorly developed and way out of place, these puzzles are littered everywhere and most are very difficult, if not nearly impossible, to beat without a cheat or hint. Even veteran adventure gamers will need a walkthrough by their side to help keep their sanity. Another aspect I loathed were the two labyrinths situated in the middle and near-end of the game. The first one we run upon is not so bad, but the second one is just so painstakingly difficult and boring that I took a break from the game for two days and had to force myself to pick up where I left off. Once the maze was completed and all objects needed were taken, I once again enjoyed the game.
Technology-wise, Black Dahlia shines. Full-motion-video scenes make up most of the game, while a 360-degree navigational system is used to move around and to solve most of the puzzles. Inventory is accessible through a right click, which brings up the menu where you then highlight "inventory" and click to open. Your inventory screen shows the highlighted object and lists the other objects your carrying. You can interact with most inventory items and also have the option of using the item on a character or another object if possible. Most times the inventory proves intuitive, but in some cases, there are not-so-obvious moves that need to be made but are missed on first glance.
Take Two really took its time to make sure Black Dahlia is as realistic and with-the-times as possible. Each scene and location is very convincing and successfully recreates the United States as well as Germany in the 1940s. Packaging is well looked after with great CD and box art. Documentation is thorough and helpful.
Another down side to Black Dahlia is the few bugs crawling around the eight CDs. Less than one month on the shelves, Take Two has released a patch which fixes most of the known problems. One more annoyance is the lack of a chance to restore your game just before you were killed. Such a pleasure would have improved the final score of the game. However, if you stick to the classic adventure game rule, save early and save often, you should be all right.
Black Dahlia has all the potential to be a classic adventure game like Curse of Monkey Island, but a few flaws keep it from achieving such a goal. Take Two should have thought twice about some of their puzzles and made the game interesting and fun the whole way through. A large drop in the middle of the game is a serious dump on the entire experience. However, Black Dahlia is definitely worth a try for those ready for its challenging puzzles.
Final Grade: C+