Sci-fi Ghost Story: Story Analysis of Dark Fall Lights Out

In a stormy sea town somewhere in Europe, a man tosses and turns in his bed.  Strange visions haunt his dreams, visions of a lighthouse.  Strange voices, with no apparent source, echo through his mind as the weather storms outside, casting flashes of light on the paintings in the small hut.  And then, with a jerk, the man wakes up.  Three short raps…someone is knocking on the door…

Who be knockin'?

Who be knockin’?

Background

Dark Fall: Lights Out is the sequel to Dark Fall: The Journal.  It is a point and click adventure game created by a man known as Jonathan Boakes, and was released in 2004.  Much like its predecessor, Dark Fall: Lights Out mainly consists of collecting objects, reading journal entries and other scraps of paper, and solving puzzles.  The only primary difference from its predecessor is the setting, replacing the old spooky hotel with a spooky lighthouse.  Its story has almost nothing to do with The Journal, aside from some of the characters being mentioned (one of them plays a role in Lights Out, but we’ll get to that later).

But whereas The Journal was a fairly straightforward ghost story, Lights Out is not.  Sure, it may start out that way (what with the eerie disappearances and all), but by the end of the journey Lights Out becomes something much more memorable than is predecessor.  To me, this is what makes Lights Out a far more interesting game.

So here we go on a journey to the seaside town of Trewarthan.

A brief note: everything described in this analysis comes from the Director’s Cut version of the game, which in my opinion is the superior version.

The Mission

Lights Out casts you in the role of a young man named Benjamin Parker.  After a sleep plagued by strange visions, he wakes up to a knocking on his door.  But opening it reveals no one outside, save for one man who seems more interested in the ground.  He mutters about some lighthous being cursed, not noticing Parker’s presence.

Going back inside, we take a look around.  Inside a small folder are some sketches, presumably Parker’s.  Next to the folder is a small bound book.  Opening it reveals that it is Parker’s diary.  He describes how he has been sent here to map the coastline, and doesn’t hide his negativity on the idea.  He feels that his job out in Trewarthan is just a waste of time, and hints at a troubled relationship with his father.

Parker's journal.

Parker’s journal.

He also describes how he saw a light out at sea, indicating some kind of lighthouse.  He says that this is strange, because there is supposedly no  lighthouse anywhere on the map.  But what is of significant note in this journal is that the night after, he says he had “the dream again”, which indicates that this dream we saw him having in the beginning movie was a recurring one.  He describes something like a comet, a bright flash of light cutting through the night sky in his dream, just like all the other dreams.  It’s some sort of strange metallic canister.  “Perhaps one day, I will know,” he writes.

But this dream is different as well, because of the added detail of a lighthouse.  Parker conjectures that it might be the result of his observation earlier that day.  Parker also talks about his patron, a Mr. Demarion.  It seems Demarion invited Parker to have breakfast with him, and it is here that we are thrown into a flashback scene, as the pages of the diary fade away to reveal a small kitchen.

With no one else in sight, what else is left to do besides what we always do in point and click games: rummage through everything in sight.  In a small storage closet, we find a journal with something peculiar inside, a floppy disk.  This isn’t unusual to us, but considering that this is 1912, it is very strange indeed.  It bears a bold logo for a company called Hadden Industries, a name some might remember from Dark Fall: The Journal.

Dark Fall Lights Out (8)

In this journal, Demarion describes how he found this strange object on the rocks by the Fetch Rock lighthouse (that supposedly doesn’t exist, but we know of course that it does).  He also describes finding a strange cavern underneath the rocks of the lighthouse, and that spending any time there caused him to feel strange and somewhat sick.  He describes hearing some strange unearthly pulse, something he could only describe as “the devil’s heartbeat”.  The journal ends mid-sentence, implying that Demarion hasn’t finished it, or didn’t want to.

Looking around the house, we find more notes, one from the housekeeper lamenting if Demarion’s guest turns out to be one of those “vegetablearians”.  We also find a little machine used for viewing photos, including some of the totally-not-real lighthouse (I’ll drop the charade now).  Walking outside and into the outhouse reveals a couple of scraps of paper in the toilet which give us some rather strange details.  Apparently the rocks around the lighthouse are changing size somehow.  In the note, Demarion also remarks that he’s getting too old to keep doing this and that he should enlist the help of someone younger and more adventurous (wink, wink).

Following this scene, we flash back to Parker’s diary, where he describes the event leading up to him being left alone.  Apparently, upon mention of the lighthouse, Demarion looked almost deathly ill, and simply left without saying much aside from “I will be back by nightfall”.  After he leaves is when Parker decides to go rummaging around the place.

Back in the present, we leave the hut and after moving a little further we are beckoned inside a dark doorway,  Inside, Demarion reveals that yes, there is a lighthouse, but he didn’t want to expose Parker to the superstitions of the townspeople.  Some believe the place is cursed, and that it should be avoided.  He also tells us that a ship passing by the lighthouse noticed that the lamp was not lit, something he says none of the three men manning the place would allow.

And so Demarion entrusts Parker with a mission.  He wants Parker to go to the lighthouse and find out what has happened there to the light and to the three keepers: Oliver Drake, Robert Shaw, and James Woolf.  After this scene, provided we got what we need from Parker’s journal, we can leave the town via a tiny boat at the dock.

As the scene fades to a montage of clouds, we hear a reading of the poem “Flannan Isle”, a poem about a real world event very similar to the event in the game.  You can read the entire poem here.

Fetch Rock

And so here we are.  The adventure begins.

Dark Fall Lights Out (10)

The lighthouse is quiet.  After flipping on the emergency lights, we go inside to find no one present.  But, something is still here.  Some shadowy figure keeps stowing away into the shadows as we move into the boiler room.  After a quick puzzle the power is restored and we can venture higher into the lighthouse itself.

I should mention the blowers as well.  These were the mode of communication in old buildings like this, and are similar to the tin cans on a string kids would make as little improvised telephones.  They would produce a whistling sound if you blew into them.  But pick up any of them here, and you’ll get strange ghostly chatter, with such messages as “get out” and “he’s waiting for you”.

The Blower.

The Blower.

As we walk up the long staircase higher into the lighthouse, we are stopped by some kind of ghostly apparition.  We can’t see it, but it seems to be the ghost of Robert Shaw.  Questioning it reveals that something happened to Drake.  He went mad, and seemed like he was possessed by the devil himself.  Shaw’s ghost laments that he tried to protect young James.  Then the ghost fades away and disappears.

Going upstairs brings us to the crew kitchen.  Nothing much to see here, aside from a meal still cooking on the stove, and a strange picture of four buttons with numbers under it which reads “Drake’s room”.  Heading further upstairs takes us to the bedroom, where we find a letter from James to his girlfriend.  He talks about how Drake became erratic and how he and Shaw became afraid of him.  He describes how they ran from him, and when he turned around to face Drake, Drake became engulfed in a blinding light.  He felt a name whispered to him, the name “Malakai”.

Dark Fall Lights Out (14)

The letter goes on to talk about how James was saved by Shaw, as the next thing he knew Shaw was kneeling over him slapping him awake.  He had barred the door with a dresser to keep Drake out.  They plan to send for help, but before they can Drake apparently comes back up the stairs.  The letter ends abruptly with James describing the glowing light under the door…

Going up to the top of the lighthouse reveals a locked door and a ladder into the lamp chamber.  There’s nothing of interest in the lamp chamber, so we unlock the door with the code we found earlier for Drake’s room.  Drake’s room is orderly, and his journal lies on the desk.  Opening it reveals that Drake had a dream, the same exact dream Parker had.

He describes it just like Parker did, but with one difference.  Where the strange object falls, the water is full of reeds.  Drake writes that he remembers an etching of a scene similar and decides to look for it.  He also describes some unknown “he”, saying that this person is lost and afraid.  He feels for this person, but apparently knows he means no good for Drake.  Further along into the journal his handwriting suddenly changes as Drake apparently just snaps.  He rambles and raves about his “master” and the plans he has for the other two keepers.  He also dotes on Parker in a rather creepy way, how everything has to be “right” for his arrival.  Apparently there’s some task that this “master” of Drake’s needs Parker to do, but Drake doesn’t reveal what it is.   The journal ends with “I see you, Parker” scrawled across the page.

Oh good, I was worried that I wasn't going to be stalked by a crazy person in the shadows.

Oh good, I was worried that I wasn’t going to be stalked by a crazy person.

Searching further in Drake’s room reveals a hidden switch that unlocks the bottom drawer on his desk.  In it is a strange drawing of some unknown canister with colored boxes and numbers above it.  Another drawing shows the way into a tunnel underneath the lighthouse.  Looks like we know what our next destination is.

Nothing else can be found in Drake’s room at this point.  There is a strange locked door in his closet, but it requires a four digit code with a prefix letter that we don’t know.  We leave Drake’s room and head back outside.  Climbing a ladder behind the lighthouse takes us along a rickety wooden path.  Down below with the rocks, we find a hidden entrance that leads into a cavern with stacks of crates lying around.

“Over here…” a voice keeps whispering.

This isn't dark and foreboding at all...

We enter a small tunnel and reach a dead-end.  But before we can turn around, the tunnel is lit up with a rainbow dance of geometric lines as some strange whooshing noise whips past our ears.  The colored lines run down the rock wall for a moment, and then vanish.  Turning around, we are surprised to discover that the cavern has completely changed.  The crates have disappeared, and there is a giant puddle of water lining the floor.  But that isn’t all.  Emerging from the cavern to the outside, we discover that the entire place has changed.

Well this isn’t good.

Man Out of Time

A quick look around reveals that this is present day 2004, nearly a century in the future.  Fetch Rock has been transformed into a tourist attraction, but with an approaching storm the place is now closed for the day.  We pop into what is called the Discovery Centre, where we find a laptop with a device hooked up to it that allows us to find out what exactly is on the floppy disk from the beginning of the game.  Inserting it reveals that it contains a recording of otherworldly chatter.  Since nothing intelligible can be heard, we can move on.

Welcome to the 21st Century Parker.

Welcome to the 21st Century Parker.

After scrounging around for the code to the gift shop, we enter it and find some of the books on sale.  One in particular, “Horror at Fetch Rock”, catches the eye.  In it we discover what happened in the aftermath of the Fetch Rock incident.  Apparently Parker was blamed for the whole thing.  Demarion completely covered up his involvement in the incident, and placed the blame on Parker entirely.  Parker has since become a legend, since he disappeared along with the three keepers.  We also discover clues to the code of the closet in Drake’s room, but can’t use them because as the book says, it was removed shortly after World War One.

Dark Fall Lights Out (22)

We also find a letter from Polly White, a character from Dark Fall: The Journal.  She writes the people taking care of the place, asking if she could perform a ghost hunt.  She believes that she is the reincarnation of James Woolf, and that he has a message for her.

Continuing down into what used to be the boiler room shows how the place has been trussed up for tourists.  Boards line the walls with details of the incident (as told by history and Demarion) and details into Parker’s life himself.  Parker had never been happy with his chosen vocation, feeling forced into it by his father.  This helped feed into the idea that he was somehow responsible for the disappearance of the keepers, even though we know that’s not the case.

There’s also a creepy mannequin version of Parker, that seems to mysteriously shift stances if you look away for a second…

We also find a backpack with a camera and the journal of Polly White.  Apparently the organization maintaining the place saw fit to allow her in for the night.  She talks about how she underwent hypnotic regression and discovered a past life as James Woolf.  This experience made her want to learn more about the incident at Fetch Rock, and that took her here with some fancy gadgets, including a pair of goggles that allows her to see energy from the past.  She talks about how she had a lot of experiences in just the first few hours, but laments how the place has been altered for the tourists.

The last pages of the journal are oddly blank…

The only other thing of interest is the tape of Polly’s hypnotic regression.  No new information is presented, but there are a lot of references to a “fourth man”, some kind of unseen presence in the lighthouse.  Perhaps this “master” that Drake spoke of?

Dark Fall Lights Out (26)

The upper floors of the lighthouse have changed significantly.  The crew kitchen is now just a glass box with a staged recording of what Woolf and Shaw may have been doing before they disappeared.  It’s a cheesy little scene where they talk about how dangerous the fog is before quieting down as “someone” is coming up the stairs.  It’s eerily similiar to the scene James described in his letter.

Continuing up further we hear someone further up the stairs and find a dropped page from Polly’s journal.  Apparently, she saw Parker enter the gift shop.  We look through the keyhole of what used to be Drake’s room.  Polly is inside.  “I know who you are, Benjamin Parker,” she says with a warning tone.  But we can’t really interact with her at all.  She simply slides a piece of paper under the door with a map.  A weird symbol is drawn on it that points to the Discovery Centre, so that’s our next destination (I really wish more had been done here with Polly, it seems like a waste since you could question the ghost in the 1912 part).

Going back to the Discovery Centre we find a pair of goggles which, as Polly’s journal informs us, allow us to see the energy of the past.  If you walk around in this time period and use it at certain spots, you’ll trigger ghostly apparitions that will sometimes speak to you.  They don’t say anything important to the story, mainly things you’ve heard before, mostly about Drake and his being possessed.  But if you use it on the radio in the discovery center after you fiddle with the knobs for a bit (which requires that you find the missing one first), you’ll hear a strange echoing voice that taunts you, calling you “map man”.  Who this voice is we can’t be sure at this point, but we’ll discover that later.

Transcending Time

If you use these goggles on certain pictures, you’ll discover that they transport you back to 1912.  Since there’s little to be done in the 1912 section besides experiment with the goggles, we’ll jump forward to when you use them on the wall behind the boiler.  We could go to a different area, but we’ll save that one for last.

After transporting we find ourselves in the lighthouse, but it’s ruined and flooded.  We go through a hole in the wall which leads to an area lit by red light.  Explosives sit next to the hole in the wall for some unknown purpose.  Going forward leads us to some kind of shaft.  It looks like the only way is down.

Dark Fall Lights Out (27)

Climbing down a long ladder lands us on top of an elevator.  A badge is nearby that reads “Gerard Magnus”, an employee of the D.E.O.S corporation.  Climbing into the elevator opens up into a strange hallway.  And it is at this point that we realize we’ve gone further into the future.

The hallway is constructed entirely out of metal, and looks like something straight out of a science fiction show.  Metal crates line the hallway, and on one of them is some kind of tablet that holds the journal of Maria Ortega.  In it, she talks about someone named Hart, and how he was feeling depressed because he lost the latest probe.  She also talks about Gerard Magnus, and how he’s been acting extra creepy lately.  This is starting to sound familiar…

Dark Fall Lights Out (4)

If we pause in the next long hallway, we notice that the entire place we are in is built underwater.  Continuing onward, we crawl through a vent until we end up in a storage room.  This leads us into a dark hallway.  We can go several places here.  Following one path leads us to some kind of infirmary room. where a strange human figure is lying in a bed.  He is glowing, with lines across his body that look strikingly similar to the lines we saw in the cave under the lighthouse when we got pulled into 2004.  A glowing man…sounds a little like how James described Oliver Drake doesn’t it?

We have the technology...to make him glow brighter than a 10000 watt light bulb.

We have the technology…to make him glow brighter than a 10000 watt light bulb.

Heading down the other path in that dark hallway leads us to our most pertinent information in this era.  It is approximately the year 2090, almost two centuries after Parker’s time.  A display mounted on the wall reveals that D.E.O.S stands for Deep Exploration Of Space.  They (along with Hadden Industries) build probes to explore the deep reaches of space.  They built four probes, but its the last one I want to call your attention to, the one that this man Hart apparently lost.

Its designated name, was “Malakai”.

So now the pieces are starting to come together.  Malakai was apparently the fourth of its kind, a probe built to explore deep space and in particular study something known as “dark matter”.  It was outfitted with an advanced artificial intelligence (AI for short) and had some top of the line equipment that would allow it to transport itself anywhere, and apparently, any time period as well.  It was equipped with a device that could generate energy from almost anything.  But something went wrong, as there is no data on its mission results.  And as we already know, a man named Hart blames himself for losing the probe.

Dark Fall Lights Out (32)

Continuing on we find the personal rooms of the people who work here, but no one is in them.  They’re all missing, a rather familiar trope at this point.  In Taku Mitsuyo’s room, we find her journal detailing the theft of objects.  She suspects Magnus as he has been acting really weird lately, but when she tries to use the fingerprint database, she finds it has been wiped.  She discovers a backup, and uses a birthday party as an opportunity to collect fingerprints.  A confrontation between Hart and Magnus occurs at the party, and something goes terribly wrong afterward.  The power goes out, and Mitsuyo’s journal simply trails off.  Apparently she never managed to find the culprit.

Checking on the other people’s rooms reveals that some of them are locked, and Magnus’s simply says “removed” on it.  Corbin Hart’s room is the only one of interest here, as he was apparently the lead on the Malakai mission.  Inside his room we find some pieces of paper describing how Hart feels terrible over the failure of the mission.  He also states that Malakai was showing dangerous signs of intelligence before the mission began, which would imply that the probe became somehow self-aware.

Also in Corbin’s room is a recording from his children.  In it, they talk about a dream they’ve both had, about Corbin being chased through a darkening lighthouse by some unseen monster.  We know that there was a lighthouse at one point, but it’s gone in this time period.  It gets really creepy when one of the children tells the other “it’s not a monster, it’s a machine”.

The only other thing we find inside Corbin’s room is a key of some sort, bound to the backside of a tiny model sailboat.

One of the personal rooms in the D.E.O.S. facility.

One of the personal rooms in the D.E.O.S. facility.

At one end of the long hallway is the kitchen, where we can complete Mitsuyo’s little detective mission.  Reading the log she left in the kitchen reveals in more detail the confrontation between Hart and Magnus.  Magnus is quoted as saying, “he is calling to me.  He is with us”.  By collecting a fingerprint from a cup on the counter with a piece of film paper, we can take the print to her room and scan it into the computer.  This reveals that the culprit is none other than Gerard Magnus.  Once his image pops up on the screen, the strange echoing voice returns.  “None can understand,” it says.  The voice also implies that Parker is somehow different from the others, namely Drake and Magnus.  So who is this mysterious voice?

If we go to the other end of the hall from the kitchen, we can enter a room using the key from Hart’s room.  In here we find a mission log, detailing the back and forth between Hart and the Malakai probe.  Apparently something went wrong during the mission, and valuable parts of the probe became damaged, namely the Keeper Protocols, which would keep Malakai in check and not allow it to do dangerous things.  Malakai attempts to jump back, but fails and simply disappears from the scanners.  Without any response, Hart simply says goodbye.

The final page of the mission log.

The final page of the mission log.

So what happened to Malakai exactly?  To find the answer, we must go back to 1912 and open the locked closet door that Drake had in his bedroom.  But before we do, we should head back to the infirmary for something unusual.  The glowing body on the bed has mysteriously disappeared.  Was this the body of Gerard Magnus, all aglow in an unnatural rainbow?  All signs seem to point that way, as Mitsuyo’s second log in the kitchen references Magnus as glowing when she was on her way back to her room.

The Final Era

Back in 1912 we unlock the closet door in Drake’s room using the code we learned from the book in 2004.  Inside is a small storage space with a strange etching of reed-covered waters, an etching Drake himself mentioned in his diary.  Using the goggles on it transports us to the final era of the game, Prehistoric Fetch Rock.

 

Dark Fall Lights Out (38)

Like the other time periods before it, no one is here.  There are signs of dwellings and cooking, but no one is here.  Continuing past the village takes us to a familiar location among some rocks.  We again find the cave that we entered in 1912, but this time the cave allows us to go further into the tunnel.  It’s no longer blocked off.  And in the chamber on the right we find a metal canister lying on the rocks.

This is Malakai.

Dark Fall Lights Out (39)

In Drake’s diary he mentions that in the dream the strange object falls among reed-covered waters, which is what inspired him to find that etching.  So now we understand what must have happened.  Malakai attempted to jump back to the D.E.O.S. facility after being damaged, but ended up here in prehistoric times by accident.  With no communication and no guidance, Malakai felt alone.  Drake’s journal also mentions this, saying “like a lost child he is scared of the loss of guidance, and fears for his young mind”.  So Malakai had to come up with his own solution, and that’s when Parker entered the picture, thousands of years later.

For some reason, Parker is different.  We know this from the strange voice that spoke to us after we scanned the fingerprint in 2090, which was apparently the Malakai probe.  He was able to understand Malakai better and wasn’t driven insane by it, unlike Drake and Magnus.  Malakai uses Parker to help him get back to his own time, and that’s where the final puzzle comes into the picture.  Clicking on Malakai opens up a computer screen with a set of coordinates, date, time, and four symbols that we need to enter correctly.

Since much of the final part of this game is just searching for the required pieces of Malakai’s ignition sequence, we’ll skip right to the end when you enter the correct sequence.  The machine chirps and the voice echos into Parker’s mind.  “My Parker is my savior,” it says.  “Now all time is yours”.

The probe ascends through the roof into the sparkling sunlight.  The scene suddenly shifts and dissolves back to the lighthouse.  The lamp is now lit, and it cuts through the dark fog, spinning round and round it its chamber.  The screen fades to black.

Final Thoughts

For me, a game like this is a rare one.  Its story is unique in that it starts off like a typical ghost story, but ends with an almost scientific explanation of events.  We still don’t know some things, like what Malakai encountered that damaged him in the first place, but it really isn’t important in the long run.

The game never really explains what happened to the people, or why some of them were glowing, but I have a theory on that one.  I believe Malakai, possessing the power to generate energy from almost anything he could imagine, used the people in various time periods as a means to generate power to keep himself going long enough to lure someone in to help save him (namely Parker).  The glowing bit was probably some kind of byproduct of said process.

The story actually ends up feeling almost like an old episode of a Star Trek show, dealing with themes of artificial intelligence and what it means to be human.  Malakai became a self-aware AI, and after he was cut off from his guidance (namely, Hart), he panicked and reacted in a way a frightened child would, with anger and frustration.  He used whatever he could to try to return, regardless of what it did to others.  Even at the end, Malakai doesn’t seem to really care all that much about what happens to Parker.  He just wants to go home.

And a lighthouse is such a cool setting, to me at least.

A lighthouse is such a cool setting, to me at least.

For me, I liked how these strange ghostly forces or powers turned out to just be an incredibly advanced piece of technology.  It’s never explicitly stated this way, but it is heavily implied by the story.  The technology Malakai wields is never really explained either (psycho-babble unexplained technology is a common thing in science fiction), but the implications of it explain a lot.  It explains why Demarion noticed that the rocks were changing size.  It could explain the fates of the keepers as well as everyone else who disappeared.  It also explains why everything that occurred seemed so paranormal.  Such an advanced piece of technology would seem supernatural to anyone from a past time.

But most importantly its an engaging story that makes you want to see the end of it.  The complex mystery it weaves, and the atmosphere it generates is excellent, and I would recommend this game to anyone looking for a laid back but atmospheric adventure game.  And I highly recommend playing the Director’s Cut over the original version.

And that’s all for this week.  Another long piece, but I hoped you enjoyed it nonetheless.  Tune in next Wednesday for another post.

 

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One thought on “Sci-fi Ghost Story: Story Analysis of Dark Fall Lights Out

  1. Pingback: Story Re-Analysis: Returning to the World of “Dark Fall: Lights Out” – Rumination on the Lake

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