Black Dahlia

From Interplay and Take 2

Brief Description

You are Jim Pearson, a new member of the intelligence agency COI. Your first assignment is to find out more behind the invitation offered to a local business man, it looks like it might be Nazi related. Your predecessor left stuff throughout his office, why was he so involved in some of this weird stuff which has no obvious relationship to the case.

The time of the game is the early '40's. The game begins in Cleveland, though you will travel eventually. There have just been a series of horrific murders, the murderer is known as the Torso killer. His signature, so to speak, is to dismember the corpses and leave bits of the bodies around. You'll soon discover a link between your investigation and that of the Torso Killer, but who is the killer and how is he linked to your case?

This is a beautifully presented game, using a 3-D engine and full-motion video. The game story mixes a true-life murder case, a bit of conspiracy theory and a bit of mythology to create a very compelling story. The game spans 8 CDs (carefully arranged so CD swapping is minimised). The graphics are gorgeous, the music is wonderful and I like the actors in the game.

Game play and hints

The basic navigation of the game takes a little practice to grow accustomed to. If there is an arrow, click to move that direction or see a closeup of an object. If you hold down the mouse button and move the cursor to one side of the screen, you'll start "spinning" in that direction. I missed reading about this and was wondering why I wasn't able to get too far in the game. You'll need to remember to use this regularly, clues are not always in front of you.

Use Jim's office for practicing getting around in the game. There are hidden items throughout the game, Jim's office has a few of them. You should be able to find a gun and keys to a locked cabinet in the office. Once you have found and retrieved those items, you are ready to face the rest of the world.

At most times, you can use the right mouse button to bring up a separate menu. This includes your inventory, the 'world map', Jim's notebook, and the usual save/restore/exit menu. The most important items on that menu are the inventory, map and notebook. The inventory gives you a close view of what you are carrying. Sometimes you can turn objects around or fiddle with them. Also there is a special cursor for when you can move a piece of paper up or down. Always examine items in the inventory. The world map actually brings up a set of pictures that are game locations you can travel to. Sometimes the cursor is not active over one of those pictures, which means that there is nothing that you can do now. Jim sometimes takes notes down in his notebook. Usually, there is a short clip and you'll know that he did that. Sometimes there isn't a clip, so regularly check that book. You can also type in notes yourself, along with reading Jim's.

The start menu of the game includes new game, continue, restore, options, view intro or exit. If you exited the game before, you'll be able to use continue to pick up exactly where you left the game. Restore game if you need to go back and review clues or conversations from before (or start from a particular spot after you've killed Jim.)

Gripes about the game

Take 2 software have a real tendency toward producing games with amazingly difficult puzzles. Black Dahlia is no exception to this. Some of the puzzles are only difficult, some can be solved with a great deal of attention to detail and some are close to impossible. In fact, I find the puzzles so frustrating that I'll provide the cheat codes so you can by-pass the major puzzles if you wish.

Some of the puzzle are difficult because it is easy to miss the clue on solving the puzzle. Others, it is because you aren't quite sure what you are meant to do and there is no feedback until you get it right (oh, for another game where the character starts giving you hints after you tried a puzzle four+ times.) At least one puzzle, dealing with folding an invitation, would have been much easier with real paper. The folding was easy and straightforward, but the unfolding again was very difficult. Another puzzle that was unnecessarily difficult was one where you reassemble something. The game expects you to get exact pixels to line up using a mouse. Excuse me! If I need precise alignment, can't I have the keyboard? Nudging one pixel with a mouse is too frustrating.

Don't play with the bag of runes unless you stop with the runes in place every time. I left them scattered in the bag, then couldn't reassemble them after that. A few of the pieces were too hard to pick up again with the mouse.


The game is difficult and certainly has it's flaws. However, I enjoyed the unfolding story, I had a real thrill whenever I finished a puzzle. I'd highly recommend the game for atmosphere and the plot, I found it quite compelling. But be prepared to use a few cheats or spend a very long time playing this game.

Be warned, this game does include death of the main character, and a maze. I know some gamers hate such items, if you are one of them, you do not want to play this game. It's also a bit gory for playing with younger kids.

Some final thoughts on the game.

A cute Easter egg, spin Jim around in circles as quickly as possible. There are several other eggs in the game as well.

Apparently, there is a patch for this game which is supposed to solve some problems. Unless I install the patch, I'm not quite sure which it is supposed to fix.