Set against the backdrop of the second world war, Black Dahlia is an ambitious game that takes its cue from such classic movies as The Maltese Falcon and Touch of Evil. Although the premise of this game is not new -- think Raiders of the Lost Ark -- the game uses largely historic facts to spin its web of intrigue, betrayal and horror. The game is named after Elizabeth Short, a young girl with dreams of stardom in Hollywood, who was found naked and severed in two in an abandoned lot in 1946. With ebony hair and known for wearing all black, Elizabeth was quickly coined the Black Dahlia by the press. Yet her story only makes up a small portion of the game.
You start the game as Jim Pearson, getting settled in your new office. Freshly recruited from University by the Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI, the precursor to the better known CIA) you are eager to get to work and start making a difference. However, when the case you are assigned starts to smack of Nazi involvement and Norse cults, your travels really start to heat up. You soon find out that your predecessor was working on the same case before he was committed. As you start to delve deeper, all clues seem to point to a connection with the Torso Murders, a rash of horrifying murders that have held the citizens of Cleveland in fear for almost a year.
Black Dahlia is played from a first person perspective with third person cut scenes. It combines full motion video with fully explorable 3D environments. The union of the computer-generated backgrounds and actors is seamless. It is hard to believe that a blue screen was the only stage used by the actors while filming. The game comes equipped with a standard point-and-click interface that adventurers know so well, but with some extra attributes. Different environments in the game are accessed quickly and effortless by right clicking and using the world map built into the game. This allows players to move back and forth quickly without having to backtrack. Right clicking the mouse brings up the world map, your inventory items and a notebook. I often keep my own notes when playing a game but Black Dahlia provides you with one. At different points throughout the game important clues are also automatically added to your notebook.
The graphics in Black Dahlia manage to capture a bygone era, from the posh penthouse suite of a suspected sympathiser to the clothes and hairstyles the actors’ sport. The conversation can be a little unrealistic, but the overall effect is not lost on the player. It all feel very authentic. The puzzles are the thing that will sour this game for many players. With the exception of a few, most are really difficult. There is no mid-way, the puzzles are either very complicated or a snap. I found myself frustrated with a puzzle on more than one occasion and walked away from the computer too frustrated to continue. I hate to admit it, but I had to use a walkthrough for a couple of puzzles that totally stumped me. So be prepared to put your thinking cap on.
Black Dahlia is an amazing in its scope, the story encompasses several years, 70 locations in the US and Europe, 50 speaking parts and over 3 hours of cinematics. It has 8 CD's and will take the average gamer over 60 hours of game play to finish it. Take 2 put millions into making this game and does it show? You bet it does. This is one of the most enjoyable games I have ever played, I enjoyed it from start to finish. However, this game is not for the faint of heart as the puzzles are extremely difficult. This game is more suited to an experienced player or an enthusiastic newcomer. So if you fall into either of these categories, get to your local game store and get a copy.