The Dame Was Loaded (PC/GOG)

(Review archived from April 30, 2018)

The Dame Was Loaded is a decent adventure game and a particularly nice example of FMV done right. What we have here is a classic hard-boiled detective story filled with wisecracking mooks and dames in snappy dress with even snappier comebacks. If you’re thinking Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe, you’re on the right track in terms of what The Dame Was Loaded is going for. And to that end it’s pretty effective! In terms of the bar set by most FMV games from this era, the acting in this title is actually quite good! This isn’t to say that we’re dealing with any Oscar winning performances either, but for the most part the actors here perform well enough. The dialogue is also well written and snappy which goes a long way towards triaging any occasionally middling delivery. In reading up on this game, I’ve seen several sources citing it as the ‘largest multimedia project produced in Australia’ at the time of its release. I’m not entirely certain of the original source of this rather vague statistic, and equally I’m not certain what metric was applied to conclude that it was in fact ‘the largest’ (By budget? By volume of content? Number of cast and crew? Size on disc? … nullPointer has questions). Unfortunately the sources I’ve seen never seem to explain it any further than that. But despite some fuzzy data collection, I suppose that this is noteworthy trivia about the game, especially considering the number of sources which seem to cite it as a statistic.

So this is a point & click adventure game of the sort that was very common among games from this era which utilized FMV for the explicit purpose of interactive fiction. Although where many FMV games from this era utilized QTEs as means of (or perhaps as a replacement for) pacing, The Dame Was Loaded really does owe more of its gameplay to classic point & click games (albeit first person in this particular case). So having a keen eye for on-screen details, prudent inventory management, and clever usage of items (occasionally in combination with other items) will all serve you well here. As you progress further along in this convoluted case of missing persons by way of a diamond heist gone wrong you may even find it prudent to take some notes, another hallmark from the golden age of adventure games. In terms of modern ‘quality of life’ improvements this game might have benefited from an automatic memo pad tracking any pertinent details of the case you’ve encountered. You’ll find that in your various interactions with people you’ll only be able to ask about any given topic/person of interest once, unless further discoveries are made in the meantime at which point the interviewee will respond with information about the more recent discoveries rather than repeating any of the previous details they may have revealed. As the case grows more convoluted, I’d say that having case notes on hand will be extremely beneficial. Sometimes your protagonist (Scott Anger) will make connections explicitly by way of spoken inner monologue, “… didn’t <so-and-so> mention a brown jacket like this?”, but often it will be up to you the player to connect the dots in order to truly crack the case. So if you’re on top of your investigations, most aspects of the game should be fairly straight forward. That’s not to say the game isn’t without some elements of moon logic though, and I’ll freely admit that I looked up clues in a couple of instances. At one point in the game you need to appear in disguise in order to investigate a hotel room. As it turns out there are several aspects of the disguise you need to have right before proceeding, and the game doesn’t really clue you in as to what constitutes ‘correct’. Among other things you’ll need to have noticed a bell hop uniform hanging in a dry cleaners (unrelated to anything else at that point in the game), and then you’ll need to forge a ticket to collect that uniform. I’m sure I missed some things along the way, but bottom line, don’t expect this game to always serve up easily identifiable solutions.

The obtuse nature of the case is somewhat compounded by an arbitrary time limit set at the beginning of the game in which you’re given a certain number of days to solve the case. At one point in the game this timeframe gets extended a bit, but it continues to be mentioned and loom like a shadow over the proceedings. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand I’m sure it’s intended as a means of establishing replay value (as well as increasing tension), but on the other hand and more crucially for me, “Hurry up and explore!” is just such a weird directive to have in an adventure game. It’s entirely possible to miss a lot of the flavor text and fun little additions when you’re rushing to meet this looming deadline. I find that some of the fun in adventure games is experimenting with the environment and environmental parameters, but this requires a more relaxed approach to gameplay.

Still, any quibbles I can find with The Dame Was Loaded are fairly minor. I didn’t have a lot of high expectations from this era of FMV gaming, but The Dame Was Loaded exceeded them in most regards. Recommended for adventure game fanatics; especially so if you have love for this classic era of detective stories as torn from the pages of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.






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