Dark Tales is a series of hidden object games created by ERS Game Studios and distributed by Big Fish Games. Based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the games allow you to play the role of friend and colleague to the master detective C. Auguste Dupin, and assist him as he travels throughout France solving mysteries based on Poe's works.
In the second game, The Black Cat, you and Dupin must solve the disappearance of Monsieur Mark Davies' wife Sarah. The investigation takes you throughout their estate, a puzzle- and contraption-filled mansion once owned by an illusionist. As the case progresses, the ghostly figures of Sarah Davies and a black cat seem to be following along.
In the third game, The Premature Burial, you and Dupin are summoned to help a despondent young man, Julien, whose true love Victorine was wed to banker Renelle Fore against her will. Victorine died very suddenly, and Fore had her buried so quickly that no one was able to pay their respects. Julien suspects something is very wrong - and it's up to you to figure out what.
In the fourth game, The Gold Bug, Dupin receives a letter from his dear friend William LeGrand, who has uncovered clues regarding Captain Kidd's treasure. However, there are mysterious figures standing between him and the lost pirate loot, and he needs you and Dupin to help him crack the clues.
In the fifth game, The Masque of the Red Death, Dupin receives a letter requesting his help in the city of Lumineaux, where you join him. A masked man with a bright red mask is killing off city officials, and it's believed that Mayor Prospero will be the next target. The people of the city are angry with Prospero, who has ruled with an iron fist for several years. The real question is, who is the most guilty and who will be the one who will face justice when the time comes?
A sixth game has been announced, based on The House of Usher. Dupin receives a letter from one Dr. Morris regarding the curse of the Usher twins Roderic and Madeline and their esteemed manor. Word of God says that Pluto, the titular ghostly Black Cat, is slated to make a return appearance in this game.
The Dark Tales provide examples of:
Adaptation Expansion: The first two games follow the ending of their original stories. The third and fifth games have their own stories, because of the nature of the original material; The Premature Burial was mostly a parody of Buried Alive stories, and Masque of the Red Death only had two named characters. The fourth game still has William LeGrand and the subject of searching for the Gold Bug, but there is now a mysterious masked man trying to kill LeGrand, and the African slave was replaced with a Newfoundland dog named Arthur.
Adaptational Villainy: In the short story Masque of the Red Death, Prospero was a man who held a masquerade ball for guests while trying to avoid the Red Death. In the game, he's a Mayor Pain whom the villagers despise. Inverted with the Red Death himself, as in the story he took the form of a plague that killed everyone, but is now a man wearing a red mask, killing the corrupt officials of the town and seems to be a hero to the villagers.
Addressing the Player: In most of the games, you enter your name at the beginning (to create the save profile) and it's never seen again. However, in the collector's edition of Masque of the Red Death, you visit your private office which is decorated with documents related to the previous games in the series, all of which have your name on them. There's also a personalized 'autograph' from Dupin.
Always Night: In Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat and The House of Usher.
Anachronism Stew: There's toy pandas in Masque of the Red Death and a bat balloon in The House of Usher. The time period these games take place is presumably the early 1800s.
Art Evolution: Compare Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Black Cat to the later games and you see a huge difference.
The CG model for Dupin in House of Usher is vastly different than the one in Masque of the Red Death.
Ascended Extra: Dupin, who only appeared in three of Poe's stories (Murders in the Rue Morgue was his debut), has been in all five cases so far.
Beary Friendly: In Masque of the Red Death, the bear is very friendly and helps you knock apples down from a tree.
Big Bad: Varies from story to story. Special note goes to Masque of the Red Death, where you have to be the one to decide whether Mayor Prospero or the Red Masque is more deserving of the title.
Bigger Bad: You'll only learn about them if you play the bonus chapters of the collector's editions, but three of the five games have The Man Behind the Man pulling the strings in one way or another.
In The Black Cat, the Davies' mansion was previously owned by a famous illusionist. A rival magician, with whom he had a well-known feud going, sent him a painting as a reconciliation gift. The painting actually had a terrible dark spell on it which drove the illusionist mad, and later drove Mark Davies to murder his wife.
In The Premature Burial, the cemetery's grounds-keeper is revealed to be the one who persuaded Renelle Fore to murder his wives.
In Masque of the Red Death, it turns out that Jacques Morro is playing both Prospero and the Red Masque for chumps so he can become the new Mayor of Lumineaux.
Big Fancy House: The settings for both The Black Cat and Fall of the House of Usher. Mayor Prospero's residence is shown to be this in Masque of the Red Death. Dupin also lives in a rather stately home, as seen in Murders in the Rue Morgue.
Blessed with Suck: The Usher twins in House of Usher feel pain of the other and can't leave Paris as their curse draws them back to their mansion.
Bragging Rights Award/Cosmetic Award: What your personal office in Masque eventually becomes filled with as you unlock the various achievements. House of Usher expands on this.
Brick Joke: In Masque of Red Death, the player character finds a message stating that animals have escaped from the zoo. Near the end of the game, a lion cub appears in Mayor Prospero's mansion, having escaped from the zoo.
Buried Alive: As hinted by the title, the underlying story of The Premature Burial.
Chekhov's Gunman: The dachshund seen in the beginning of Masque of the Red Death is used to chase rats away. It returns at the very end to scare away the lion cub - see Brick Joke, above - in the manor.
The old woman for whom you bake bread in Masque of the Red Death is only there to state how much of a jerk Mayor Prospero is. She ends up having a major role in the bonus chapter. She's Jacques Morro's mother, and she saw that her son was faking his death and was teaming up with the Red Masque.
Continuity Nod: The player character's office in Masque of Red Death has a wall of plaques, four of them dedicated to the previous games of the series.
The first journal entry for The Black Cat refers to the player character's adventures in Murders in the Rue Morgue.
In House of Usher, there's a black cat with a glowing red eye just like Pluto in The Black Cat. Whether or not it is Pluto is yet to be seen. There's also a statue of a dog that, when given life, resembles a Newfoundland like Arthur in The Gold Bug.
Creepy Cemetery: Unsurprisingly, one of the main settings for The Premature Burial.
Even Evil Has Loved Ones: In Masque of the Red Death, Jacques Morro has a sweet little daughter who loves him very much. It makes him being the Bigger Bad in the bonus chapter all the more jarring.
Exact Words: ERS Games stated that Dupin will have his shirt removed in the collector's edition of Masque of the Red Death. What they did not say was that this would happen when he gets shot in the chest by Jacques Morro. Fortunately, it didn't reach his heart and the shirt is only removed up to the left arm and chest.
Faux Death: In The Premature Burial, you learn that Victorine suffered from catalepsy, a medical condition which causes the sufferer to enter a rigor mortis-like state easily mistaken for death (at least in Poe's time). Her husband's previous wives had the same thing. It's the specific reason he married them.
Featureless Protagonist: The player character is never seen, has no dialogue wheel, and is only ever addressed as "detective" (or, by Dupin, as "my friend"). Some comments in Murders in the Rue Morgue indicate that the player character is male, but the developers elected to take a more gender-neutral approach to the rest of the series.
First Person Snapshooter: Utilized in Masque of the Red Death; one of the achievements you can unlock in the collector's edition is to take photographs of every scene you encounter. It also has a useful function, in that you can jump directly to a scene you've photographed by opening the map portion of your diary and clicking on the picture.
This returns in House of Usher, although you have a traditional map instead.
Foreshadowing: In Masque of Red Death, the guard you meet early on mentions that he has a sister. You meet up with him again as the first Red Masque because his sister, Amelia Durand, was sent to jail and he went to free her.
Gotta Catch 'Em All: In The Premature Burial, there are 33 roses that are scattered throughout the various scenes. You can collect them as you go or run around and get them all at the end, but they are needed to create the final Plot Coupon.
In the collector's edition of Masque of the Red Death, some of the achievements you can unlock in your private office are of this nature.
Happily Ever After: Suggested by the ending of The Premature Burial, as Julien and Victorine can finally be together.
Heroic Dog: Arthur in The Gold Bug, who is used to sniff out clues and is smarter than most dogs, given that he uses a hat to help carry a chick or sets an empty lantern near a patch of fireflies as a light source. The player also finds a dachshund to use as an inventory item in Masque of The Red Death.
Precious Puppy: Arthur's son, whom you save in the beginning of The Gold Bug.
Hidden Object Game: Most of the puzzles, especially in the early games, are of this type. The later games in the series have a wider variety of puzzles, but still plenty of hidden object scenes.
I Am Spartacus: The ending scene of the bonus chapter in Masque of the Red Death has Jacques Morro exclaiming that he wasn't responsible for the crimes but rather the Red Masque. After this, the mob tosses a bunch of masks into the air - one of them being the eponymous mask.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: In Gold Bug, the villain is practically within arm's reach of LeGrand when he fires his pistol... and he still misses. He acknowledges later that he's a terrible shot.
In-Game Novel: Not exactly, but close. The collector's editions of Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat, and The Premature Burial will allow you to save copies of Poe's original stories to your hard drive. The first two games require you to complete the bonus chapter before this can be done; Burial allows it from the get-go.
Insane Troll Logic: Some of the puzzles in earlier installments can make the player feel like this is what they're supposed to use. Almost none of the puzzles in Murders in the Rue Morgue have any instructions about how to solve them, leading to a bit of Try Everything.
Interrupted Suicide: In The Premature Burial, you and Dupin arrive at Julien's shabby apartment just in time to stop him from hanging himself.
It's Up to You: Dupin is the hero, but you're the one doing all the work. One diary entry in The Gold Buglampshades how the player character has do everything. Dupin notes that "we" must cut the shrubs in order to clear the path forward, and the diary snarks in response:
Diary Entry: And by we, I'm certain that he's most likely referring to me.
Late to the Tragedy: You and Dupin only get involved with a situation after something terrible has already occurred. Justified because you are detectives, not psychics.
Lighter and Softer: Masque of Red Death doesn't revolve around a plague, but rather has a vigilante with a red mask trying to take justice in his own hands against Mayor Prospero.
The Gold Bug is arguably lighter than the other Dark Tale games. Justified in that it's based on a mystery rather than one of Poe's horror stories.
MacGuffin Delivery Service: The Big Bad in Gold Bug finally realizes that he's not going to be able to solve the mystery surrounding Captain Kidd's treasure, so he just waits and follows you and Dupin.
Malevolent Masked Man: The man with the red mask in Masque of the Red Death combined with In the Hood. The same goes to the previous masked man in The Gold Bug.
Mayor Pain: Mayor Prospero in Masque of the Red Death.
Subverted in the bonus chapter. He was set up by Officer Rene Durand and police officer Jacques Morro, although it's never stated whether Prospero was really evil as he seemed to be.
Milestone Celebration: In-universe. Masque of the Red Death begins on the ten-year anniversary of Mayor Prospero's rule over Lumineaux.
Missing Mom: The victim's sister, in Murders in the Rue Morgue, has a small son who is despondent over his mother's disappearance. She turns up okay in the end and they have a happy reunion.
Mr. Fanservice: C. Auguste Dupin, as depicted in these games, is a handsome man in roughly his thirties, with blue eyes, flowing black hair, stylish dress sense and a nice physique.
Multiple Endings: In Masque of the Red Death, you can arrest either Mayor Prospero or the Red Masque. It ends with one sent to jail and the innocent party walking out of the courthouse. Of course, as the bonus chapter in the collector's edition shows, it doesn't make that much of a difference.
Nice Hat: Dupin wears an elegant top hat from The Black Cat onward.
No Animals Were Harmed: Naturally, given that it's animation, but there are some blatant examples of animal cruelty in these stories. The titular Black Cat was killed by the abusive Big Bad of that game, and the villain of The Gold Bug starts the game by throwing a puppy in the river. Luckily, he misses and the dog lands in a boat.
No Fourth Wall: Dupin looks at and speaks directly to you. Granted, the idea is that you are supposed to be a character in the game, but the result is still this trope.
Non-Indicative Name: The white cactus fish needed to save LeGrand in The Gold Bug. Lampshaded by the guy who gives it to you.
Once an Episode: Starting with The Premature Burial, each game begins with Dupin beginning to read a letter regarding the case in question.
Only Smart People May Pass: Invoked deliberately by Dupin himself in Murders in the Rue Morgue. When you turn up to help him solve the murder, he makes you first solve a series of puzzles in and around his home. These puzzles have nothing to do with the case at hand - he just wants to make sure you're going to be able to keep up with him!
Pandaing To The Audience: In Masque of the Red Death, the player character finds two panda toys as part of a painting...in early 19th century France.
Pixel Hunt: The Black Cat is probably the worst offender of this sort in the series to date. Some of the items in the hidden object scenes are dimly lit, partially concealed behind other items, very small, and/or strangely shaped.
Police Are Useless: This seems to be Dupin's opinion. During Murders in the Rue Morgue, he remarks that the officials will go through the motions, but rarely exert any imagination or special effort.
Precision F-Strike: The player character usually says "damn" when angered. Most notable is in the bonus chapter of Masque of Red Death when "that damn Morro" fires his gun at Dupin and wounds him.
Produce Pelting: In the beginning of Masque of the Red Death, there are villagers throwing eggs at a fountain of Mayor Prospero.
Production Foreshadowing: In The Gold Bug, the sound effects for hints and one of the music scores are both from the Maestro series that the company produces. The game published after The Gold Bug was the third Maestro game, Music From the Void.
Protagonist Without A Past: You meet Dupin when you decide to investigate the chilling murder in the Rue Morgue, but it's never explained why you decide to do that in the first place.
Red Herring: Your first suspect in The Gold Bug. Mike the gardener has a wound on his hand from using pruners, but his blood sample doesn't match that left behind by the perpetrator. Mike also works part-time at the gunsmith, but he wasn't the one who fired the shot.
And again in Masque of the Red Death; the first Red Masque is Perenn, the town guard. He disguised himself as the Red Masque to free the prisoners (one of them being his sister), but he isn't the one who killed the town officials.
Rule of Three: Seen in the bonus chapter of The Premature Burial. The main game indicates that Victorine is Fore's second wife and victim; the vengeful ghost seen throughout the game is that of his previous bride, Louise. The bonus chapter shows that Victorine was actually his third wife - he also killed his first wife, Laura!
Sealed Good in a Can: In House of Usher, the player unleashes a benevolent spirit called "The Reborn One", who is able to give life to statues.
Ship Tease: Arguably, between Dupin and the player character. He begins almost every case by remarking how happy he is to see you, he boasts to other NPCs about your skills, and one piece of dialogue in Murders in the Rue Morgue has him suggesting that he take you to dinner at the fancy restaurant you're exploring.
Dupin: Your presence gladdens me as always, my friend.
Shirtless Scene: The dashing Dupin gets a partial one in the bonus chapter of Masque of the Red Death. How and why he had one is another thing altogether. See Exact Words, above.
Solo Sequence: Although Dupin is right there with you most of the time (even though you can't usually see him), you get one of these in the bonus chapter of The Premature Burial. He takes the victims to make a full statement to the police, and leaves you to do the remaining sleuthing in the crypt.
Solve the Soup Cans: Many of the puzzles which aren't hidden object scenes are of this type, especially with regards to unlocking doors and otherwise removing barriers; it's simply not something you'd encounter in Real Life.
The Black Cat does at least give an in-game explanation that makes the puzzles plausible. The mansion you're investigating once belonged to an illusionist who was a huge puzzle enthusiast, so he incorporated weird tricks and contraptions throughout his home.
Spooky Painting: In The Black Cat, one of the hidden object scenes features a painting of the missing Sarah Davies. The eyes of the painting follow your computer cursor around the screen, and occasionally blink.
The trope is taken Up to Eleven in the bonus chapter of the game, where you discover that a demonic painting is responsible for Sarah being murdered by her husband, and also for the home's previous owner having gone completely insane.
Suddenly Always Knew That: In The Gold Bug, Dupin is particularly keen to have you with him because of your renowned skills in codebreaking and deciphering. These skills were not mentioned in the previous games.
Suddenly Voiced: All of the dialogue in the first two games appears only written onscreen. Starting in The Premature Burial, however, the characters have voice acting and improved animation.
Take Your Time: No matter what the game says about you needing to hurry up, there's no penalty for taking your sweet time in any situation. This is perhaps most egregious in the bonus chapter of Masque of the Red Death; first you must escape from a burning room, but the fire never actually gets any closer. Later, you have to run around to find medical supplies to save Dupin's life after he gets shot, without any ill effects no matter how long it takes.
Tarot Motifs: Justice plays a prominent role in Masque of the Red Death. You obtain a set of scales hung by a woman in a blindfold, and a puzzle involves rearranging some books so the spines create the woman in the tarot card.
Took a Shortcut: The games are usually good about this sort of thing, but this does happen in The Gold Bug. When you and Dupin are about to uncover Captain Kidd's treasure, LeGrand shows up literally from out of nowhere, declaring that he's fully recovered (he had been poisoned) and eager to join you on the final leg of the search. The trope comes in when you realize that you had to take a boat to get to where you are, and yours is the only boat tied up on the shore... so how did he get there?!
Torture Cellar: The locked prison cell in Murders in the Rue Morgue is revealed to be this. It's also implied that one of the prison cells in Masque of the Red Death is this, although the actual cell is never shown.
The Unreveal: The villain of The Gold Bug is not identified by name, leading a number of players to post in the forums that they didn't know who he was supposed to be. It's the concierge from the hotel - who is also never given a name.
Voiceover Letter: As noted above, most of the games begin with Dupin reading a letter which invites him to help solve the current case; as he reads, the letter writer provides a voiceover of the letter's contents.
The Watson: You! Although as the player you're the one doing all the real legwork, you still play this role to Dupin's Mr. Exposition.
Weather Dissonance: Seen in Murders in the Rue Morgue. It's pouring rain throughout the entire game... and a luminescent full moon is visible in the sky at the same time.
Western Zodiac: The Premature Burial has the player connect the dots to create six constellations of the Zodiac. In The Gold Bug, one puzzle requires all twelve signs be placed in order. Masque of the Red Death has a chest with a combination based on three zodiac symbols.
Whip It Good: You wield a whip during part of the bonus chapter of The Premature Burial.