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The Darkside Detective is a retraux point-and-click Adventure Game published in 2017 by Spooky Doorway.

Francis McQueen is a detective in the Twin Lakes police department tasked with handling cases involving the occult and other spooky nonsense, accompanied by the loyal but dimwitted Officer Patrick Dooley. Several of his cases involve the Darkside, the Dark World that presents a distorted reflection of reality.

The game features blocky pixel art reminiscent of games from the 1980s heyday of point-and-click adventures like Police Quest. Each case is a self-contained chapter that takes place at a single location, though plot points and characters recur.

The second game in the series, The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark, was released in April 2021, with seven new cases to solve.


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This game contains examples of:

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Season One

    General 
  • 13 Is Unlucky: The chapter selection screen is in the form of a set of McQueen's case files labeled as "Vol. 13".
  • Alien Sky: On the Darkside, the sky is full of sinister purple energies and Giant Flyers.
  • Bad is Good and Good is Bad: A feature of the Darkside. At one point, a denizen of the Darkside visiting the normal world tells McQueen that she's scared out of her wits because there are no Giant Flyers swooping through the skies, nobody is being pursued by shadow-men, and "nothing, and I mean nothing is on fire!"
  • Beard of Evil: As is traditional, the protagonist's Darkside counterpart has a goatee beard.
  • But Thou Must!: The game's settings screen includes a setting for "Police Corruption", which is "On" by default. Clicking on it changes it to "Still On".
  • Comically Missing the Point: Several cases begin with Dooley calling McQueen to the scene of an occult event for trivial reasons, having completely failed to register the significance of, for instance, the fact that an eerie glowing green train just pulled in at the station.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Dooley has tendencies in this direction, and runs his own conspiracy blog. Being Dooley, his conspiracy theories are things like "the moon is fake" (not the moon landings, mind you — the moon itself), "Columbus faked the America landings" (he says there's no evidence America actually exists, and Twin Lakes is actually in a secret location in the Alps), "the government is pumping dihydrogen monoxide into our homes", and "the government is a mass hallucination caused by chemicals put in the water by the government".
  • Credits Gag: The credits roll begins with credits for Francis McQueen as Detective Francis McQueen, Patrick Dooley as Officer Patrick Dooley, and "Vivian Moonman, very real actor" as "The Rest of the Cast". There's a credit for Gozer the Gozerian as "On-Set Extraplanar Entity". The credit for Best Boy is followed by one for "Boy Who Was Just Okay" and another for "Best Cats". There are also parodies of the standard legal disclaimers.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Nearly everything Agent McScream says is this, and usually ominous as well as cryptic.
  • Dark World: The Darkside, a dark and distorted version of the real world that lies beyond certain magical portals.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: News anchor Dick Brickman's default mode of speech.
    • "This is Twin Lakes FM featuring me, Dick Brickman, bringing you 'Dick Brickman Presents The Weather' with me, Dick Brickman."
    • "Dick Brickman here, reporting from here — the place I am — to you — wherever you are."
  • The Ditz: Officer Dooley. When he was a boy he wanted to be an astronaut until he realized astronauts have to go into space. As a man, his ability to put a coherent thought together hasn't improved much. At one point, he comments that he's never understood the point of fire alarms, since surely alarming a fire would only make it more dangerous. Half the time, he seems only vaguely aware that he's a police officer, and even when he can remember that he doesn't seem to notice anything weird about the stuff they deal with.
  • Funetik Aksent:
    • Officer Ghouley's Irish accent.
    • Members of the Plinkman family have an Oop North accent, rendered phonetically.
  • Geometric Magic: Geometric figures with mystic runes around the edges are a recurring way of achieving magical effects.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: McQueen can carry any number of useful objects in his pockets. Lampshaded by Dooley after McQueen puts an entire car hood in his pocket without apparent difficulty.
  • Informing the Fourth Wall: As usual for the genre, McQueen has a collection of phrases for when the player tries to use an object in a way that won't progress the story. Some of them are police themed, such as "Not on my watch!" and "That would be a rookie mistake." Each episode has its own variants, such as "That's no way to spend Christmas Eve!" and "Nobody's buying that as a solution!" in the Christmas Episode. At one point, he also addresses the player directly for a Recursive Reality moment. In the "Police Farce" chapter, after examining what turns out to be an entirely unremarkable mug, he remarks that he doesn't know where he picked up the habit of commenting on every item in a room.
  • Jerk Jock: Detective McKing, a handsome fellow who's never without an admiring female entourage and gets the lion's share of the police department's resources, but seems to spend all his time either bigging himself up (the filing cabinet in his office contains nothing but photographs of himself) or putting other people (especially McQueen) down. In the Christmas Episode, he takes glee in issuing a parking infringement to Santa Claus. It's suggested that his career success owes more to his connections (aka his marriage to the mayor) than to any actual ability on his part.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: McQueen has a pragmatic attitude toward making off with other people's stuff that might be useful later. (However, he disapproves of Dooley's suggestions on the subject of making off with stuff that might be worth some money.)
  • Medium Awareness: McQueen and Dooley occasionally show awareness that they're in a video game called The Darkside Detective, and lampshade things like The Law of Conservation of Detail and the difficulty level of the puzzles.
  • Merit Badges for Everything: It's a running gag about the Bloodwolves, Twin Lakes' scouting organization, that whenever Dooley's Bloodwolf pack are in a potentially dangerous or frightening situation (such as "lurking outside a dark, spooky cave" or "abandoned in the snow on Christmas Eve") one of them will note that there's a merit badge for that.
  • Mini-Game: Each chapter has a minigame in it somewhere representing a task such as rewiring a junction box, fixing broken plumbing, or picking a lock.
  • Mirror World: Whenever McQueen enters a portal to the Darkside, the Darkside location is flipped left-to-right from its Brightside equivalent (among other, sometimes more obvious, changes).
  • No Animals Were Harmed: The end credits report that no pixels were harmed in the making of the game, but some of the programmers did get carpal tunnel.
  • Officer O'Hara: Officer Ghouley has an Irish Funetik Aksent and wears an old-fashioned uniform of the time period when this trope was common.
  • Once per Episode:
    • Some kind of puzzle minigame.
    • McQueen and Dooley arriving at the entrance to somewhere dark and probably dangerous, and Dooley making some excuse to wait outside while McQueen goes on alone.
  • Pun-Based Title: Each chapter has one, playing on either a famous film name or a police-related phrase.
  • Punny Name: The inhabitants of the Darkside have names that are spooky versions of their Brightside counterparts; for instance, the protagonists' Darkside equivalents are Frank McScream and Patrick Ghouley. There's also mention of a Darkside city called San Frankensteincisco.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Dooley was assigned to the under-resourced and disrespected occult division because his flakiness got on too many nerves in the regular force.
  • Retraux: The game homages the style of 1980s point-and-click games like Police Quest and Maniac Mansion, complete with blocky pixel art. (The game's options menu includes, as all modern games' options menus must, a setting for video resolution. It starts at "High Def" and goes up from there — and every setting results in the same blocky pixel art.)
  • Sewer Gator: Twin Lakes is rumored to have them, although McQueen meets a tourist guide who claims to have invented the rumor because he suspected tourists were getting bored with the city's real monsters. Dooley later meets a real one.
  • Sickly Green Glow: Denizens of the Darkside are translucent and glow an eerie green.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: In the end credits, the standard This Is a Work of Fiction disclaimer is followed by a message from the government repeating that this is a work of fiction, "especially anything Dooley said", and categorically denying that the game has been created to distract people from the truth.
  • This Is a Work of Fiction: The game's end credits include a standard "This is a work of fiction" disclaimer, followed by a couple of paragraphs of worryingly specific clarifications about which aspects of the game are definitely fictional and nothing to be concerned about.
  • Visible Silence: "..." is McQueen's response when he's rendered speechless by one of Dooley's leaps of illogic. Also what Dooley says if you try to initiate a conversation with him while he's unconscious.

    Malice in Wonderland 
  • Alice Allusion: The case revolves around a little girl called Alice who has gone missing after going through a magical portal and getting trapped in another world.
  • Going by the Matchbook: One of the people McQueen interviews hands over a matchbook from the club he was partying at on the night in question. The club itself is irrelevant — except in that the nature of the club gives an insight in the the nature of the person—but McQueen later uses the matches themselves to throw light on the matter when the case takes a dark turn.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Dooley thinks the villain is very attractive. She has exactly the same featureless pixel art face as every other character.
  • Meaningful Name: When you encounter someone named "McPhiend" it's a safe bet she's got something to hide, even before you see how suspiciously she's acting.
  • Parental Neglect: Alice's father is rich but neglectful, leaving her in the hands of her nanny and initially completely failing to notice that she's disappeared.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The missing girl's nanny is quite firm that nothing at all mysterious or suspicious is going on, regardless of what the actual question she was asked was.
  • Verbal Backspace: When a witness mentions having visited a strip club called Belle's, Dooley remarks that he has happy memories of the place, then clocks McQueen's disapproving reaction and backtracks, claiming he has no idea what the witness is talking about. Something about bells?

    Tome Alone 
  • 15 Puzzle: A variation of the puzzle appears as a rewiring minigame.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The ghost of Enid Blyton disapproves of the other authorial ghosts haunting the library, saying that they're all terrible people like occultists, horror writers, and DIY fanatics.
  • Bookcase Passage: There's one in the Horror section of the town library, leading to a secret room containing the librarian's collection of contraband occult texts.
  • Busman's Holiday: McQueen and Dooley weren't even on a case when they came to the haunted library, they'd just dropped by so Dooley could return his library books.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: A calendar shows that it's October, presumably around Halloween time.
  • I See Dead People: One chapter features a boy who can see and hear ghosts. McQueen temporarily acquires the ability as well (and it becomes a running gag that he has to keep stopping to explain what's going on to Dooley, who has no idea why he's suddenly holding conversations with thin air).
  • Konami Code: A newspaper has the headline "Computer Stock Goes Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start". McQueen adds that he regrets having read it out loud, because it feels like a magical incantation to him and now he's going to worry about what it did.
  • Namesake Gag: Dooley claims that a portrait in the town library depicts Theodore Library, inventor of the library.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The trashy paranormal romance Guylight features a "reverse vampire" who can only come out during the day. (When McQueen queries how this can be dramatic, he's informed that there's a heartrending sequence in which the hero is unable to take the heroine to the prom like he promised.)
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": The password to the internet computer in the town library is apparently "1234".
  • Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue...: The trash can in the librarian's office contains a draft of a notice saying:
    Roses are red
    Violets are blue
    Your loaning rights are revoked
    Due to books overdue
  • See-Thru Specs: With the addition of the appropriate occult symbols, a View-Master toy becomes an artifact that lets the possessor see and hear ghosts.
  • Self-Insert Fic: Guylight fan Doris is said to write fanfic in her spare time; what kind isn't explicitly stated, but might be hinted at by her Guylight poster showing the heroine swooning in the hero's arms — with Doris's face pasted over the heroine's.
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    Disorient Express 
  • *Cough* Snark *Cough*: When McQueen mentions that he's not been on the subway much because he prefers to take a cab, Dooley's reaction is a cough that sounds a lot like "snob".
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: Near the beginning of the chapter, Dooley makes several attempts to persuade McQueen that they should blow the case off and head back to the precinct house before they miss out on a free donut offer.
  • Fauxtivational Poster: In an office in the Darkside, McQueen encounters a version of the classic "Hang In There!" poster where the kitten has been reduced to a skeleton.
  • Giant Flyer: One can be seen swooping through the Alien Sky of the Darkside.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: One of the passengers on a subway train that's suffered a detour into another dimension is a young man wearing headphones, who doesn't respond when McQueen attempts to question him. McQueen speculates that he might not even have noticed the situation the train is in.
  • The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: During an excursion to the Darkside, McQueen looks in a mirror and remarks, "Looking good, Frankie!" His reflection tells him that actually, he's been letting himself go lately.
  • Number of the Beast: The case takes place at the 66-6 St subway station. Lampshaded by McQueen as an appropriate place for spooky nonsense to happen.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: McQueen improvises an implausible disguise (featuring a fake beard fashioned out of mould) to impersonate his Darkside counterpart and get into a restricted area. Played with. McScream's superior sees through the disguise immediately, but gives McQueen points for initiative and decides to co-operate with McQueen's investigation because he's showing more signs of being capable of solving the case than McScream is.
  • Recursive Reality: At one point, McQueen is in the Darkside and finds a photograph, which he describes as showing you, the player, playing a video game in which a man in a trenchcoat is looking at a photograph.
  • Tempting Fate: A case where things actually turn out better than expected. If the player attempts to buy a subway ticket using the occult coin from the Darkside, McQueen says that there's no way in Hell it will work and he's going to do it just to prove the point. Not only does it work, the machine dispenses a valid ticket for the Darkside subway, removing an obstacle.
  • Third-Person Person: Old Tam the subway worker.
  • This Is Reality: When trying to obtain access to a shut down subway station, McQueen and Dooley consider leaping the ticket barrier, but decide their insurance won't cover it and they'd better crawl underneath instead; McQueen complains that police work doesn't include the fun stuff that happens in movies.

    Police Farce 
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Alluded to after McQueen accidentally breaks a section of air duct in the precinct house while attempting to mend it. He remarks that if anybody asks him what happened to it, he's going to claim it was broken by a maverick police officer crawling around inside the duct.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Dooley investigates a pile of magazines and announces that their owner clearly has an obsession with jugs. The game then displays a copy of Jugs magazine, featuring the tagline "Another lovely pair!"... and a photograph of two earthenware containers for carrying and pouring liquids.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: One of the things that can happen if you turn on the radio is a breaking news bulletin about the events McQueen is investigating.
  • Continuity Nod: When McQueen visits the holding cells, all the people in them are antagonists from earlier chapters.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: The whiteboard in the briefing room of the precinct house is covered in writing that proves on closer inspection to be the donut and coffee rota.
  • Foreshadowing: Among the items scattered about the place are a bucket of clay which McQueen describes as "no use to me right now" and a potter's wheel. Inevitably, there's a change of circumstances late in the chapter which makes both items vital to successfully closing the case.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Among the personal items various police officers have stashed in the precinct house's evidence room for safe keeping are McQueen's notes for a comedic video game about a pair of police officers who solve spooky mysteries.
  • It's for a Book: McQueen has watched the movie Ghost a lot, which he insists was research for professional reasons.
  • Mirror Monster: One of McQueen's unseen cases involved "a woman appearing in mirrors to other women who look exactly like her".
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: One of McQueen's unseen cases involved a "lycan-toupee", a wig made out of werewolf hair that turned anyone who wore it into a werewolf.
  • Playing Games at Work: Examining Officer Murakami's workstation at the precinct house results in McQueen remarking that Murakami has achieved a new high score in "whatever he's playing" (and Dooley complaining that he's never going to catch up when McQueen keeps making him work during work hours).
  • Retirony: Parodied. There's a retirement party for an officer who's retiring in three days. When he asks why they're not having the party on his last day, another officer explains that they didn't want to risk missing out on a party if he got killed two days before retirement.
  • Stealth Pun: The occupant of one of the police holding cells is a rat. McQueen explains that he's in protective custody for informing on his criminal colleagues.note 
  • The Television Talks Back: At one point, McQueen turns on the radio just in time to hear Dick Brickman present a breaking news report about the case he's currently working.
    McQueen: That's genuinely eerie.
    Brickman: Thank you.
  • Weirdness Censor: Possibly an attribute of gremlins, since at one point a computer operator comments that she can't figure out why the computer's on the fritz when there's a gremlin standing right next to her loudly nomming on the wiring.

    Loch Mess 
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: McQueen has no trouble accepting the existence of ghosts, gremlins, alternate universes, werewolves, lake monsters, etc., but he doesn't believe in Bigfoot, an inconsistency he immediately lampshades.
  • Bait-and-Switch: A monster tells McQueen that his dream is to make it big in Hollywood — not in a For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself, but as a make-up artist.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: When McQueen accuses Nigel of kidnapping Dooley, Nigel replies that that's a harsh word for luring someone to a remote place under false pretences and refusing to let them leave.
  • Brand X: The Twin Lakes summer camp is named Camp Site. McQueen reflects that this is better than the runner-up names, which included several variations on warnings like "Camp This Is Where You Die", and one name that features a double entendre about pegging.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: While visiting the Bloodwolves camp, McQueen makes a joke about the situation being "two tents", then attempts to explain it when he doesn't get a laugh. His audience is even less impressed with the explanation than with the joke.
  • Enfant Terrible: Emily, a sweet little girl who enjoys playing with fire and knives.
  • Identical Twin ID Tag: Barry and Larry look identical except for the colors of their shirts and one of them has slightly more hair.
  • Indian Burial Ground: The gate attendant at the camp ground claims it was built on the site of a massacre, and is haunted by the unquiet spririts of the Indians who died there.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: Bloodwolf Emily claims that Danger is her middle name. One of the other Bloodwolves retorts that it isn't, it's just what people always write on her paperwork.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: An enormous, green, non-humanoid monster apparently successfully disguises itself as a human with nothing but a wig. (Then again, the only person it needs to fool is Dooley, who is not noted for his keen observational skills.)
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": The password to the computer rig Dooley uses to scan for alien signals is "password". On learning this, McQueen says it's "as secure as it is surprising".
  • Scout-Out: Dooley is involved with a local scouting organization called the Bloodwolves. He mentions that they were originally affiliated with the Boy Scouts until "the mayor failed to pay the dyb-dyb-dyb tax".
  • Signed Up for the Dental: McQueen asks a monster what brings him to Twin Lakes, and he claims it's because the city has great dental — even though, as McQueen immediately points out, he doesn't have any teeth.
  • Stock Ness Monster: There is, of course, one living in one of the Twin Lakes.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Dooley's Bloodwolf pack go to attend a jamboree and arrive to find the campground deserted and hung about with signs saying things like "Welcome to the Jamboree! Don't worry about the fact that there's nobody else here!". Later, McQueen gets to read the correspondence between Dooley and the jamboree's organizer, which is signed things like "Nigel, a fellow Bloodwolf (no need to check that)" and, more ominously, "Nigel, a human being like you".
  • Tinfoil Hat: One of Dooley's conspiracy theorist colleagues believes that wearing a tinfoil hat will help keep the Man from tracking him down.
  • Totem Pole Trench: Used by three kids as part of a monster disguise to fake a Bigfoot sighting. (Played with a bit, in that they discover that they can't move around without falling over.)
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: By the time he winds up having a conversation with an enormous green lake monster, McQueen has become so blasé about supernatural events that he doesn't even comment on the fact, leading to the monster actually pausing the conversation to check that he's noticed that it's a talking lake monster.

    Don of the Dead 
  • Bait-and-Switch: McQueen discovers a "dirty magazine" — a worn and grubby copy of a magazine about household cleaning supplies.
  • Comically Missing the Point: There's a sequence where Dooley is traveling by himself, without McQueen, and meets several sinister and/or supernatural creatures without noticing anything amiss, before encountering an innocent group of maintenance workers and jumping to the conclusion that they're agents of a sinister conspiracy.
  • Contrived Coincidence: McQueen and Dooley are pulled off supernatural duty and sent to deal with a series of minor break-ins and disturbances because the rest of the force is busy dealing with a citywide riot. The minor incidents all turn out to be part of a pattern that leads to McQueen discovering the supernatural cause of the rioting. Lampshaded by Dooley.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: McQueen saves the city from a Zombie Apocalypse, but his achievement is brushed over because the authorities can't or won't accept the supernatural nature of the threat, and instead McKing is given a medal for saving the city even though he's blatantly unable to explain just what he did. Still, at least Dooley thinks McQueen is a hero.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: While exploring the Don's mansion, McQueen and Dooley see a chandelier and immediately note that it would do a lot of damage if it fell on someone. Sure enough, the main puzzle in the mansion involves a monster standing directly underneath the chandelier.
  • Grave Humor: The inscriptions on the headstones in the graveyard are punning homages to the game's lead programmers and designers.
  • Hurricane of Puns: A shop window has a collection of flyers posted in it advertising local businesses, all of which have names which are puns on musical groups: Haulin' Oats, Deaf Leopards, Fleetwool Macs, ...
  • Ignoring by Singing: Agent McScream, after he decides he's had enough and isn't going to help McQueen any more.
  • Implausible Deniability:
    • After accidentally setting the Don's mansion on fire, McQueen not only denies that he did, but that it's happened at all, even while he's standing immediately outside the burning building trying to persuade someone that it would be a good idea to leave before they catch fire too.
    • When McQueen pays a return visit to the shady shop owner Mr Wang, he denies being Mr Wang, and when challenged to say who he is instead, claims to be Detective McQueen.
  • Little Known Facts: All the placards in the natural history museum; for instance, a skeleton has a placard explaining that it's a plastic skeleton thought to be the inspiration for the more recent bone skeletons used by most modern humans.
  • New Meat: Officer Fresche Fish, who arrives for her first day on the same day as the city is caught in the grip of a Zombie Apocalypse. Two more experienced officers make a side bet about whether she'll live to the end of the day. (She survives.)
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: One of the city's notorious former inhabitants was the mobster Al Caphoney, who got away with many years of organized crime only for tacks evasionnote  to be his downfall. McQueen pauses in the middle of explaining all this to claim that any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
  • Odd Job Gods: When Dooley is trapped in a crypt with a gang of mafiosi, examining the statue in the crypt will produce the information that it depicts the patron saint of being trapped in a crypt with a gang of villains.
  • One-Word Vocabulary: The zombies can only say "Brains!" with a variety of inflections, but are able to convey meaning to anyone who knows the language.
  • Punny Name: The inscriptions on the headstones in the graveyard are punning homages to the game's lead programmers and designers.
  • The Remnant: The gravedigger in the cemetery took the job after crashing his plane there during the War. He doesn't get out much, and is apparently unaware that the War is over.
  • Scandalgate: Dooley decides there's something suspicious about a gate, and declares he's going to investigate until he discovers what secrets it's hiding. It's going to be Gategate.
  • Surfer Dude: The pastor.
  • This Is a Work of Fiction: McQueen pauses in the middle of telling the life story of the mobster Al Caphoney to claim that any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
  • Weirdness Censor: The incipient zombie apocalypse gets passed off as non-supernatural rioting by everyone except McQueen and the Pastor.
  • Who's on First?: McQueen finds an abandoned Magic 8-Ball. Dooley asks what it says. "'Ask again later.'" "Aww, but I wanna know now!"
  • Your Brain Won't Be Much of a Meal: When Dooley is trapped in a crypt with a group of zombies, they seem strangely uninterested in eating him. When McQueen asks one of the zombies why, she replies, "Brains!" (Which isn't that helpful, since she has a One-Word Vocabulary, but in this case the obvious interpretation might be the correct one.)
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The city's dead are reanimated as a side-effect of a sinister ritual.

    Buy Hard 
  • Air-Vent Passageway: McQueen gets to do some actual duct-crawling as part of a shout-out to Die Hard.
  • Brick Joke: The monster of the week is defeated by sending it floating away into the sky. Some time later (there are still a few problems to sort out even after that), the episode ends with a shot of Santa's sleigh flying through the air, and the monster floating past in the background.
  • Christmas Creep: McQueen complains that Dooley has been playing Christmas music in the squad car since Halloween, and Dooley says that he got a late start this year.
  • Christmas Episode: In December 2017, an update added a new chapter, "Buy Hard", in which McQueen and Dooley go last-minute Christmas shopping and end up having to save Santa Claus from The Krampus (and having his reindeer clamped by McKing).
  • Commercialized Christmas: A TV in the electronics store window is showing an ad in which Santa exhorts children to make their parents prove how much they care by buying expensive presents.
  • Consulting Mister Puppet: The cashier in the toy store has become delirious from long hours under the mall's artificial lights, and believes the giant teddy bear near the counter is holding him captive.
  • Continuity Nod: Several familiar faces are shopping at the mall at the same time as McQueen and Dooley.
  • Cutaway Gag: Dooley is surprised when someone mentions that the camp ground closes over Christmas. Cut away to his Bloodwolf pack, sitting outside a tent in the snow and wondering if Dooley is going to show up.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: After the Krampus has been defeated and Santa rescued, the "Case Closed" caption appears and the usual outro music plays — and then there's a shout for help from offscreen, and there turns out to be one more puzzle to solve.
  • Hint Dropping: Dooley sees something he likes in a shop window and tries to hint to McQueen that it would make a good gift. When McQueen is unreceptive to his first, relatively subtle, hint, he starts getting more blatant; his last attempt is a straight-up statement of what he wants that only qualifies as a hint because he says "Hint, hint" at the end.
  • Inflating Body Gag: The monster of the week is defeated by inciting an allergic reaction that causes it to swell up and float away like a balloon.
  • The Krampus: The villain of the episode, depicted as an anti-Santa who hates children and can be defeated with cookies and milk.
  • The Mall: The setting of the episode.
  • Mall Santa: The Santa at Twin Lakes Mall is abducted and replaced by The Krampus, who proceeds to spread chaos. This being Twin Lakes, it turns out he's the actual, real Santa, not just an old guy in a costume.
  • Perp Sweating: McQueen has to improvise an interrogation room at the mall because he can't leave to take the suspect back to the precinct house. Fortunately, the electronics store sells a desk lamp perfect for shining in a perp's face.
  • Photo Booth Montage: McQueen and Dooley do one in the photo booth at the mall, although the blank-face pixel art means you have to imagine the faces they're presumably pulling.
  • Religion of Evil: One of McQueen's unseen cases involved busting up the Brotherhood of the World's End, which worshiped a being called Gruel the End-Timer and sought to bring about the end of the world.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: The Krampus.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Dooley. His response to McQueen's sarcastic "Uncle of the year, here" is "Where? Do you think he could give me pointers?"
  • Saving Christmas: Santa is kidnapped and replaced by a malicious impostor, and after that's all sorted out, Santa discovers his sleigh has been clamped by a traffic cop with no Christmas spirit, and McQueen has to help him solve that problem too.
  • Something We Forgot: The episode ends with McQueen and Dooley remarking that they feel like they've forgotten something, and a cut to Dooley's nephew, who they tied to a chair when he was under the villain's mind control and is still tied up because they got sidetracked before they got around to untying him.
  • The Television Talks Back: A television in the window of the electronics store is showing Dick Brickman presenting a retrospective of the year's news.
    Dooley: I wonder if we'll get a mention.
    Brickman: You do not.
    Dooley: Aw, no fair.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: McQueen wonders if it's safe to leave Dooley's nephew unattended in the queue to Santa's Grotto, and Dooley remarks, "It's Christmas Eve in Twin Lakes, what could possibly go wrong?" before acknowledging that that was a foolish question. Magical mischief ensues soon after, with the Grotto at ground zero.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: After the Krampus has been defeated and Santa rescued, the "Case Closed" caption appears and the usual outro music plays — and then there's a shout for help from offscreen, and there turns out to be one more puzzle to solve.

    Polterguys 

    Baits Motel 
  • Genie in a Bottle: McQueen encounters a genie whose lamp has been found by a tourist staying at the motel.
  • Literal Genie: At the end of the chapter, Dooley remarks that he's having fun on his vacation and wishes he never has to go back to work. He's overheard by a well-meaning genie who attempts to grant his wish by trapping him in the Darkside.
  • Medium Awareness:
    • The Sassy Black Woman who runs the diner commenting that she'd be shrugging dismissively if the programmers had given her a shrug animation.
    • Another character remarking that it's a nice night to be standing around in case he's needed for a puzzle solution later.
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of the case, Dooley is trapped in the Darkside, and a caption appears saying "To be continued..."
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: A motel guest calls room service for a meal and is informed that the kitchen is closed "but not because of rats or anything like that". (It is in fact because of rats.) The guest remarks on the specificity of the denial.
  • Three Wishes: McQueen and Dooley encounter a genie who has to grant three wishes before it can return to its own realm.
  • Wasteful Wishing: McQueen encounters a genie who enlists him to ... encourage ... the genie's current master to wish for trivial things, because the genie is trapped on this plane until all three wishes have been used up.

    unsorted 
  • Circular Reasoning: One of Dooley's conspiracy theories claims that the government is a mass hallucination caused by chemicals in the water. Who puts the chemicals in the water? The government, of course!
  • Curse Cut Short: A character begins to offer the opinion that Twin Lakes' police are "full of sh—" but has to stop in mid-word to answer a phone call.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: Dooley believes in alien visitations and government conspiracies, but thinks germs are a made-up thing that only happens in movies.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: In a rare moment of self-awareness, Dooley describes McQueen and himself as "good-cop, how-is-this-guy-still-a-cop".
  • Hollow World: Dooley believes in several different Hollow Earth conspiracy theories simultaneously.
  • Lightbulb Joke: McQueen attempts to tell Dooley a joke about how many police officers it takes to change a lightbulb, but is defeated by Dooley's literal-mindedness.
  • Miranda Rights: When McQueen remarks that an enormous glowing portal they've just discovered is the number one suspect in the recent weird events, Dooley attempts to read the portal its rights, only desisting when McQueen asks him where he's going to attach the handcuffs.
  • Misspelling Out Loud: Dooley announces that his guard is up — "U. P. P., up."
  • Moon-Landing Hoax: Dooley believes that not only was the moon landing faked, so was the moon. When McQueen asks him who would do that, he explains that it was the inhabitants of the real moon, which is hidden behind the fake one.
  • Romance Cover Scene: At one point McQueen comes across a trashy romance novel with a standard heroine-and-shirtless-hero cover, except the heroine is Doris the elderly librarian and the shirtless hero is Dooley. An embarassed Dooley explains that Doris made him pose for it as payment for overdue library books.
  • You Put the "X" in "XY": McQueen is not much of a fan of modern gadgetry; he says of himself, "I put the 'no' in technology."

A Fumble in the Dark

    General 
  • Brand X: The chapter selection screen is in the form of a screen on McQueen's "Pineapple" computer.
  • Number of the Beast: The chapter selection screen is in the form of a screen on McQueen's computer, running V 6.66 of its operating system.
  • String Theory: The title screen shows a pin-up board where McQueen has laid out what he knows about Dooley's disappearance, with Dooley's photo and some other documents connected by red strings.

    Missing, Presumed Darkside 
  • Author Avatar: When McQueen attempts a technological seance to find Dooley, one of the wrong numbers he gets is the game's lead programmer, who refuses to give him any hints about what to do next.
  • Brand X: One puzzle involves a "JoyChild" portable gaming device, which resembles a Gameboy.
  • Fiery Coverup: One of the stallholders in the black market is Mr Wang, whose shady magic shop McQueen investigated in "Don of the Dead". When McQueen asks what happened to the shop, Mr Wang explains that it mysteriously burned down just before the police evidence team arrived to investigate McQueen's allegations against it.
  • Hugh Mann: Norm Bearson, who runs a stall on Pier 13, appears to be a bear dressed in human clothes, but is in fact — he asserts every other sentence — a perfectly ordinary human like yourself.
  • Lost in Transmission: McQueen manages to contact Dooley with a technological seance device, but the connection starts breaking up and then cuts out entirely right when Dooley starts explaining how to find him.
  • Motor Mouth: Devon the Bloodwolf speaks in long run-on sentences with no internal punctuation, suggesting that it's all coming out in a rush.
  • Mundane Wish: At the black market, a woman ponders what wish she'll ask for from a wish-granting automaton — wealth? world peace? — before deciding that what she most wants is a really big trifle.
  • Mythology Gag: A vacant shop in the black market has a "To Let" sign over the name of the former tenant, but enough is visible to make out that the former shop was named 'Spooky Doorway', which is also the name of the game's developer.
  • 13 Is Unlucky: A black market for dangerous magical artifacts is located at Pier 13.
  • Time Skip: A year has passed since the end of "Baits Motel". Dooley is still missing, and the Darkside Division has been shut down.
  • Yet Another Baby Panda: When McQueen goes on television to appeal to the public for information about Dooley's disappearance, his segment is immediately followed by a fluff piece about a squirrel that can do arithmetic.

    Twilight Years 

    Druid's Delight 

    Funfair Dismissal 

    Royal Fumble 

    Class of the Titans 

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