Alone in the Dark

Classic gaming franchises are subject to much scepticism when a new version is announced. Sonic the Hedgehog being the classic example of this, so it was with some trepidation that I set off to review the “new” version of Alone in the Dark (AITD). The series began in 1992 and is actually widely regarded as the first survival horror game, indeed it was the first game to feature polygonal characters on a pre-rendered backgrounds, a technique that still exists today.

As always you are Edward Carnby, but surely he can’t be the same person, after all the first game was set in the 1920’s and this is in modern times. You know very little about yourself at the start of the game because, as is par for the course in horror games, you have slight amnesia, this does clear up a bit during the games though. You wake up in a room with some other people intent on killing you but within a few minutes the horror is unleashed. I must confess this has to be the best opening twenty minutes I’ve ever seen in a game, the building you are in begins to break apart seen from inside and out and you have to make good your escape. The visuals are astounding here as the building crumbles around you and fire and explosions rock the place to its foundations, during this you have to avoid the calamity and solve some puzzles but nothing too taxing. At this point in the game you are playing blind, with no compass, guns etc and when you finally do escape it is a bit of a shock to see the credits roll. This however is a nice touch, each part of the game is split into episodes and then chapters which you can play in any sequence you wish, the last chapters are locked though so you don’t spoil it too much. You are free however to skip about as much as you want. If you stop playing and go back to the game later you are treated to a “Previously in Alone in the Dark” montage, the likes of which you would see on Lost and further enhances the T.V. series feel the game has.

When the next episode kicks in, after a mad taxi ride through an apocalyptic New York (yes there are drving sections too), you gain a P.D.A. where you can receive messages, make calls, navigate, find hints and so forth which does help the flow of the game. One of the best features is the inventory system which is done as if Eddie is a flasher! A press on the D-pad and Edward whips open his coat to reveal all the items he can carry; first aid sprays, glow stick, sticky tape, gun, batteries, torch etc. Many of these items can be combined to make variants for example combining tape with a glow stick will create a light you can stick anywhere, combine flammable liquid with your gun to make fire bullets really quite genius. You can also throw explosive liquid at the enemies and shoot it to make it explode, it works really well kicking in a bullet time effect to give you time to (auto) aim. There are several variations to make, the best using the flammable liquid for some bombs, the versatility on offer makes it quite good fun to muck about inside your coat seeing what you can come up with.

The staple of a horror game should be the enemies and here there are some worthy of your attention but some that look like the tea boy made them. The main enemy in the game is the Fissure, large cracks that appear on walls, the ground anywhere in fact and if they catch you will swallow you up, you can escape from them and also shoot them with fire, but I found that it is best to just run away. Other enemies include the walking dead and weird bat type things, all can be shot and beat up but they wont die unless you burn them with the realistic looking fire. Fire plays a large part in the game and much attention has been lavished to ensure that is behaves like real fire, wood in the way? Find a fire, ignite a stick or chair, transfer the fire to the wood-door clear. It really is some of the best in-game fire ever. The puzzles in the game largely consist of blocked doors, electricity cables arcing in your way or joining wires together, none of them are too hard and as a result keep the game flowing nicely.

There is a story in game regarding good and evil and a mystical stone that you receive. Characters join you and interact with you, but I must confess, I am aware of the story going on but haven’t really paid that much attention to it. I have been enjoying playing the game and I’m sure many will berate me for largely ignoring the nuances of the story but it shows that you can pay attention to what is going on or just play it as a horror game without missing too much. That accusation could be levelled at many games though, I just don’t really pay attention to stories, sorry developers!

A few bugbears though, you can play the game in either a first or third person, but sadly neither are as refined as they should be so you will find yourself alternating quite a bit. Some of the characters suffer from wax skin syndrome which is a great shame as the game looks so good in other places. As a whole it plays really well but I’ve found that if you play an episode then go away for a while and come back for the next one it works so much better. Movement at times can be tricky but a switch between third and first views usually sorts this out, aiming can also be fiddly but not to game ruining extremes.







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