Platform: PC, PS2, Xbox 360, Wii
Release date: June 20, 2008
Published by: Infogrames
ESRB: M (for mature)
The Alone in the Dark series has had a long and rich existence as a video game and Eden games with Atari has brought the adventure into the modern age, with the original character from the first game, Edward Carnby making a rather strange return, despite being old enough to be worm food. Set in a modern day New York City and predominantly around the city’s Central Park area, Alone in the Dark offers another slice of action adventuring for today’s gamers. There’s no real need to have played past games in the series (although the first four are highly recommended), as the action and story unfolds before you in such a way that this is a fresh gaming experience, and a distinct departure from the old school adventure games from the early days of PC and console gaming.
Alone in the Dark introduces the player the various game mechanics during the opening chapters, think of the first chapters at the tutorial for the rest of the game. An ingenious way of getting the player into the action without having to explain player controls in too much detail. Unfortunately the controls (especially for the Mouse and Keyboard) can be quite tedious and downright frustrating at times. I had to actually use my Xbox 360 controller in order to make the game playable at all. The driving mode in several levels is the most intuitive and easiest to play, considering the difficulties of the rest of the game, but hey how hard should driving be?
On the bright side, there’s lot of melee weapons lying around to pick up and use, and I guess what is really neat is being able to set fire to items and then temporarily being able to use them against foes that are only killed by fire. Alone in the Dark offers some shining moments of inspiration, and these come in the items management that are synonymous with adventure games of this ilk. Here you can pick up items such as first aid sprays, flammable liquids and mosquito sprays etc and then combine them with other items to create makeshift weapons. For example, a bandage combined with a bottle of spirits, fused with some sticky tape becomes a sticky Molotov cocktail. Luckily, you are able to use firearms (although I only discovered two pistols throughout the entire game) to dish out some punishment. When you wish to shoot, the view has to be changed to first person (pressing a button to do so) there’s no third person lock on with the guns and this makes gun combat equally as frustrating as the melee combat.
For the most part Alone in the Dark looks impressive, especially when wandering around the spooky fog ridden park at night time, or enclosed in a dark corridor with only a flashlight to keep you from being engulfed by the darkness. There’s some decent lighting and of course the realistic fire burning items is mightily impressive feat on a technical level. However it’s not all peachy, as there are some totally broken physics which create some game breaking bugs and glitches that should not have been allowed to pass the QA stage of the game’s development. The sound is overall reasonable, except the volume is set way lower than most games, and so you’ll have turn up your volume way more than normal. This isn’t such a problem but it highlights the fact that sound is sparse.
Alone in the Dark offers a lot of potential for replay value, but this is totally wasted because once you beat the game, there’s no incentive to try again. No unlocked bonus modes to mess around with and the only options you are left with are hunting down roots you might have ignored the first time round. I’ve been looking forward to Alone in the Dark for a long time, and having now played the game, there are some pure moments of excitement and some real intuitive gameplay ideas and scenarios that will have you sit back and say “wow that was quite clever”. Sadly it’s this that will be more shocking that any of the game’s enemies or dramatic moments. If you like the old school type adventuring, then this will most certainly have some appeal as you’ll also be fully used to clunky controls and horrid dialog. It’s a shame there isn’t more to do once the game has been beaten. Alone in the Dark is a good game, which falls short of being great based on the severe lack of polish. Let’s hope Atari afford Eden, more time to develop the game if there is to be another game in the series.