Alone in the Dark (5) Review. The darkness is coming, can you improvise to survive?

Alone in the Dark (5) on Xbox 360Alone in the Dark is the latest game (#5 if you’re counting) in the series of the same name that dates back to 1992. It was released on June 24th in North America for the Xbox 360 (which is the version I’m reviewing) and PC with a PS3 version to be released “soon”.

There is also a version for the Wii & PS2 that was released on the same day as the other versions, except those versions are different and were created by a different developer (Hydravision Entertainment as opposed to Eden Games). As such, you can assume the PS3 version will only differ from the contents of this review slightly with better graphics and the possibility of a few new features (downloadable content has also been mentioned as well as a “Collector’s Edition” package). Don’t, on the other hand, use this review for the PS2 or Wii versions. As for the PC version, the contents of this review should be the same.

Now that that’s out of the way, I really struggled with the rating of Alone in the Dark; whether or not it was worthy of the rating I’m giving it. However I believe that Alone in the Dark is one of those rare games that does a complete 180 from the saying, “Better than the sum of it’s parts”. Alone in the Dark’s parts are better than it’s sum. Therefore, I feel in many ways that Alone in the Dark is not worthy of a “great” review score, BUT (and it’s a big but) the game simply has so many cool ideas and so many great “parts”, that I feel the game deserves to be called “Great” because of that.

I have to really give kudos to the developers. They really, really tried to make a great game. Not only a game that makes you go, “Whoa!” on many occasions, but even a game that makes you think “Man that was genius” or “Dang, I don’t know if I’ve seen that done in a video game before” and Alone in the Dark is filled with many of those moments.

Alone in the Dark (5) logo

System: Xbox 360
Also On: PC and soon PS3. Wii & PS2 version also available but they differ.
Released: USA June 24th, 2008 – EU June 20th, 2008 – AUS July 3rd, 2008 – JAP: N/A
Genre: Action Adventure Survival Horror (3rd & 1st Person hybrid)
Players: Single Player Only
Save: 4.5 MB per file
Developer: Eden Games (Wii & PS2 versions by Hydravision Entertainment)
Publisher: Atari
Origin: USA
Rating: M for Mature because of: Blood & Gore, Strong Language, Violence

The developers have done so much right, that you want to love Alone in the Dark. At the same time, the developers did so much WRONG, that you want to hate it. It’s quite the paradoxal conundrum, and I can’t think of the last game that gave me quite this mix of feelings and emotion. But I feel they are all in the wrong places. The very fact that I am reluctant to call the game great is evidence of the fact that the negatives bring down the whole experience. But (there’s that word again!) I truly believe that the game is not destroyed because of it.

Sadly though, in many parts it almost was (I nearly did not pass the second chapter because of a glitch and the fact that each time it ended in my death which means I literally played the driving section through the city like 50 times. Not even kidding) but in the end, I still feel that the game experience was worth it and it had many great moments.

Maybe that’s the best way, in my opinion, to define Alone in the Dark, “Many great moments, but don’t expect a thoroughly great experience.”

This is a typical gameplay screenshot from Alone in the Dark

Story

“Something is about to happen . . .”

The 843 acres of Central Park are hiding a terrible secret. Built in the mid 19h century by an international cartel of influential men, the park was create dot provide a safe haven. It seems afteward, tht it was not only for the people of New York, but for something else of a different nature entirely. Succeeding generations of guardians have protected the truth, keeping the vast parkland untouched at all costs while the most powerful and expensive city in the world reaches skyward. Now the truth can no longer be contained.

Over the course of one apocalyptic night, you must uncover the earth-shattering secret behind Central park. Push the frontiers of death and search ancient powers. This ultimate journey towards the menace will confront you with the ethical question of good and evil. Your choice will reveal to you who you really are . . .

Alone in the Dark’s story involves the demonic forces of Lucifer himself and your character, Edward Carnby’s quest to uncover who he is after he wakes up one fateful night to a horror of hellish demonic forces whose “roots” are tearing apart the city. As is always the case, that leads to a much larger tale involving the “Bringer of Light” and a holy relic . . .

Sadly, you will be fighting shoddy animation (clipping problems a plenty. Watch for the environment, you may just get stuck on it! And if you are in a car, double that), flat-out bad design (I have to fight these bosses and you gave me NO useful items to do so? Where’s the health? What do I do now?), and sections that you will have to repeat and repeat ad naseum until you are so frustrated you may just put (or throw) the controller down and walk away before you see the end of the tale.

But to their credit, Alone in the Dark actually features an awesome system that gives you the ability to NEVER get stuck and still see the ending of the game . . .

In only one of many very cool, unique and original features, Alone in the Dark has a DVD-style Menu System, that you can access in-game by pressing the Start Button or via the Main Menu before you jump into a game.

The reason they have this features is because Alone in the Dark is built in an “episodic TV show” framework. The game is divided into “Episodes” and each episode features multiple chapters. Within those Chapters are multiple Sequences which are further divided into various segments (think of each segment as a “scene” in a TV show or movie) and it’s these parts that can be readily skipped on the in-game DVD-style Menu.

Screenshot of the Alone in the Dark DVD-Style Menu

In fact, not only that, but the game actually allows you to jump into any Episode you like at will
. Not only from inside the game, but even from the Main Menu, where you will find an “Episodes” option. Selecting it will display all the Episodes in the game as well as each Chapter and you can freely cycle between them and start which ever one you like.

And the same can be said for the in-game DVD-Menu. When you pause Alone in the Dark, you’ll first see the Pause Menu which gives you these selections: Options (Audio, Display, Controller Configuration and Storage Device), Save Game, Load Game and Quit. On the right side you’ll see the DVD-Menu (press over on the Control Stick or D-Pad to switch to it). Here it shows which buttons on the Xbox 360 controller correspond to the DVD-Menu controls. They are:

Left Bumper: Skip Sequence Backwards
Left Trigger: Skip Part Backwards
A Button: Play Scene
Right Trigger: Skip Part Forwards
Right Bumper: Skip Sequence Forwards

To skip to the next or episode simply hit the Bumper or Trigger until it goes to the next Episode. You then simply hit the A (or “play”) Button, it’ll ask you to confirm (you will lose any previously saved data) and then off you go, skipping ahead or backwards.

It really is an ingenious system and I’m surprised that no one has really done it before. Because of it, you’ll never get stuck and anyone can play the game to it’s conclusion or simply play any other part of the game that they’d like to play (which is great for showing friends your favorite parts, of which there are many).

Naturally, there is a drawback to skipping scenes. You won’t unlock any Achievements unless you play a Chapter through to the end without skipping a part. So really the core gamers won’t lose out because they are the ones who are most likely to care about unlocking Achievements to increase their GamerScore, and that can only be done if you don’t use the DVD-style Menu.

The “TV show” like influence doesn’t stop there either. Each episode is built so that it ends in a “cliffhanger” (a term that means excitement is built and abruptly ended before you get to see the conclusion) to keep you playing and wanting to see what will happen next. And I must say that it works quite well.

Last, but not least, if you have quit a game and select “Continue” from the main menu to start playing again, you will see a “Previously on Alone in the Dark” TV Show-style recap that will show you what events lead up to the Chapter you are on. These video recaps are really cool and put together well. In fact, you’ll probably want to Quite out of the game each time you beat a chapter so that you can select “Continue” from the Main Menu and watch the Previous Episode recaps. At least, that’s what I did. If you enjoy that kind of thing then they are definitely worth checking out. If not, then you can simply Continue on after beating a Chapter and it won’t be exposed to the recap. You can also Skip the recaps (but not other in-game cut-scenes, which is only one of my many annoyances with the game) by hitting the X Button.

So what kind of game is Alone in the Dark? I think it’s best described as an Action Adventure game with horror elements. In actuality, Alone in the Dark is true hybrid if there ever was one, as it truly features many elements and can be played in either the First-Person (seeing through Edward’s eyes) or Third Person (More of a behind-the-back perspective). You can switch freely between the two perspectives with a tap of the Y Button. You’ll also encounter other camera angles including a sort of top-down perspective from time to time.

You can burn wood or other objects - Alone in the Dark Screenshot (Xbox 360)

Alone in the Dark is an action game because you will fight many enemies and wield not only Blunt Melee Weapons that you can pick up in the environments (almost any environmental object can be used, from Chairs and Pieces of a Wall to pipes, axes, baseball bats, fire extinguishers or even swords) but also wield a pistol that you can bring out at any time to shoot enemies from close up for far away (it comes with a laser sight).

It’s an Adventure game because you will constantly run into various puzzles where you must use the environment and your items to figure out how to get out. In a lot of ways it’s almost in a typical Survival Horror-style where the game is broken down into many “rooms” and each room has a specific puzzle to solve.

However, that’s not entirely accurate either cause the game also features an open environment (once you get into Central Park) where you can freely move anywhere you like with no restrictions within that environments (but to progress in the story you will obviously have to head in the right direction. So there’s no “point” to wandering around except to look for Items or vehicles).

The game is also an “Action Adventure” because it has a jump button (rare in survival horror games) and this button is used in many occasions to leap over platforms or onto hanging ropes. But don’t you dare call the game a platformer, that it most certainly is not. But hopping from one platform to another is definitely a part of the game as you explore the environments. And while exploring you can also climb onto walls and hang from ledges; which you can shimmy across hand by hand while hanging to reach other parts of the environment.

And like all survival horror games (which are a sub-set of the Adventure genre) puzzles will also come into play on many occasions. However unlike Silent Hill and Resident Evil, Alone in the Dark features puzzles that mostly involve interaction with the environment and clever use of your in-game inventory in a way that separates it from the aforementioned survival horror stalwarts and makes it a must-play if you are one who loves puzzles. As the game features some real head-scratchers (two of which took me well over an hour to figure out). Unlike Silent Hill, these are not the types of puzzles which require pen and paper to figure out, but, as mentioned, are more environmental and item interaction puzzles. Which is a definitely breath of fresh survival horror air if you ask me. And block-pushing is no where to be found (though you will occasionally push or pull objects, but not for long).

The main goal of Alone in the Dark is to make your way through the various environments and to the end of the chapter. Along the way you will battle enemies, solve puzzles and unravel more of the game’s storyline, typically through cut-scenes (which are all done using the in-game engine, which also means you can pause them. Although you cannot skip the scenes . . . though you could skip the whole part if you wanted). Naturally, you will also fight a few bosses at the end of some chapters.

You will also meet with various characters throughout the game. Although this is not a game where you talk to them by walking up and pressing a button or scrolling through text (all talking is audible), instead characters will simply be there and speak to you and will continue speaking whether you stand there to listen or not. Or you will have a partner character that cannot be controlled (by you) but will follow you around and occasionally make comments.

The biggest claim to fame in this newest Alone in the Dark has been it’s fire effects, or rather the way you can play with and manipulate fire, and likewise the way you can combine various items to create unique weapons. And that is an aspect of the game that has rightfully been discussed so much because it is indeed one of this game’s many highlights.

The item combining doesn’t really come into play until a few chapters in and doesn’t really expand until after Episode 2. Furthermore, you won’t really be required to use many of the combination until later on in the game where you will start encountering puzzles that will really put your mind to task and require you to experiment with items in ways you haven’t done previously. To that end, the knife, for example, doesn’t show up until about half-way through the game.

As mentioned previously, you can switch freely between third & first-person perspectives and you are pretty much required to switch between them as some things can only be performed in first-person, or quite simply are easier to control in one of the two perspectives. You can almost exclusively play the game in first-person and you will probably end up preferring it given that you have to switch to first-person in order to shoot your gun. But either way you’ll want to get used to playing in both perspectives as switching between them is a fundamental aspect of Alone in the Dark.

As previously stated, you will often encounter enemies that you will be required to battle. For the human-like enemies enemies you encounter you will generally want to fight them using blunt-weapons that you can pick up in the environment as previously stated. To swing a blunt weapons you use the control stick. Holding a direction will cause Edward to hold that item out in front of them (or to the side or downward) while making a right to left motion will swing the weapon horizontally (You can swing from either the right or left side). Finally you can swing the weapon overhead by making a down to up motion on the right control stick. This swing is generally more powerful and you’ll definitely want to swing that way when using axes, for example (you know, to make that chopping motion). I actually found the blunt combat system to be pretty fun. Although it is true that enemies will often attack you before you can get in a swing, and it can be somewhat unwieldy as sometimes Edward will hold the item out instead of swinging it like you meant to do.

Fire comes into play in many ways, not only when combining items but also as a fundamental object of environmental interaction. The main use of fire is to kill possessed human-like enemies. You can kill one (they aren’t zombies by the way) with blunt force or via your gun, but they won’t truly die unless you use fire. They will simply get back up after a certain period of time and you will have to knock them out again.

To achieve ultimate possessed-human death, you will often come across fire blazing away in one portion of the room. After knocking out a possessed human, you can then drag their body with the A Button and “dump” them with the B Button (B is always used to drop items, weapons or possessed knocked out humans). Naturally, dragging them to the fire is one way to dispose of them. Although it’s not the most efficient method. In fact, dragging is quite cumbersome as the controls for controlling Edward while dragging are a bit awkward (he cannot drag or rather “push” the body forward, for example, you must either slowly turn around or drop the leg and go up to the front of the body to drag the arm) and you will need to use the right stick to move the body from one side to the other in order to actually get the body into the fire.

The right stick is always used to “move” items to the left, right or toward when Edward has them in his arms (and you are using the third-person perspective, as it can’t be done in first person).

Burning with fire is fun! (Alone in the Dark Screenshot)

So how else can you use fire then to dispose of enemies? Oh let me count the ways. There are many ways to use fire in Alone in the Dark, as the developers considered it one of their trademarks for this game as well as a technical achievement to have “realistic” fire. To that end, fire will literally burn almost any object that is made of wood (exceptions being certain objects that are part of the environment such as the wood that makes up a wall and that kind of thing). This means that while you can feel free to swing that rake to knock out the enemy, you would probably be better served by first LIGHTING IT ON FIRE and THEN swinging it at the enemy, which will kill them in one hit.

Fire is the enemy’s enemy, and whenever you can use it it is almost always going to be to your benefit. And all enemies will die in one hit if you can get them into contact with fire.

That was probably the developer’s inspiration for the item combining in the first place . . . Because a large part of combining items is to create fire . . . or rather an explosion.

Creating items is a huge part of Alone in the Dark, and once again it is another part of the game that the developers were immensely proud of. And rightfully so, it is definitely one of the coolest systems I’ve seen and it’s a lot of fun to experiment with different item combinations.

This isn’t Resident Evil item combining. This is REAL item combining. You aren’t simply mixing a blue herb with a green one to create an herb that heals poison. You are pouring fuel on bullets to make “fire bullets” (all the better to burn possessed humans with, you see). Beyond that, you are taking an empty bottle, mixing it with fuel, using a napkin to create a wick, and then throwing it to create a Molotov Cocktail (you can either shoot it in mid-air to create a bomb, or light it first using your Lighter and having it explode upon impact). The number of weapons you can create is quite high, although there aren’t as many as you may think there are (almost all of them are explosives).

But either way it’s still a totally awesome idea, made even better by the fact that double-sided ‘sticky tape” is one of your main items, and this allows almost any two items to be combined (for example, stick a Glow Stick onto a Molotov Cocktail to make a glowing bomb). And the other cool thing is just that, almost any two items can be combined for a number of “improvised” weapons that make battling more interesting for those who want to explore it instead of just shooting and fighting the “traditional” way. And naturally, explosions are a great way to take out groups of enemies in one shot.

Just make sure you don’t get hit by the explosion yourself, you must keep your distance or you can die just as easily as your enemy. Realistic yes, but annoying in the sense that you are many times limited because you simply don’t have the distance to create an explosion, so you’ll opt instead for melee combat or your gun. Not to mention you will often fight in environments that are more closed off than open. Though I’d say open environments are the majority.

Combining items isn’t limited just to explosions either. You can also make a few other interesting weapons. Combine “Mosquito Spray” (note to self, there are no mosquitoes in the game) with your light to create a mini-flamethrower . . . even though this weapon is nearly useless as the can will run out in a few seconds.

And you’ll also have to use Items to solve a lot of environmental puzzles. Even if it’s something as easy as creating an explosion to blow open a cracked wall (which btw, won’t happen unless the wall is meant to be broken. This isn’t the type of game where the environment is destructible as far as most walls are concerned). You can also use items to break open most doors. You’ll often have to break open a wooden door using a heavy item (like a fire extinguisher) by making the down to upward motion. Alternatively, you can simply shoot the doorknob off most doors to open them (except those dang metal ones). Another good example of item environmental interaction is when you’ll need to use fire in the environment combined with a item that sprays gas (which you can only do from the first-person perspective) to create an improvised flamethrower.

And naturally, with all this talk of item creation and item to environment interaction, the developers wanted to even impress with how you view and select those items. So no more typical Item Menu screen here! Forget Resident Evil’s often ugly Item Menu, in Alone in the Dark you access the Menu with Down (or Up) on the D-Pad to which it switches to an in-game top-down view of the inside of Edwards jacket! Where you will see his main items (Gun and Flashlight) on his body with main combination items on the left (tape, bullets, lighter, knife, bandages, etc.) and “to be combined with” items on the right (empty bottles, fuel tanks, glow sticks, combined items, etc.).

In addition to all this, items can be held in either the left or right hand. While in first or third-person viewpoint, you can use the Right and Left Bumper to switch between the items one by one (Hold to put an item away) and use the Left Trigger to throw an item and the Right Trigger to shoot your gun. On the Item Screen, the first Item you select with A (and again to confirm) will go into the left hand, with the second item going to the right. Alternatively, you can set “Favorite” items to Up on the D-Pad and then switch to them by pressing a face button on the Xbox 360 controller. So if you always use the Molotov Cocktail, you can set it to Up+X for quick switching while playing (so you don’t have to go the Item Menu to switch Items). And like all survival horror games, when you select an item on the Item Screen you’ll see a number of options, such as combine, equip or drop. You can drop items anywhere to clear space for other items. Which you will be required to do (and make sacrifices) because you can only hold 10 Items to your right or left sides. Which is a bit of a bummer (though fans of Resident Evil will be used to having limited item space).

One weird omission is an info button to tell you about an item. Although it’s pretty easy to figure out what an item is used for or what it can be combined with.

Another really cool feature of Alone in the Dark comes in the form of your Healing Mode. This is accessed by pressing Right or Left on the D-Pad and once again you’ll be looking downward on Edward, but this time it’ll be to a spot on his body where he has an open wound (complete with torn clothing, which is actually reflected on his in-game model. So when you are attacked you can see where he is injured).

In this mode you must have a Health Spray item to heal yourself. You first equip it, and then enter Health Mode. You will then use the control stick to move from one wound to the other and use the R-Button to spray and therefore heal that wound. The coolest part is that Edward will get cut all over the place, his back, back of the legs, arms, front of the legs, chest, shoulder, etc. and you’ll get to see his body from all these different viewpoints in order to heal him.

In addition, if Edward gets gravely hurt he’ll start bleeding from a wound. When this happens, the screen will start turning black and white and a meter will appear in the bottom left corner of the screen that counts down to zero. If it hits zero Edward will die. This also effects Edwards stamina, so that when you run with the A Button he will get tired faster and stop running. To avoid certain death, you will have to have a bandage handy. Once you do, equip it and go enter Healing Mode and use R to wrap the bandage around the wound and tourniquet the bleeding. The timing meter will then disappear and you can go on your merry way.

The other big aspect of Alone in the Dark that makes it unique from other survival horror games is the fact that you can get inside and drive various vehicles. They pretty much all control the same, but it’s still cool that you can simply pick one, get in it, and drive away. When you get inside a vehicle by using the A Button (A is the action button, you use it to perform most actions from taking items to grabbing ropes to opening doors) you will be looking out from inside the car from first-person perspective. From here you can do a number of things. You can look around with the right stick and check various parts of the car. You can check under the visor for a set of keys, you can start the car if keys are already in it, OR you can hot-wire the car if there aren’t keys, you can honk the horn or turn on the nothing-but-static radio (just for fun) or you can turn on the ceiling light (Alone in the Dark, as the name implies, takes place entirely at night so it’ll often be too dark to see) or you can check the glovebox for items. You can also move around in the car from seat to seat by using the left control stick. You can even climb into the back seat (although there’s no point in doing so). You can exit the car with the B Button.

Vehicles and race sequences are a big part of Alone in the Dark (Xbox 360 Screenshot)

Once you’ve started a car, you can then drive around in either first or third person using Y to switch between them. You accelerate with the R Trigger and break and go into reverse with the Left Trigger.

There are not a whole lot of places where you can drive around freely, that only happens when you get into Central Park which is an open environment that you can explore. But you won’t be in that open environment very long. However even so you will still come across vehicles from time to time, including a few that differ from the normal cars.

There are even a couple “racing” sequences where you must race through a maze-like environment to get from point A to point B. And there are even a few sections that will have you ramping over gaps.

Now reading the above you’d think that Alone in the Dark is nothing but unique and cool stuff. That’s where things get a little wonky . . . .

All of the above is great, but Alone in the Dark features a few core issues that really put it a step back. First off, the game has clunky control. Whether you are in first-person or third-person, the game never seems to control as smoothly as you’d like and you will often times be fighting the controls. Eventually you’ll get used to them, but it will take quite a while and even then you’ll find issues with everything from the convulted control scheme to the wonky collision detection and supposed “auto-aiming”/lock-on features.

Combat can also be pretty clunky, and shooting never quite reaches first-person feel, meaning that aiming is slow and can sometimes be a bit frustrating. You’ll also get whacked by enemies which will knock you to the ground. Or better yet, shot in the eyes with poision which will mess up your view. To clear your view in first person you need to click the right-stick in (R3) to make Edward blink. Which btw, is another cool feature and is used to GREAT effect in the game. The opening in particular will make you go “Wow!” . . . at first, until it gets a little repetitive.

Which it will. One big problem with the game is that they seem to overdue everything to the point where the cool factor has kind of warn off and everything seems to simply be annoying. From the two-handed system to the slow-down effect when you throw an item (and shoot it in mid-air to create an explosion). Now that slowdown sounds cool, until you realize that you can be hit while doing it and often times will be before you can shoot said item. Very aggravating.

Screenshot of the driving in Alone in the Dark

Then you have the driving sections . . . . Suffice it to say that as cool as it is being able to get into any vehicle, the actual driving sequences are some of my worst experiences with Alone in the Dark. Clipping (getting caught on the sides of the environment) is a pretty huge issue with Alone in the Dark as are strange glitches. And these seem to happen most in the driving sequences, especially in the two racing sequences. There is one part where you are racing through a city that had a huge, almost game-crashing glitch. I don’t know if it’s just my copy or what, but you are supposed race through a window and apparently onto the streets below. But whenever I’d so the game would do it’s slow-down effect (very annoying after seeing it for the 50th time) and my car would simply crash into the “nothing”-ness below. As in, the environment never loaded, and I’d fall until I hit parts of the environment but then would die. One time I even cut stuck in a crevice in part of a “halfway-loaded” environment . . . I had to exit the game and restart. The only way I figured out how to pass this section was to look at a faq and then do the section in first-person, as it seemed impossible to not get stuck in the glitch while doing the section in third-person . . . This is potentially a game-crashing bug so it can’t be excused. But I DID eventually pass the section as taking a hard left in first-person as soon as I exited crashing through the window eventually had me falling onto the streets below and I was able to complete it.

All of this shows one thing in spades: shoddy programming to an unpolished sheen. The game is, quite simply, an unpolished “mess” that becomes, in the worst situations, unplayable. Thankfully, the glitches are here and there so it is possible to try again and get through a section without encountering said glitches or clipping. But when you do, it’s bad, annoying, and possibly game-halting.

And that is quite simply the worst part of Alone in the Dark and really the only reason I hate it. In fact, my opinion of this game for the first two Episodes (which includes the infamous aforementioned driving through the city section) was akin to my opinion of Enter the Matrix (ironically, another game published by Atari) . . . and if you ever played that game you know that is the worst praise possible. The game was a clunky, unpolished, annoying, glitchy mess and I was not a fan.

To add insult to injury, a lot of the dialogue, especially initially, is juvenile, shallow and B-movie-like, with the f-word thrown around every other second. To sometimes horrible and incredibly stupid effect. Like one part where a conversation goes something like this, “F*ck that!” “F*ck this sh*t” Yup, one after the other. And that’s not the only time you hear the f-bomb, I think it happens no less than five times in that ONE scene. Suffice it to say, if you are used to slasher-movie dialogue then it won’t bother you, but for me it was simply lazy and, as I mentioned, juvenile. It feels forced as well. And the passable voice acting doesn’t help matters.

An amazing falling helicopter set-piece is shown in this screenshot

Thankfully Alone in the Dark has some of the coolest “set-pieces” I’ve ever seen in a video game. Much like a movie, some “scenes” will amaze you. And while the graphics initially seemed horrible to me (again, the Enter the Matrix reference. I even commented to friends that this game and Enter the Matrix must’ve shared the same engine), they actually got more impressive as the game went along.

A few brief awesome set-pieces include a part where you are in a tall building and half of it cracks and breaks off . . . while you are inside. So while you are playing the entire building falls apart and off around you! And remember that scene from Jurassic Park where the bus is hanging off the ledge and zooms on down to the rocks below while they hang by a rope? Yeah, well that part is IN this game and the whole thing happens in-game (no CG necessary).

And that’s only the beginning, the “revelation” chapter in particular greatly impressed me. Let’s just say that it uses “closing your eyes” with light and shadow in an amazing way that I don’t think anyone has done before. After that sequence I actually exclaimed aloud, “holy crap this game’s awesome!”

And in those moments, it is. Alone in the Dark is great . . . . But then there are equally annoying sections. Including many that regard this possessed shadowy flooring that will eat you if you step in it. in order to pass you have to have light shining onto it which will push the black stuff away so you can stand. Suffice it to say that you better be prepared to see that “sucking in” animation a hundred times. Cause those sections are some of the most difficult and annoying as you will die and have to do it over and over and over again until you don’t make that crucial miss-step.

And then there are the puzzles. Some of them are flat-out amazing. I won’t even mention them here cause they are, in my opinion, some of the best puzzles I’ve seen anywhere. And amazingly, Alone in the Dark somehow avoids “pick up this item and use it here” sections, which is an outstanding accomplishment for a survival horror game.

Musically the game has some great music but it never quite seems to fit the game as well as you would like. This is no Resident Evil and the music cannot touch Silent Hill in either creepiness or having music that feels like it’s part of the environment. Although you will hear some “scary” ambient effects and voices, etc. But they never get near the quality of Silent Hill. And in fact the game never really gets out of “B-movie” horror territory and into something truly creep along the lines of Fatal Frame or Silent Hill 2. Which is a shame.

The graphics, as mentioned above, are also hit and miss. The storyline though remains interesting throughout even if it isn’t the most original or high-quality of stories. But as per usual things get deeper and deeper as you play. Sadly the characters are also not of high quality, and I’d reckon that none of them are actually likeable. They’re also quite one-dimensional, but they do the job.

The boss fights on the other hand aren’t that great. A few of them are incredibly annoying and cheap, but at least they are large and feel like actual boss fights.

Alone in the Dark is a hard game to recommend . . . . and I have a hard time considering it a great game.

However, if you go into the mind-set expecting a B-movie feel, highly cinematic style, amazing set pieces with great moments, clunky control and unpolished look and feel, but with fun survival horror gameplay and creative item-creation and fun battles . . . then I would urge you to give the game a shot.

I do know one thing. I will not walk away disappointed that I played through Alone in the Dark. In fact, I am glad I did so. I will remember it for it’s great moments and creative ideas. However, in the back of mind, I’ll also remember it for it’s shortcomings. But that won’t stop me from saying to my friends, “Check this out!”. And in the end, I think that’s all that matters.

Alone in the Dark Edward Carnby Artwork

FUN FACTOR: 8.0
Alone in the Dark can be fun. There’s no denying it. Creating items is great, the puzzles are challenging and extremely creative, the set-pieces are amazing and impressive . . . the game has lots of faults and pimples galore (poor girl), but hey, she comes through when it matters and will leave you saying “Whoa!” on more than one occasion. It’s the rare game whose parts are greater than the whole. And with that in mind, you may want to skip to the best ones . . . feel free. The developers encourage it!

Graphics: 7.5
The graphics are really hit or miss. Some parts are impressive, others make you say “blech!” Which is strange . . . all in all, the game doesn’t outright impress, but if you play through, you WILL be impressed from time to time. Cool fire effects and even better fire uses.

Music & Sound: 7.0
The music in Alone in the Dark is mostly great, but it feels more like a movie soundtrack than a game soundtrack. While that may seem to be a good thing considering Alone in the Dark’s cinematic-bent, I often thought the music was disjointed instead of feeling like it really belonged. However, the game still has a pretty good sountrack and music is a highpoint. Voice acting is B-movie quality with some unintentionally hilarious lines. LOTS of cussing including the f-word, “Jesus Christ”, GD-words and everything in-between. If you are averse to foul language stay far away. Sound effects are great, especially for the created weapons.

Ingenuity: 9.0
This game does so many cool things that you wish the product as a whole was of higher quality: DVD-like Menu allows you to skip scenes and episodes, item-creation is fun and unique, fire-effects are a huge part of the game and used creatively, puzzles are mind-numbingly challenging (sometimes frustrating so) but awesome, the healing and item-management screens are unique . . . . the list goes on and on. These developers deserve major props for going all out in terms of making Alone in the Dark stand-out as a unique product that tries to do new things.

Replay Value: 6.0
There really isn’t any replay value in Alone in the Dark. Especially considering that you can skip to any section of the game at any time. There are no unlockables or extra modes. The main reason you’ll want to keep playing is to unlock Achievements, although they are all pretty easy to get and you will get the majority of them while playing through the game once. You should easily get half. In fact, you can get a ton just by mixing items.