|System: X360, Wii, PS2, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Eden Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atari||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 24, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Since Alone in the Dark was first announced, I have been anxiously awaiting its release. The cinematic approach, moody environments, innovative mechanics, and the promise of an engulfing story appeared to be right up my alley! Furthermore, I had seen loads of screenshots and poured over press releases that seemed to confirm my initial excitement.
Sadly, the title proved to be too ambitious for the timetable, and simple things like clunky controls and unruly camera angles proved to be the game's undoing. Moreover, the uninspired enemies and shadowy environments weren't nearly as scary as the plastic-looking protagonists. As a result, I never found myself startled or nervous, just frustrated. Alas, this piece will largely recount the trials and tribulations of a disappointed gamer.
Alone in the Dark has players take on the role of an amnesiac Edward Carnby. Edward awakens to find himself almost completely out of his wits and in the clutches of wicked men intent on his demise. Before Edward is roundly executed, he is "saved" by an evil that was unleashed through a dark ceremony via a stone necklace he once wore and protected. After platforming his way through a towering inferno in upper Manhattan, Edward meets up with a couple key characters and is put on the Path of Light. Will Edward find out who he is, what his purpose may be, and a way to save New York and the world from an the dark secret that lurks within Central Park?
The plot twists and intrigue that follows is one of the best parts of this title. As such, the developers created a DVD-like interface that allows players to skip through difficult episodes and advance the plot. It also serves as a great rundown for players who haven't played in a few days, as the plot is neatly summarized with cutscenes and dialogue from key moments of what you've already played. This works extremely well and feels like the introduction to your favorite television series. The episodic nature of the story is just one of the innovative mechanics put in place by Eden Games in Alone in the Dark.
Disappointingly, the other creative initiatives don't work nearly as well as the scene select function does. For example, the inventory screen has Edward peer into his jacket. Inside he has a veritable utility belt of compartments where he can store items. They all fit neatly, but selecting them is not easy. While in the inventory screen, you'll be able to combine elements to create new and useful items such as a fiery spray or a Molotov cocktail. This is akin to the overused combination puzzles of PC point-and-click adventures, which we all know is nothing but an irritation.
Additionally, bashing through both doors and heads with melee weapons and mundane items scattered throughout the environments is not an easy task. It seems like a good way to bring the player into the game, but it eventually feels so inconsistent that players will long for the ease and reliability of simple button mashing.
Moreover, the healing mechanic in the game is just silly. If Edward gets wounded, he will begin to slow. If he gets seriously wounded, a timer will pop up on the screen giving him a few minutes to find some magic spray and bandages. If you happen to have the healing equipment near or stored in your jacket, you can bandage your wounds to stop both the bleeding and the counter. Needless to say, this just gets annoying and repetitive. In fact, if I happened to hurt myself with an explosion and didn't have supplies at hand, I would simply kill myself and start over.