|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 Cole Smith
Alone in the Dark is a traditional horror/survival game. I use the word "traditional" because it sounds more polite than "same old song and dance," which may better describe the gameplay. Alone in the Dark is a by-the-numbers horror/survival game that is not destined to leave its mark on the genre, even though the series was instrumental in creating it. Not only is there nothing innovative here, but it's just not very much fun.
It tries so hard to impress with a convoluted storyline, but it just can't hold things together. It's filled with flaws in logic; situations are not explained properly, causing you to lose your sense of purpose. You are not in control, the game is. The storyline and gameplay is a Frankenstein creation of piecemeal elements stitched haphazardly together and brought to life to terrorize the gaming community. It's a monstrosity all its own.
It must be really disappointing for the developers of the original Alone in the Dark to see other imitators such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill claim top honors in the genre, while Alone in the Dark remains essentially alone...in the dark. The series started life in the early 90s, and while it may not have defined the genre, it certainly inspired it. Unfortunately, the series just didn't have the personality that games such as Resident Evil were able to convey. Everything from the story to the control system were improved on by these imitators, not to mention these games make you feel involved in the story rather than a person just playing a game, not to mention the uneasy feelings. Alone in the Dark brings you a few moments of shock, but these other games marinate you in the chills.
In keeping with tradition, the plot follows the adventures of a protagonist in the midst of a mysterious situation while suffering from amnesia. In this case, it's Ed Carnby. Not only does he not know where he is and why, but he doesn't even know who he is. He's held captive by a group of mysterious men that seem to be in the midst of doing away with him. This plot device allows for a lot of revelations, which are uncovered throughout the game through various means. It's supposed to maintain your interest, but unfortunately, the story is too heavy on details, making you lose interest quickly. So, let's just get on with it and start killing things.
Zombies, bats, giant moths, spiders, and other monsters prowl the streets, sewers, alleys, and buildings of New York City. There is more to the gameplay than just a shooting gallery, and that's both a blessing and curse. It's a blessing because a diverse assortment of gameplay elements makes things more interesting, but it's also a curse because they don't blend well. Overall, the control mechanics are awkward, especially in the vehicle driving stages and while interacting with the environment, where the icons for these objects are not always visible, causing you to run around pressing the action button at everything on the screen like a crazed hamster in a cage. Doors, stairs, ledges, boxes, and other objects can be used to elevate your character to different heights, which can be used to avoid dangerous areas or simply to move on to the next stage. These are important paths that players should not have to miss simply because the icon identifying where to interact with it appears off-screen. Puzzle-solving is a important element in the horror/survival genre, but searching for access points is nothing more than trial and error, and that's just not fun at all.
Different gameplay elements consist of exploring, combat, platforming, on-rails shooting, puzzle solving, collecting, and vehicle driving. Only a few of the elements are satisfying, while others are marred by a clumsy control system and/or mechanical flaws such as a weak collision detection system, which at times fails to register some of your actions. Thankfully, there are not too many driving sequences. They are primarily used to outrun dangers such as attacking monsters, firestorms, and earthquakes. The cars feel like boats on ice. Even at low speeds they can spin out of control, and that's just from taking a turn too fast. Watch out if you actually hit something. Another problem with the driving stages is that you have to memorize the escape route by trial and error. Dying is a fact of life in this game.