The original Alone in the Dark is credited by many as being the very first "Survival Horror" video game. This release in the series pays homage to its trailblazing predecessor by offering the same dark mix of puzzle solving and action-oriented gameplay in a new story featuring well-defined characters and detailed environments. Players take on the role of either paranormal investigator Edward Carnby or archeologist Aline Cedrac, guiding the chosen hero through dark corridors filled with deadly creatures and hidden clues. The storylines of the two heroes intertwine but each character follows a slightly different plot and provides a unique gaming experience. Grammy winner and former Police drummer Stewart Copeland composed the theme for this release in the series.
I played the first two games from the Alone in the Dark series and was very impressed with the atmosphere of them. Dark and foreboding, these games kept me on the edge of my seat and entertained me right to the very end. I am pleased to say that this latest outing is a worthy successor.
Right from the beginning, the game is all atmosphere. Investigating a friend's murder, you find yourself on Shadow Island (ok ok, so the name of the island is a little ham-handed) looking for clues to the murder and those responsible.
To begin with, the interface is almost completely keyboard driven. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of playing any game without a mouse, but in this case, the keyboard interface isn't terrible. They managed to keep the controls simple, without sacrificing too much of the flexibility that these games usually boast. However, there are some interface gaps that are irritating to say the least. Now, having said that, there is unfortunately rather limited character action. You cannot duck, crawl, or jump. You are limited to walking (running) and using items. This does take away from the potential immersion the player feels. For instance, and this is an old complaint, if I am standing in front of a locked door with a grenade launcher in my hand, but no key, I should be able to stand back and blow the door off its hinges. But no, like so many other games, there is one way and one way only to solve certain puzzles, and with today's technology, I have to admit that I do expect more.
The graphics in the game are first rate. The house you wander through is richly detailed and very pleasing to look at. Given this, I found it odd and a little archaic that the character's mouths don't move when they talk. I would expect this of a game five years old, but with today's offerings, this kind of over-sight is almost unheard of and nearly unforgivable.
The puzzles in the game are challenging (more-so due to the above restrictions) but not overly so. There are some audio clues that you have to be aware of through the game, so make sure you have a good sound card and it is turned up loud enough to hear it, or you are certain to miss some of the puzzle solutions in the game.
Now I know this sounds bad, but this game is not about challenging puzzles - it's about atmosphere, and that is present in no small amount! Some of the scenes absolutely terrified me, and some unsettled me in a down-in-the-pit-of-my-gut kind of way. The use of camera angles and cut scenes was impressive and very effective, and I jumped out of my chair more than a few times during the course of this game.
Adding to the diversity of the game, you have the option of playing either a male or female character. Whichever you choose, the other is active in the game as well, and there are several scenes where you contact your counterpart and discuss the situation at hand. This I thought was a nice little touch and added a good deal to the enjoyment of the game.
Overall this game is a lot of fun to play, if you can get by and forgive the technical flaws. This game had a lot more potential than it demonstrates, and taking care of these flaws would have made an otherwise above average game exceptional.
This game certainly warrants further adventures, but let's hope the game designers decide to make use of the full breadth of modern computer technology. Still, whether they do or not, rest assured that if they bring out another in the series, I will be there with my money in hand and the memory of the emotional reactions I had to this game fresh in my mind.
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