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Alone in the Dark (PC) artwork

Alone in the Dark (PC) review

"A Great Old One in every sense..."

Alone in the Dark (PC) image

In 1992, the hills were not yet silent and evil hadn't found its residence. Instead, for psychological kicks, we traveled to an old mansion full of Lovecraftian nightmares. Zombies prowled the hallways, an amorphous creature devoured anyone who entered the bathroom, fish people swam in a cavernous basement and bird monsters patrolled the exterior.

As for you, well, you were no one special: either an investigator or a niece of the man who owned the house. Your only combat training consisted of rudimentary gun skills and the knowledge that swinging a sword injured things. Otherwise, you were nothing more than an underdog who may well be some hellish beast's next meal.

Alone in the Dark set standards and defined survival-horror conventions. For instance, the cinematic camera angles you see in titles like Resident Evil and Silent Hill started here. As with those games, you occasionally struggle with camera positioning, but it's definitely not as nightmarish in Alone. The worst I encountered in my playthrough involved a room full of ghostly dancers. Upon playing a certain record, the once-dormant, spectral couples commence dancing, thereby allowing you to grab a key they previously blocked. You have to traipse carefully, though, because a single touch from a ghost kills you. Midway through the room, the camera decides to change perspective and sometimes screw you over. Thankfully, this is the only case of extremely terrible camera positioning.

Alone in the Dark screenshotAlone in the Dark screenshot

That scene wouldn't be as difficult were it not for Alone in the Dark's "tank controls." You advance by pressing the Up arrow on your keyboard and turn using the side arrows. Sound familiar? Groan all you want, but there was a reason this control scheme was considered a standard for so long. Sure, it took a while to get acclimated, but once you were you realized how fear-inducing such a setup could be. During one segment, a giant worm chases you through a tunnel. Your heart races as you panic and struggle to remember how the unorthodox play control functions. It only gets worse when you bump into a demonic bird partway through the scene and realize you don't have time to kill him. Good luck running around it.

Any haunted home worth a damn tries to stymie its guests via brain-teasers. Alone in the Dark features plenty of those, with notes and books lying about that provide clues to their solution. Here's the issue, though: Alone in the Dark aged somewhat poorly. The inclusion of puzzles in and of itself was a great move. It gets you interested in scouring the house's numerous corridors and checking every piece of furniture in its chambers. However, many of the puzzles are simple and a bit antiquated. There's one, for instance, that involves a dining room full of zombies. The only way to hold them at bay is to drop a pot full of flesh soup on the table. It's a no-brainer.

Thankfully, the game provides other challenges than mere puzzles. Once you plunge into the depths beneath the house, you run afoul of a variety of difficult segments. Boardwalks line the perimeter of the inundated caves, where monsters similar to those from Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" rise from the murkiness to rip you apart. Your choices are to run along the docks, abiding the aforementioned control scheme (and occasionally jumping), or leap into the fray and shoot your way to the other side of the chamber. Of course, that's assuming you grabbed the revolver and enough ammo...

Alone in the Dark screenshotAlone in the Dark screenshot

Most of all, though, Alone in the Dark hasn't aged well visually. It may have been cutting edge for 1992, but its once revolutionary presentation is dated nowadays. Character and enemy models are not only blocky, but bear odd nuances that are difficult to ignore. One of the two playable protagonists, Emily Hartwood, has a massive pair of red lips that stretch across her face. It's also hard not to notice the googly eyes of the bird monsters or the zombies' garish clothing. The worst is when you have to pad through a dark maze and you can't find the exit because it blends in with the rock wall. That's a situation in which ridiculous coloration would've been appreciated.

Don't get me wrong; I revere Alone in the Dark. If not for this title, many beloved horror games wouldn't exist as we know them. It's just that the game isn't exactly new player friendly. I definite recommend this aged classic to older gamers who possess the stomach for ancient material. However, newcomers might want to consider watching a Let's Play video before unearthing the madness within the halls.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Featured community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 01, 2017)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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Masters posted October 01, 2017:

This is an ideal example of how to do an old classic justice while also being realistic. Kudos.

One question: did the amorphous thing reside in the bathroom or the living room? I'm guessing you mean the coloured bubbles person/thing?
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JoeTheDestroyer posted October 03, 2017:

Thank you!

Looking on the image a little more closely, I now realize that the bathtub creature is actually a plant and not some blob with teeth. It was kind of hard to tell.

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