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Alone in the Dark 3 (PC) artwork

Alone in the Dark 3 (PC) review

"The Alone in the Dark franchise heads west and ends up going south."

Alone in the Dark 3 (PC) image

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but there exists an audience who enjoys works that scare them. A portion of us happen to be gamers, and thus dig playing video games that thrust us into frightening situations. These titles build tension by placing you in frantic situations generated by appropriately clumsy mechanics, or by nerfing your offenses whilst pitting you against a hideous opponent. There's a fine line, though, between crafting an experience that's properly restrained and slapping together a frustrating, nearly broken game. When a horror title becomes the latter, fright takes a vacation and irritation steps in. It also doesn't help when such an adventure features mostly tame content.

A prime example of this phenomenon would be Infogrames' Alone in the Dark 3.

As with its predecessors, Alone 3 expands upon the graphic adventure genre by adding broken combat to the mix. Protagonist Edward Carnby scraps decently well, but he lacks deeper combat training. Because of this, he isn't a dead shot and he isn't an expert with his fists, feet and forehead. Unfortunately, Alone 3 translates Carnby's inability punch the undead or fire a gun in a horrible, frustrating way.

Alone in the Dark 3 screenshotAlone in the Dark 3 screenshot

During one segment, you square off against a zombie gifted in martial arts. Since Carnby can't out-kung-fu the guy, his best bet is to fire his trusty Winchester. However, Carnby peels off one bullet at a time every ten or so seconds. After your first shot, your opponent cartwheels across the room and kicks you multiple times. If you're lucky, you might be able to run around the chamber and get back into good firing posture before he nails you again. And if you're super lucky, you might be able to blast him a few times before he commences kung-fu mode, thereby allowing you to kill him after enduring a few subsequent punches. Of course, you'll still lose a lot of hit points before winning the battle.

Part of the problem is that it's needlessly difficult to aim in Alone 3. The game gives you no indication as to where your bullet will sail, so you have to guess and possibly adjust your position based on where your shot lands. As you can tell by the aforementioned situation, you don't usually have that luxury. A wasted bullet allows your foe to close the gap between the two of you. Since Carnby likes to take his sweet time squeezing the trigger, enemies get the drop on you more often than not.

Melee is an obvious solution, except that Alone 3's fist fighting is a war of attrition. If you're lucky, you might get a second blow in before your adversary recuperates. In some cases, I was able to corner my opponent and unleash a flurry of punches without taking much damage. Regardless, close combat is more irksome than it is rewarding, which robs the game of any terrifying punch it could have. Worse than that, Alone 3's brawling reminded me of the atrocious The Adventures of Bayou Billy, and no game should ever do that.

Alone in the Dark 3 screenshotAlone in the Dark 3 screenshot

Alone 3 could have salvaged its irritating campaign by sporting an array of memorable situations and decent puzzles. Unfortunately, the game biffs it in both of these departments. For starters, few of Alone 3's scenarios stand out. For the most part, you meander from one cliche room to another, take on an undead cowboy and mosey to the next chamber. In the three to four hours needed to complete the game, only a couple of segment stick in your mind. One puts you in control of a cougar as you attempt to retrieve a golden eagle statue while racing against time. Near the end of this section, a couple of werewolves confront you, but since you're a cat you can't exactly shoot them with silver bullets...

The only horrifying part of the game involves a two-headed monster sitting on a couch. You can't match brawn with the creature, but there is a device in the room that can squelch the beast. It just requires a couple of event items...

Sadly, some players may not figure out how to win this confrontation. They'll traipse over to the object that can kill the foe and use the correct item, and Carnby will say he can't use it there. As it turns out, Alone 3 is very picky about where you stand when utilizing your inventory. If you aren't right against a doorknob when selecting a key, it won't unlock the door. If you're two centimeters away from a crack in the wall, Carnby won't jam a stick of dynamite in it. If you're a quarter of a step too far away from a crucible, Carnby won't light it. It's maddening because you're technically doing the right thing, but the game admonishes you for not being in the absolutely correct location. It's not only annoying and misleading, but also pedantic.

So forgive me if I don't find Alone in the Dark 3's western theme and its obnoxious jaw harp background music frightening or memorable. It's difficult to be horrified when you're busy swearing through needless frustration or save scumming because the game's combat is beyond poorly executed. It's no wonder Infogrames/Atari sought to revamp the series after this installment.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 08, 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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