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Alone K.W. (PC) artwork

Alone K.W. (PC) review

"The scariest thing you'll encounter involves a magically appearing dumpster. That should tell you all you need to know."

I'll never forget my first session with Alone K.W., and for all the wrong reasons. After I spent what felt like an eternity staring at a loading screen, the game burst to life and promptly crashed. Try as I might, I never got it running properly during that session, and only managed to play this horror adventure after buying a new computer. The game either died during the opening sequence or perished at the title screen. Let this be a warning to any would-be buyers: Alone doesn't work with some systems, regardless of your specs.

That might be just as well, though...

Alone begins with a sloppily written passage that sets up its tale. You know you're in for a cringe-worthy experience right away, as the introductory message inexplicably changes perspective and sports a handful of grammatical errors. All the same, it conveys the game's premise: you play Kevin White (the titular K.W.), a man who washed up on a remote part of Greenland during a storm. You wander the dark, snowy landscape while the waves roar behind you. Lights and strewn debris lead you to a research outpost locked via keypad. Don't worry, because the password is mere feet away. Yes, this is another early warning sign of what to expect from the rest of the thirty minute campaign.

You voyage into a secret facility, which is built of plain stone walls and stock environments: desks, chairs, lockers, cots, etc. The campus is horribly devoid of character or spark, with repetitive textures in massive abundance. I get that this is supposed to exude isolation and sterility, but Alone's bland environment goes beyond that. It's like you're moseying through the campaign's incomplete skeleton, with whole rooms, chambers and zones still waiting for a fresh coat of paint.

Alone K.W. (PC) image

No matter where you venture, your objectives are the same: locate a key, unlock a door, advance. You can stop now and then to read a note that offers some insight regarding what transpired within these now abandoned walls, assuming you can make head or tail of the clumsily written scrawlings. Some of them are downright confusing and add nothing to the experience, while others are so simple they hurt. For instance, one piece of writing basically reads: "I looked outside my room. I saw a man. I followed him. I saw a monster. It scared me. I woke up in the hospital. I'm scared." More than anything, the random ramblings you find serve only to emphasize Alone's cheapness. They don't deepen the game's narrative, and they certainly don't bolster its scare factor, either.

After you pass through a few locked doors, you begin to notice all kinds of strange phenomena, and not of the supernatural sort. In one office, you see keys and a piece of paper floating in the air, as if sitting on an invisible desk. Nearby, a phone lies on the floor, telling you that there may have been some furniture that didn't properly load. This isn't an isolated incident, either. A fair portion of the items you nab hover mysteriously on invisible tables, sometimes such that those necessary goods are unnoticeable. You thus spend a lot of time repeatedly tapping the 'E' key in case you stumble upon an unseen event item or battery to power your flashlight.

I thought that I could live with this flaw, as long as no other bugs prevent me from advancing. That's when I opened a door and ran smack into nothing. No matter how quickly I charged, or if I ducked or jumped, I couldn't clear the transparent obstruction. I even tried opening and shutting the doors repeatedly, but to no avail. I eventually learned that backtracking and returning to the affected site allows the game to properly load the entryway, granting you access.

Alone K.W. (PC) image

I amassed an impressive collection of batteries during my quest, because I rarely used my flashlight. Honestly, the digs are lit well enough that you seldom need to illuminate the path ahead of you. It's not as though the facility is complex or maze-like, either. Alone is a straightforward, linear affair with almost no branching and absolutely nothing so interesting or threatening that you need to shine light upon it. To further press the point, a battery glitch eventually hit me that prevented me from recharging the flashlight. I played through the rest of the title with no problem, and eventually even forgot that I had any such device.

"But isn't there a monster lurking about? Wouldn't the flashlight be useful against that?"

There is indeed an entity stalking the premises, but your flashlight does nothing against it. That doesn't matter, anyway, because the creature never truly antagonizes. Now and then you'll see it appear and vanish. That's it. It pops up in front of you, and phases back out. It never attacks or damages you, it never chases you, and it doesn't actually terrorize you in any way. Suffice it to say the beast is in no way frightening, and is little more than a Halloween decoration that sometimes winks into existence.

You'll only find one other noteworthy attempt at a scare, where a dumpster magically appears in front of you when you traipse through a tight hallway. Yes, a dumpster. As in a huge, metal box filled with garbage. It's smelly and gross, but not at all scary.

Alone tries numerous times to psychologically scare you, but fails miserably with each attempt. The usual bloody warnings written on the wall and floor appear, as well as randomly placed dead bodies, crimson splotches and trails leading into rooms, not to mention references to psychiatric institutions and secret experiments. These are all tired tropes that most top tier horror offerings either avoid or use sparingly. Here, they're obviously empty threats, and only further drive home the point that Alone is a completely toothless horror outing.

Alone K.W. (PC) image

After thirty minutes, you pass through the final doorway, never once fearing for life or limb. An ending cutscene plays out, revealing one of the most overused and predictable twists the genre has to offer, followed by one last screen that will draw the heaviest sigh from you. The "ride" concludes without fanfare, moving indifferently through its final few screens. It leaves you with no chills, no thrills, no terrifying story to keep you awake at night and zero entertainment value. Truly, Alone K.W. is a vacant horror adventure, featuring the barest skeleton of a concept, from barren corridors to poorly constructed backstory that leads you to a groan-inducing conclusion. I can in no way recommend this title, even at its super low price.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (September 01, 2018)

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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EmP posted September 05, 2018:

Spoil the ending for me.

I want all the misery with none of the effort.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted September 05, 2018:

So there's two twists in this game. I only mention the first one because it kinda makes the ending worse.

Recap: you're a man named Kevin White, who winds up in Greenland after a shipwreck and finds an abandoned research outpost with plenty of (confusing) dark secrets. Meanwhile, the Penumbra series rolls in its grave.

You find a document that lists the facility staff, with Kevin White among the names. DUN DUN DUN. That's... Improbable? A bit of a strange coincidence?

Never mind that, though, because at the end you find another document that discusses the psychological condition of patient Kevin White. Surprise! None of what you saw really happened and the first twist didn't matter because it was all just a hallucination. You're actually severely mentally ill and institutionalized. The Cabinet of Dr. whom? Shutter what?

The final scenes show Kevin running down a hall full of gurneys and out a door. The last screen reads "He ran away from that place. Or not."

OR NOT? What does that even mean? Either he ran away or he didn't. Was the writer setting up for a sequel? Were they implying his escape was another hallucination? The way its phrased makes it sound as if the writer couldn't decide which ending to run with. We'll never know...

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