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Alone in the Dark (PC) artwork

Alone in the Dark (PC) review

"AITD is far more fun to play than the flashy and fleshy games it has spawned over the years. The Resident Evils, the Silent Hills, and even the new incarnation of Carnby's adventures, all fall short of the fun and fear factors that the original manages to evoke. "

The superb Lovecraft love-in

Resident Evil? What's that? This is what people might have been saying if it wasn't for AITD. It is the original (and still the scariest) survival horror game, released at a time before that catch phrase was even considered a genre.

The game is pseudo3-D, with polygonal characters, menu-based inventory, dramatic, cinematic camera angles, guns and ghouls. You shoot monsters, read books in order to solve puzzles, all the while fighting the unorthodox, fear inducing camera for, well, a fighting chance. To today's gamers this is all very ho-hum, but at the time of its release, it was positively ground-breaking, award-winning.

If you're a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, a short story horror writer widely considered to be the master of the weird, you will enjoy this game even more. It's the best game I've come across that is based on his works by far, easily outdoing Infogrames' own Shadow of the Comet and Prisoner of Ice. From books that maim and kill once opened, to Cyclopean grottos, to undead creatures raised by dubious, mysterious methods--this is survival horror meshed with the king of horror, and the result is fantastic.

You can play the role of Edward Carnby, supernatural detective extraordinaire, on a mission to find out what happened to Jeremy Hartwood. You see, Hartwood committed suicide, hanging himself in his loft, while in the haunted halls of his home, a manor with enough personality to have been given a name, (and a cool one at that) Derceto.

You may also choose to play as Emily Hartwood, Jeremy's niece, who also has a stake in things, as she is convinced her uncle was not insane, but was influenced by a dark presence in the antiquated house. Despite her fear, she must uncover the secret.

The character you choose will not affect the play mechanics or puzzles that you come across, but it is a welcome option for Infogrames to have included, and something I'm sure female players will appreciate. It is also something that Capcom no doubt built upon in releasing their gender friendly Resident Evil.

AITD is far more fun to play than the flashy and fleshy games it has spawned over the years. The Resident Evils, the Silent Hills, and even the new incarnation of Carnby's adventures, all fall short of the fun and fear factors that the original manages to evoke.

One of the main reasons for the timeless appeal of the classic is the music and sounds. The CD is not crammed with B movie acting excerpts and almost unnoticeable ambient tunes; instead we get classically orchestrated themes, with some genuinely unnerving discords struck throughout. That is, AITD features good music, not just scary music. The opening theme is particularly powerful, and worthy of listening to directly off the CD.

If you are one who requires near photorealistic polygonal characters to enjoy your gameplaying experience, then you need to look elsewhere. What AITD offers is simply coloured and shaded polygonal characters that interact (albeit a bit jerkily) with nicely painted backgrounds, that are clear and crisply rendered. Everything is easy to see, and that helps in the solving of puzzles. You won't miss a clue due to muddy and dark photorealistic graphics, as is often the case in Capcom's much vaunted series.

And the puzzles! They are intuitive. Without spoiling too much: two wall hangings fighting it out with you in the crossfire? Simply cover one of them. In retrospect, puzzles like this will seem easy, but that's the mark of a good puzzle. They will have you thinking logically to arrive at a logical solution, and chances are you'll be right. This is not to say that you will breeze through the game--you won't--but you won't be stuck as a result of poorly thought out, obscure conundrum. And as mentioned before, the graphic clarity and simplicity makes the problem spots much more approachable, meaning you won't be stuck because you can't see what to do either.

AITD is a game worth tracking down whether it's on the internet, or through a retailer that specializes in older or used PC games. The music, the simplicity, and the matchless Lovecraft factor allow the old relic to shine, bright and clear, alone in the dark shadow of its much more successful successors.

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 14, 2004)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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