Alone in the Dark (Wii) review
" I find it to be strikingly painful when I come across a game with such enthusiasm only to be let down with my face bashed against the rubble like a children's toy forgotten about after a shining afternoon's adventuring. As the storm clouds loom overhead and swirl together in a deafening chorus, it becomes clear that this night's proceedings will be of relentless disappointment. How shameful that after such a long wait, the hopes of a prospective fan are crushed so. I WANTED to enjoy Alone in..."
I find it to be strikingly painful when I come across a game with such enthusiasm only to be let down with my face bashed against the rubble like a children's toy forgotten about after a shining afternoon's adventuring. As the storm clouds loom overhead and swirl together in a deafening chorus, it becomes clear that this night's proceedings will be of relentless disappointment. How shameful that after such a long wait, the hopes of a prospective fan are crushed so. I WANTED to enjoy Alone in the Dark, I really did, but no matter how many times I came crawling back to my controller I found myself once again slapped in the face only to slunk away in defeat and hatred, vulgar comments spewing from my mouth.
I suppose that this tale of let-down and disappointment should have been apparent to me early on. The foreshadowing of this bitter end that Alone in the Dark so openly and blatantly gave to me that I scarcely can understand how I missed it. Somewhere along the lines of the first five minutes I should have thrown the game down and left. The “secret mystical cult” card had already been played within the first cutscene of the game! Most letdown titles leave this bit of insanity for later on when you're already too hooked to say no to this moronic and cliché plot device. Such a pathetic attempt at captivating story I certainly found upsetting then, but I had a battle within me to ignore this and justify my fifty dollar purchase. But before you go on thinking that the plot will resolve itself later with some more engaging duologue and twists, trust me, it doesn't.
What really bewildered me about the beginning of the game is how painstakingly long it took to get through the first mission. Upon completing the game I must admit that the very first “level” (if you wish to call it that, the term doesn't seem to fit really) is quite possibly the most difficult part of the entire horrific process that I mockingly call a game. Sure it can tell me to “push up on the joystick to go forward,” but that doesn't mean that I suddenly know how to pick up items, jump over obstacles, avoid instant-kill traps, and interact with NPCs. Sure I've played a lot of games in my time, but I may assure you that few of these games have the exact same control scheme, especially not since we are talking about the Wii here. Apparently Atari thought I read the manual, which I suppose I could have done, but since when does anyone do that? I expect to be learning how to play as I progress through the game, not learning all of the one-time-use controls before I begin playing only to forget how to open a door when the room I'm in is conveniently ablaze with all other exists blocked.
In case you're wondering, that's a true story by the way. For some reason, I'm not allowed to just open doors, I have to bash them in with whatever item is near by. Such a shame that the only nearby item was ON FIRE and that Edward Carnby is too much of a pansy to go pick it up anyway to save himself from the inferno he finds himself trapped within.
What the anecdotal story I just provided really explains is that much of the game is implied and you must teach yourself the real kinks as you go along. After dieing several times in the first burning room, I learned that I must keep some form of a melee item with me at all times because I can be certain that whatever it is that I'm looking for later on will not be there... or will be on fire. One would assume that the developers would have had enough care for the sanity of the player as to provide these sorts of useful items along the path towards mission completion, but then again, there's another letdown. It seems that the programmers of Alone in the Dark have managed to read the player's mind. They have discovered a way to tell exactly what you need, and then systematically remove it from the building you're in. So much for fun.
As I continued to progress, I came to an interesting realization that the game was editing itself as I went played. At this point, you can probably assume that this editing is in a bad way, and not an exciting new mode of AI to make each play slightly more engaging with varying levels of clever enemy differentiation. (Left 4 Dead anyone?) No, what I mean by “editing itself” is that after playing several missions many hundreds of times over, I found that various map elements would simply disappear. These weren't small map elements either, what I mean by this is that complete walls of buildings, mobs of enemies, essential plot items, and so much as characters themselves would cease to be for one round of play, and then appear once more another. All in all it lead to an experience that if perhaps videotaped and placed within a time-lapse effect one could call “trippy” but to the player attempting to make light of their wasted money, “aggravating” is all that comes to mind. Falling into a nonexistent void that suddenly appeared before you for the tenth time is an awful experience, one I hope never to replicate with any other game.
If you have ever read a review on Alone in the Dark before, you would know that whilst playing you aren't necessarily alone. I say that you “aren't necessarily alone” for a reason. This being that while you physically are not alone in Central Park, you are certainly mentally alone as well. During the course of play it will become increasingly obvious as you play that you're the only person in the entire state of New York with a halfway functioning brain. For some reason unbeknownst to me, the developers at Atari found it necessary to skip out on the very title of their product and toss in a love interest female character with a brain the size of a small rodent. Unless you have never had a reaction with a female before, you would very quickly learn to hate this demon in preppy clothing. By adding nothing useful to the story, she takes the cake on the top of my list of characters whom I'd have loved to let die if I had the heart the first time around. But let me stop here, I'll leave my description of her at this, as her incompetence and uselessness is difficult to measure. Quite simply, she's a mindless NPC originally meant for walking around in the background in order to populate the scene (more commonly referred to as an “extra”), who seemingly at the last minute picked up a voice actress and was given a main character role.
What irks me the most about Alone in the Dark is how close it comes to being a great experience. Imagine a pole vaulter with beautiful form flying gracefully through the air, only to hit the bar and come crashing back down to earth face first breaking several bones in the process. Like the graceful form of the jump, Alone in the Dark sports some creative mechanics. The ability to blink to clear your vision for one was especially interesting, along with the (supposed) MacGuyver-esque weapon building techniques that was supposed to be the “kicker” for Alone's combat, and the thought of having visible “realistic” wounds on the outside of your body as a damage system were all highly clever. However, much like the crashing back down to earth, the execution was horrible and turned the gameplay into a mess of broken bones and vulgarity so thick you'd be unable to budge any of it with a crowbar. The blinking was used obnoxiously in the wrong place, the weapon building was poorly designed due to lack of inventory space and an abundance of fully loaded pistol clips littered all around New York, and the wounds looked like the kind of plastic and food coloring wounds that you would put on your arms for Halloween as a six year old to freak out the girls at your local elementary school. So many good ideas were simply wasted on Alone in the Dark, and I hope that this fuck up will not discourage their use in more titles by various other developers in the future.
Finally, I find it slightly disturbing how the developers made the ability to skip missions in Alone in the Dark a main marketing point. On the back of the box, it is loudly stated that with the utilization of Alone's “DVD style menus” you may “skip missions and return to play them later!” To this, I weep. How outlandishly saddening it is to me that Alone in the Dark wishes for me NOT to play it. As I sit with my face in the gravel, beaten and broken from a long bout of playing the pathetic syntax error that is Alone in the Dark, it becomes apparent that my misery is not enough. The developers seem to be interested in spitting on my body as I slowly await death. These programmers taunt and jeer, circling around me repeating “you could have skipped it!” “You could have made it all better!” Well you know what Atari, I didn't. I personally like to PLAY games and no matter what you say of me for not taking advantage of the ability to skip missions in a game I clearly did not enjoy, I still believe in legitimately completing the experience. Skipping “chapters” (as Atari likes to call them) is more or less glorified cheating and I refuse to partake of such practices. If you happen to be stuck with this bastard child of a game, I suggest making the same refusal, as honestly playing through each level will give you a better appreciation for how bad this game really is.
In conclusion, I honestly advise staying as far away from Alone in the Dark as possible. Let your friends know of the wretched experiences they may unwittingly submit themselves to if they are considering purchasing this game. It's not fair that anyone should have to put up with this, not to mention paying hard earned money for it. It angers me so much to have been a part of this experience that I can hardly describe to you how tempting it is to go destroy my disc in some sort of ritual. While you may see all of this as hyperbole, it really isn't. Don't touch Alone in the Dark, its ideas and mechanics while occasionally brilliant in theory are constantly covered by a layer of bullshit that will not leave you until your shirt is stained with tears of pain. The shoddy plot, unusable controls, and unforgiving level setup will leave you wondering why you skipped out on putting together that puzzle with your grandmother to play this load of filth.
Community review by beverage (December 11, 2008)
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