IGN Review of Alone in the Dark
I usually like to start off my reviews by creating a clever pun out of the game's title to introduce or briefly summarize how I feel about said game. But to take a line out of Alone in the Dark's dialogue, "**** it," this game sucks. For anyone left in the dark about Alone in the Dark (ok, so maybe I still snuck a pun in there), the survival-horror game takes players through the monster-infested streets of New York.
You begin the game by waking up from a daze. As with a lot of clichéd stories nowadays, your character starts out with a bad case of amnesia. You don't know who you are, or where you came from. All you know is that you are being held captive by dangerous and mysterious men. After you orient yourself with the slightly awkward controls, you shoot and melee attack with the wiimote and move around with the nunchuck's stick, you will escape their clutches only to come across a dicier scenario. For reasons unknown, zombies, freaky bats, huge spiders, and more scary creatures begin to unearth themselves.
Your journey will take you on a quest of self discovery, and your adventure will involve a mysterious path of light, power of stone, and other wacky doodads that you won't really care about. The story essentially thinks it's epic and mysterious in the way that a dark Indiana Jones movie would present itself, but to you, it will come across as flat and convoluted. There are tons of cinematics within the game and you can tell there was a serious attempt at trying to tell a quality story here. But alas, you simply won't care for what's going on.
Speaking about not caring, it seems like the gameplay mechanics in Alone in the Dark were severely glossed over. There's just so much wrong with it, and it's hard to know where to begin. But since I get paid for my intellectual prowess, here it goes: You will die a lot in Alone in the Dark due to the game's trial-and-error methodology. While this was acceptable during the release of the 1992 original Alone in the Dark, it feels extremely dated by today's standards.
In this new Alone in the Dark, you can interact with objects if there is a highlighted button over the specific item. However the dilemma arises when the button appears off-screen, which happened to me more than once. This can be problematic, because sometimes you'll have to climb on ledges you didn't even know you could reach. After being deeply and emotionally scarred from these occurrences, I started to run around towards walls just pressing the "interact button" whenever I got stuck. Alone in the Dark is just chalk full of unintentional puzzles.
The game seems to have logic of its own. For instance, although you can put out fires with an extinguisher, certain flames will not go out. It's impossible to tell which ones can and cannot go out. There was one instance where I was allowed to extinguish the front end of a flame but not the back end. I guess the rear end of fire is waterproof. Another logic problem I encountered involved a mini-boss fight. In the game you can close your eyes to reveal clues about the surrounding environment. When I came up to this mean-looking zombie who could easily kill me in one swipe, the game asked me to shoot him with my eyes closed. At first I questioned it, but then I realized I was playing Alone in the Dark so I quickly complied. Surely enough, when I closed my eyes a glimmering weak point shown itself through the darkness of my eye lids. And so I shot his ass; literally, the white light was emanating on around his buttocks area. Your characters' motivations are usually paper-thin. The game almost always dictates your decisions for you. Why are you going into the dangerous sewers? Because the game said so. Why are you splitting up with your friend in the face of danger? Because the game makes no sense! I have to at least give it credit for trying to be consistent on that end.
The game's flaws continue to persist in its combat mechanics. Since bullets are limited, it's often easier to wield melee weapons; especially when chairs and fire extinguishers have the power to do splash damage. If this isn't working for you, you could just run away from monsters, which should work most of the time. If you do take damage though, you can take comfort in knowing that you can heal yourself. But like a double-edged sword, for everything good that Alone in the Dark does, it does something else wrong to make up for it. I applaud the developer's attempt at reinventing the health system by making you inspect how much blood you're losing; but the problem is, sometimes you'll teeter on the edge of death and not know it. It doesn't help things when save points can be scarce. This can get real frustrating when you die because it usually takes you back to the nearest in-game cinematic. Did I mention you can't skip those?
A big problem with Alone in the Dark is that it's too ambitious. Even though the game takes place over many different environments and features a wide variety of gameplay mechanics--puzzle solving, platforming, first-person shooting, third-person fighting and more--the double-edged sword shines its ugly head again by making each component frustrating. This is evident in the game's racing sections, which will surely make you swear like a sailor. The first racing sequence had me outmaneuvering a monstrous erupting fissure. Even though danger clearly looms behind, you will see cars heading toward it. Why? Because they serve as the game's obstacles. It doesn't help when your car handles like a box on wheels. Your car will easily fish tail and if you slightly thump any one of the many obstacles on the road you die.
Even though the game has a ton of problems and little glitches, oddly enough, the game's music is awesome. It's spooky, ambient, intense, and fitting for a survival-horror game. It's a shame that the gameplay can't live up to the music. The sound effects on the other hand aren't quite as good. While some noises can be creepy, the sound effects have no concept of proximity. A far away noise will sound the same as a close one. Somewhere in between the quality of music and sound effects lies the voice acting, which is actually quite decent. The terrible lines of dialogue are spoken with conviction, but the constant usage of the obligatory f-bomb is a little awkwardly forced.
But perhaps the characters do have reason to swear, because this game is scary looking; although not in the way originally intended. Not only is the color scheme in Alone in the Dark drab, but it's dreary as well. You'll be visiting many different locations on your adventure--apartment buildings, Central Park, the sewers, and more--but the art direction looks generic and shallow. In addition, characters' faces are emotionless. Imagine a Botox patient screaming out for help, and you'll catch my drift. There are also some clipping issues. One time my gun was caught stuck floating in the air.
©2008-07-11, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved