Written by Kevin Kennedy, @thekevmiester
Seven years after the genre defining original trilogy was released, 2001 saw Alone in the Dark get the reboot treatment withAlone in the Dark: The New Nightmare. While the games share little to no connection with the original trilogy in terms of continuity, it still has the same penchant for puzzles and plenty of monsters, all wrapped up in a Loveraftian bow, though now with a more modern setting. How does it compare to the originals?
Edward Carnby (who only shares a name with the original hero) and Aline Cedrac, a P.I and University Professor respectively, both crash on the mysterious Shadow Island after their Helicopter was attacked. While they both have their own personal reasons for coming, they soon get wrapped up in a plot that far outweighs their own personal drama.
The story is as generic as they come. The same can be said of the characters, the tone and pretty much everything about this game. A shame given how bizarre and crazy the original games were. I may not have been the biggest fan of them, but they still had standout moments that made an impression, this time however it’s a rather forgettable affair. There are some shady government type figures and supposed double crossings going on but I’d be lying if I said I cared enough to pay attention.
Part of the problem is that things are played very straight. This would be fine if the game were even remotely scary, though apart from the occasional jump scares, there is no tension whatsoever, therefore it is hard to feel much of anything whilst playing. This has the feel of a game that nobody really wanted to make and has no real spark to it.
Like before, the story is largely told through books you find lying about, though to be honest I got the general gist after the first few and stopped caring after a bit. There are also cutscenes this time but there’s simply nothing gripping or scary to interest you here, plus some of the cutscenes don’t make much sense as it appears an old man, who appears fairly useless, is sprinting about the zombie infested mansion to meet you for another chat elsewhere.
One major positive over the original however, is the implementation of the game’s multiple characters, as choosing one over the other actually gives you a different experience and tells the tale from a different perspective. If you’re so inclined, you can actually have fun playing through both games and notice the moments you remember from the other play-through. You’ll still be largely running around the same areas, but it’s still a nice touch.
You can also radio your fellow island explorer at almost anytime. While they hardly have deep discussions (more on the dialogue later) and it may not be as interesting as the codec calls from Metal Gear Solid, it is still a cool concept.
A bad story in a horror game can be forgiven if the tone is nailed, though unfortunately everything about the story is pretty damn boring. I should feel fear from the enemies, not annoyance.
Those that have played Resident Evil know what to expect from the gameplay. You run around with tank controls shooting zombies and solving puzzles. Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare adds an auto aim to the equation, so combat usually just amounts to lifting your gun and shooting. Despite the ease of combat, you’ll quickly learn that ammo isn’t nearly plentiful enough to tackle every zombie.
Enemies can also respawn when you leave an area, meaning that combat can become pretty much useless at times, so you’ll have to try and simply run around zombies in tight corridors more often that not, shooting only when they get too close. In a shocking exclusion for a survivor horror game, there’s no option for melee combat here, so the only way to save ammo is to avoid combat altogether.
There is an attempt at depth with the fighting; some enemies are weakened by the light, meaning that sometimes even your flashlight can be a weapon as well as a light switch. It doesn’t add an awful lot and feels rushed as I simply discovered the mechanic by accident yet it’s supposedly a core function of the game, but it’s at least an attempt at a novel idea.
The puzzles are your standard fair. Not nearly as bizarre and illogical as in the previous games though they are fairly mundane for the most part. There is the occasional “How the hell was I supposed to know that?” moment and navigating through keys gets annoying when you have about 5 in your inventory but other than that, it’s what you’d expect.
At the risk of crying about first world problems, this is the sort of game that is hard to review as it is provoking absolutely no reaction from me. No hatred or affection, no moments of inspiration, no outright terrible features, it’s just such an intensely forgettable game, which can also be said of the presentation.
The games just looks rather generic. Dark, dull colours flood the world along with rather boring looking zombies and plant monster things. Maybe there is a book somewhere explaining what these monsters are but they don’t have much context in the world. The only real (negative) standout from the whole game is the sound design. The music can be laughably weird at times, like a mouse is dancing on a church organ.
Even worse though is the voice acting, which I can only describe as the blandest of the bland. It’s like a robot is trying to mimic a human. I found myself getting mildly excited every-time a conversation started, not due to story progression, but just so I can hear some cracking dialogue. Even here though, the voice-acting isn’t as bad as Resident Evil. Some games just can’t win.
Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare is essentially diet Resident Evil. It’s not as creative, not as hard, tense, scary or even clever. It’s the game you play when you want something that even slightly resembles Resident Evil. An incredibly bland adventure that you’ll forget almost instantly.
The Final Word: Not bad enough to hate, not good enough to love. Play it if you want. Or don’t. Whatever.