I’m not too familiar with the Alone in the Dark series. I’m a big fan of survival horror in general, but I’m a Resident Evil kind of guy, with bouts of Fatal Frame thrown in for true pants wetting horror. It was good to hear then, that the new Alone in the Dark game being released for XB360 was going to be a reboot of sorts, bringing paranormal investigator Edward Carnby into the modern age. I could start fresh, and see what all the fuss was over this series.
Well, I still don’t know what all the fuss is about. AITD is a puzzling game that combines true cinematic excitement and sequences with some bizarre design choices. AITD plays like a season of a TV show. The game is split up into episodes, with each episode being a series of four or five sequences. You can tackle any episode you want, save for the last one, which you need to play so many episodes or sequences to access, and while in an episode, you can skip to any sequence you want, sort of like rewind or fast forward. If you do this, you get a neat "Last time on AITD" TV promo, that brings you up to speed on the story. This is a great and unique way of game progression that hasn’t been done before. Having trouble with a particular sequence and you don’t want to deal with it? Fast Forward. Like something you did, or want to try it differently? Rewind. Hate the episode entirely? Skip it, and get a recap of what you missed. This whole progression feeds into the games cinematic flair. During certain sequences, you’ll be treated to the camera moving like it would in a summer blockbuster, sweeping around you as a building your in crumbles around you, or the wall your clinging too starts to come loose, and the camera sweeps up to see you clinging for dear life. The graphics compliment all this style by looking extremely well done and detailed. There’s no screen pop in or odd textures. Lighting is simply perfect, as light bounces off of objects and fire flickers on walls and ceilings.
Yet, while the game looks and progresses in ways that most games aren’t even approaching yet, it plays in a truly bizarre manner. Edward can move in first or third person, which can be switched with the touch of a button. The problem is, the game doesn’t know what view point it wants to be in. You have to swing melee weapons and items in third person. But if you want to shoot your gun or other projectile weapon, you have to do it in first person. It’s very jarring, especially if your doing both in quick succession. Your inventory screen is very unique, swapping out a standard screen for inside of Edward’s jacket. You press down to open your jacket, where all your items are. They all inhabit a pocket which you can see, and you can then push the left stick to pick one to equip or combine. You can combine various items to elicit different effects, like taking a wick out of a lighter, placing it in a bottle with explosive liquid and then throwing it. Or dousing your bullets in explosive liquid to create fire bullets(only way to kill monsters is to expose them to fire). Only problem with this very cool inventory screen? It doesn’t pause the game. Monsters will wail on you, as you scramble to get a gun, or make a combination that you need desperately in this situation. You can be McGuyver, but you can’t be as fast as him. All of this could be fixed by allowing some control customization or the ability to perform combat in complete third or first person or simply pausing the game when in inventory. And this control style doesn’t get easier as time goes on. It’s always cumbersome and strange, and it’s weird as to why Eden Games would not play test this.
And it’s a shame because AITD is a very cool game. It has great moments and a plot that actually doesn’t suck. It’s playing the damn thing that is the problem. If you can get past the very awkward control scheme, AITD is a game worth checking out. Rent it first, and see if you can handle it. If you can, I say continue playing. The game has a lot to offer visually and story-wise.