Alone in the Dark – (XBOX 360)

It’s back into the dim and wretched depths of wrongness and evil in this long time coming remake cum sequel to the classic series.
Read my Fidget magazine review here.

Alone in the Dark

2/5
Alone in the Dark

In 1992 the small French videogame company Infrogrames made a game set in a Victorian-era New England mansion; where demon dogs, ghosts and other horrors ran riot while Paranormal Investigator Edward Carnby tried to escape with his life and soul intact. The 3D graphics and quirky use of odd camera angles made it an instant classic, inspiring the Resident Evil series and helping give birth to the survival horror genre. A few lacklustre sequels followed before the series underwent a modern day reboot in 2001 with the groundbreaking New Nightmare. Seven years later, the mantle of Carnby has to be taken up in this modern day semi-sequel to the original.

Unlike most games which try to stick to one type of gameplay, Alone 5 tries something different. It wants to be all things to all men, and that usually doesn’t work. This is no exception. Kudos has to go out to Eden Games for not just trying something new, but practically trying to re-invent the wheel with this game. The problem is something that ain’t broke don’t need fixing. In stitching together a host of different game-types, driving, shooting, combat and puzzles they’ve made each one, both innovative and cumbersome. You can’t just hit an enemy, you have to physically swing the object by rotating the controller’s stick. To aim a gun properly, you need to use first person mode, but if your vision is blurry you need to blink by pressing a button. Add to this the painfully slow movement and awkward controls and you have a game that feels like it should be fun, but somehow isn’t.

Ironically, the game is built out of several episodes, each of which can be accessed through a DVD-like interface, and each one features a ‘Previously on Alone in the Dark’ rundown of the plot so far. An interesting idea, but you’ve got to wonder if that was because they knew people would get stuck or irritated by parts of the game. Which is a great pity, as there is a decent plot underneath it all, and the flexibility to manipulate many aspects of the game-world is astounding. The fire effects alone are praiseworthy as you can happily set light anything made of wood, using chairs and branches as torches or leaving trails of petrol to burn up unsuspecting nasties. But excessive freedom usually just shows up the limits of a game, and in this case it’s blatantly obvious in almost every situation there is only ever one real solution.

The sad thing is that the sum of its parts doesn’t equal a game that suits either the licence or the amount of innovation at work here. Guaranteed some of the goods present here will turn up in every new game next year, but that’s no reason to rush out and buy an inferior game. For all the hard work, you’re better off picking up the last generation game on budget.

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