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  • Writer's pictureJames Stephanie Sterling

Alone In The Dark - An Actual Alone In The Dark Game (Review)

Alone in the Dark

Released: March 20th, 2024

Developer: Pieces Interactive

Publisher: THQ Nordic

Systems: PC, PS5 (reviewed), Xbox X/S

(Copy provided by publisher)

Say what you will about this latest horror reboot, at the very least it can claim to be the first Alone in the Dark game in over twenty years to actually be an Alone in the Dark game. It’s not a glitched-out disaster of an action shooter nor a cooperative game in which you have to stay in the light. Yes, it’s certainly more authentic than the one explicitly about not being alone in the dark, 

It’s a proper survival horror that does indeed feature significant periods of poorly lit solitude. Stranger things have happened...

A hefty reboot of the original, Alone in the Dark takes us back to the Derceto estate in 1920s Louisiana, reimagining Edward Carnby as literally David Harbor and Emily Hartwood as literally Jodie Comer, both putting in performances typical of screen actors doing videogames. They’re looking into the disappearance of Emily’s uncle Jeremy, it’s not long before monsters happen, and then we’re off to the races. 

Similarly to the original, you can choose to play as either Edward or Emily. The story plays out the same regardless, with whoever wasn’t chosen effectively playing an unaware Scully to the player’s Mulder. As for the story itself it’s… strange? Not so much in terms of plot, which is a run-of-the-mill tussle with a creepy cult, but in terms of delivery.

The way characters interact is unusual - sometimes hostile with each other immediately, sometimes engaging in friendly banter that makes strangers sound like old friends. While it could be a case of localization losing something in translation, it’s weird how the vocal performances unquestioningly match, or perhaps create, the slightly surreal tone. If it was deliberate, the result is more confusing than eerie. 

Another problem is that nothing ever happens. Yes, there is a general sequence of spooksome events, there are a few plot points along the way, but it all feels rather inconsequential - there is a lot of wandering around clueless before all the mysteries are quickly spurted out in the final act. By the time it’s over, it’s hard to feel like very much shit went down.

So anyway, I really like this game for some reason.

Alone in the Dark is a fairly standard action adventure with horror elements for the most part, but it carries with it a distinctly old fashioned survival horror mindset manifested to charming effect. It’s the kind of game that plays a little basic, feels a little dated, and nonetheless wins an audience with the kind of attitude best described as “scrappy.”

Much of the adventure is spent running back and forth around the Derceto manor, finding keys to unlock doors, collecting clues, and solving a bunch of puzzles. This is broken up by otherworldly visits to moody locales populated by monsters to shoot at or batter with breakable weapons (booooo). While no gameplay element boasts anything of particular standout quality, it’s all solid stuff, and it does a lot with its presentation and environmental atmosphere to keep things entertaining. 

What’s most notable about puzzles is that a few of them are real thinkers. There’s nothing too aggressively difficult (as evidenced by the fact I could solve them), but quite a few involve going over notes and documents to find solutions or intuit what a puzzle wants based on clues that teeter just on the right side of vague. It’s been a long time since I played a horror game that really made me stop and think about how to progress. Certainly a change of pace from simply finding ornate keys… though there’s plenty of that too. 

Alone in the Dark’s biggest claim to authenticity, it must be said, is in how much melodramatic lore there is. Just like the original 90s trilogy, the reboot is stuffed to its gills with long, looooong text documents which are read out in full - with editorializing quips - as voiced character monologues. Between diary entries, news articles, book excerpts, and much more, choosing to read everything is a genuine commitment. Thankfully anything you explicitly need to read for a clue is kept in a specific menu. 

Monsters are not conceptually all that interesting, just a generic assortment of gooey not-zombies and the like. Their lack of originality is made up for by simply how fucking violent they are. Not afraid to smash through doors, lunge at you frantically, or stand there and spew giant maggots with convulsive rage, they’re not merely aggressive but deceptively durable. Their speed relative to Edward and Emily’s shooting ability makes them more intimidating, though occasionally this also them more frustrating than frightening.

Oh, and they make so much horrible, distressing noise

The result is a game that’s far more scary than it ought to be, simply because the enemies are so wild and relentless that tackling more than just one is a genuinely tricky challenge. Combined with the great sound design, which makes it sound like malevolence lurks behind every wall, Alone in the Dark succeeds rather well at delivering on both the “survival” and “horror” fronts.

I was pleasantly surprised, especially given the series’ ignoble history to this point, to find 2024’s Alone in the Dark is actually really enjoyable. While not the most polished or visually impressive game, it’s a charming one that goes out of its way to pay tribute to the original trilogy with its survival horror elements and shameless lore dumps. An effectively spooky presentation, violent enemies, and clever puzzles round out the package, making this the first Alone in the Dark game since the 1990s to be an Alone in the Dark game.



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