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Alone in the Dark (Game release date: 1992)
If this picture floods you with memories you may enjoy revisiting this suspenseful classic, but most modern gamers will find navigating it a chore.
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|Highlights: Old-school suspense, nostalgia, can avoid monsters in more than one way||Lowlights: Poor movement controls, primitive gameplay, frequent reloads, dated look|
Alone In The Dark is one of those computer games that was great for its day but has simply been left in the dust.
Its chunky VGA graphics and awkward 3D locomotion were state of the art in 1992, but today they look and feel more
like "Pitfall" than anything we'd expect from an action-adventure game. The monsters, which were genuinely scary at the time,
look kind of silly now. The gameplay is primitive, menu-based, and relies way too heavily on watching something bad happen,
reloading, and doing something to prevent it. Playing Alone in the Dark for a little while will definitely remind you how far
computer games have come in the past 15 years.
That's not to say it's a bad game. Alone in the Dark does have some great features to it; it's just that those features were so popular and influential that they've become commonplace in the intervening years. Probably its greatest innovation was forcing players to pick their battles-- it was impossible to slay all the monsters in the mansion (there were limited bullets, some monsters were immune to physical attacks, others there were just too many of), so you had to find ways to neutralize, avoid, or flee from at least some of them. This created such a scary and suspenseful atmosphere that it spawned an entire sub-genre of "survival horror" action-adventure games, which are still being produced today. Alone in the Dark was also remarkable at the time for its unexpected real-time scares (a monster suddenly crashing through a window or lunging out of a bathtub to attack) and for offering more than one way to deal with a problem (you could either shoot a flying monster or block the window to prevent its entry, for example.) These, too, are elements commonly seen in modern games. Alone in the Dark was a landmark game, there's not really anything in it that can't be found elsewhere these days. They do make 'em like this anymore-- only with nicer graphics and a better interface.
So all in all, if you played Alone in the Dark in 1992, it might be worth playing it again just to give yourself a nostalgic thrill. (I must confess I enjoyed seeing it again.) But otherwise, if you want to experience an early survival-horror game, you'd probably be better off jumping ahead to the late-90's Resident Evil or, if you have a game console, Silent Hill. Because except for the pleasure of a good flashback, there aren't any really magic moments in Alone in the Dark to justify the inconvenience of playing it.
Style: Alone in the Dark is an old-school 3rd-person graphic adventure with rudimentary 3D movement and a menu-based interface. The plot is a horror story. There are some timed elements and combat is realtime, though the amount of manual dexterity required is modest in comparison with modern action games.
Lora's Recommendations: For the most part, I would really only recommend this game to people who played it in the early 90's and want to try it again. People who never played it before will probably not find it worth their while, unless they are devoted fans of old DOS games or have an interest in the history of adventure games in general or the survival horror genre in particular.
For a more detailed critique of the game involving spoilers, plot holes, and impacts Alone In The Dark had on the adventure-game genre, please see my Backseat Game Designer page. Happy gaming!
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