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Alone in the Dark was one of the most influential games of the DOS era. How does it hold up today for the first-time player?
I was very interested in playing this famous older title, which is so frequently referred to in writing about our beloved adventure genre. After playing it, I can say that I was not disappointed.
This Game Could Justify the Action/Adventure Hybrid Label
First of all, as most of you who've been around the genre longer than me probably already know, this is not a pure adventure. You'd have to call it an action/adventure. In fact, it's so excellent at blending the two genres that you could probably make the argument that its one of the original games of this hybrid genre.
Alone in the Dark is heavily influenced by the wonderfully dark, twisted writings of H.P. Lovecraft, and that's a pretty good literary pedigree for any game. If you haven't read Lovecraft, chances are you've seen plenty of movies with the same idea: a researcher into the occult finds some ancient, dusty incantations and rashly begins reading them aloud, thereby releasing into the world all matter of unpleasant, icky monsters.
It was released way back in the dark DOS era (1992), and so I didn't expect it to be graphically impressive. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, the technical limitations of the day keep it from having that smooth, polished, rendered Myst look, but I wasn't expecting that.
Excuse Me, but Is That Your Six-Foot, Venom-Dripping, Purple Spider?
However, the game overcomes its "primitive" technology by a very high degree of craftsmanship. The sound effects are creepy and convincing. The character movement is complex and varied. The camera angles are constantly shifting, giving the game a very cinematic feel. Finally, the characters and objects have a convincing sense of weight and substance.
All of these factors add up to the result that, DOS or not, the world of Alone in the Dark is a strangely compelling, real-seeming (if not exactly realistic) place. This is vital for a game that is filled with such varied forms of physical danger.
There's Something Weird About the Old Derceto Mansion ...
The story is extremely simple. The old man of a huge, mysterious house has died under suspicious circumstances, and you show up at the house to check it out.
Not two minutes into your exploration of the house's attic, and you're set upon by a vicious "furrball" and a relentless zombie! Clearly, this house is going to be no picnic.
The rest of the game consists of you carefully exploring the house, searching for weapons and for clues to the origin of the vicious monsters that lurk around almost every corner.
See Monster. Fight Monster. Run from Monster. Find the Next Monster.
Let me be clear: This is not a traditional adventure game! Action elements are at its very core. However, since it's not a pure shooter, I believe it really earns the title "action/adventure." You have to find magic daggers to kill beasties, you have to attack them with knives, guns, and even soup! Some of the action elements are very challenging. Particularly difficult is a swordfight with a pirate who, despite his undead status, is still quite a swordsman! Also, the final sequence is not for the impatient or the faint of heart!
There are many things I admire about this very influential game. I think it's cool that you have your choice of two characters to play through the game as. I'm impressed that the game includes a maze that neither bored nor infuriated me. I'm impressed with the level of difficulty--this game is challenging, but not defeatingly so. I'm impressed with the cinematic feel to the game.
Alone in the Dark has a very cool cinematic feel, scary monsters, and fun gameplay. On the down side, lots of combat makes this not a game for adventure purists. Alone in the Dark is a game that lives up to its hype!
Final Grade: B