By Tordah 3 Comments
Partly inspired by the excellent Fear Gauntlet videos courtesy of MattBodega and Lemon, I've decided to attempt a (half-assed) personal Fear Gauntlet as well. I've always had trouble playing scary games as far back as I can remember. As a kid I recall giving Resident Evil a go when I heard everyone saying great things about it, but I was too much of a coward to play it for more than 15 mins. Since then, I've pretty much avoided playing any scary game by myself, and since I've almost always been alone when playing games it meant that I didn't play any scary games at all...
Now it's time to change that! I'm gonna ease into things by playing some supposedly un-scary "horror" games first, which brings me to my first choice:
Now I know what you're thinking. Why play such a critically panned and terrible game like Alone in the Dark? Well, you gotta begin somewhere, even if that means scraping the bottom of the barrel. But to be honest, this had been sitting on my shelf for a long time already, and the morbid curiousity was starting to bother me. "Could it really be that bad?", I kept asking myself. Also, I heard that it was supposedly not scary at all so it felt like it would be a good starting place.
To begin with, the controls in this game are pretty terrible. Everything is really clunky and unintuitive. The camera control while in 3rd person has to be the most annoying camera I've ever experienced in a game. The driving is also a pain the ass, and you have to do quite a bit of driving before you're through it. The MacGyver-style inventory management was kinda cool for the first hour or so but quickly became more of a hassle than anything else. I give the game credit for trying to do things a bit differently, but mostly they just end up feeling unnecessary.
Storywise, AitD leaves a lot to be desired as well. The initial premise of New York getting all messed up by "evil" earthquakes is pretty cool, and makes you want to know what the hell is going, but everything after that is just kinda dumb. The dialogue and characters are really campy, and there's a lot of mumbo-jumbo stuff before the game reveals what's really going on. And in the end it's really hard to care about anything you've just experienced, as both the "good" and bad ending are really abrupt and unsatisfying.
AitD is not completely without merits though; the soundtrack is honestly really good, and graphically it doesn't look terrible either. Particularly the fire and rain effects look really neat, and there's some good and appropriate lighting for most areas. Some of the setpieces are kinda cool as well, but unfortunately the bad controls negate any goodwill the setpieces might have created.
After playing through AitD to completion I can totally agree with just about everyone that it's not a scary game at all. There were a few times when the game attempted some half-assed jump scares, but they didn't even make me flinch. The game tries to create a moody atmosphere, and to be fair, it partially succeeds at that, but when you know there's not much to fear, it feels kinda redundant. The survival horror factor never really comes into play either as there are tons of items laying around everywhere. Items even respawn inside lockers, which is highly convenient, but makes no sense whatsoever.
The enemies that you encounter are pretty dull, as most of the time you're just fighting off regular-ass possessed "humanz" and "vampirz" as the game likes to call them. It also doesn't help the scary factor that your dude can take one hell of beating before dying. As far as I know, there was only one difficulty level in this game, and it seems to be set to very easy. I did, however, die a lot from all the awkward and clunky platforming segments, but almost never in combat. The checkpointing is also really forgiving in this game, so death never is much of an issue anyway, nor something that you'll ever feel anxious about.
Scary factor: 1/5 stars
Alone in the dark is a very flawed game. It has some neat moments and interesting ideas, but mechanically it's just not very good. It tried to do a lot of things differently, and I can appreciate that, but when the core gameplay is as broken as it is, it's hard to forgive it for that. The best thing I can say about it is that I didn't completely dislike it, and that I believe it may be a fairly memorable game experience (I guess we'll see about that). It's not a good game by any means, but I've played far worse.
Overall score: 2/5 stars