Following the Alone in the Dark reimagining announcement earlier this year, Steam had a fantastic sale on the earlier Alone in the Dark games, so I picked up the bundle (four games for $1.49) and decided to play the original Alone in the Dark this October.
Alone in the Dark is one of the earliest survival horror games – possibly the earliest.
So as a game released in 1992, it feels… old. I got used to the tank controls quickly enough, but I had a hard time adjusting to double tapping up to run. Actions are also a bit clunky, as there is only one key for actions, so you have to open the menu each time to choose which action you want to perform (ex. search, fight, push).
I never quite got the hang of combat, but that’s not too bad, because combat is fairly de-emphasized. In fact, monster encounters felt like puzzles more often than not, as many have a trick so that you can avoid fighting.
You play either Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood investigating the strange mansion called Derceto after the suicide of its owner Jeremy Hartwood. I played as Emily, a decision motivated by not realizing I was on a character select screen when I started the game. It doesn’t matter much.
Exploration and puzzle-solving are central to the experience, in true survival horror fashion. So if you like that sort of gameplay loop of backtracking to solve puzzles to unlock more areas, that aspect of Alone in the Dark still holds up.
Saving often is important, since you can die easily, but you can save whenever you want. You also have limited inventory space (determined by item weight) and no storage box, so I got used to dropping used items everywhere.
There are plenty of notes and books throughout the mansion that shed light on the story. I’d somehow forgotten in the time since the reboot’s announcement that Alone in the Dark is Lovecraftian, so it was a pleasant surprise when the game started dropping names from Lovecraft. These documents you can read are also fully voiced, which was entertaining.
Alone in the Dark only takes a few hours to beat, and it definitely shows its age, but it was fun to see such an early example of survival horror.
Speaking of which, don’t forget you can win survival horror games and other great prizes in this year’s contest just by sharing your thoughts on games like Alone in the Dark! Check out the contest rules for more information.---
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