Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare
Review by Old Rooster
A HeritageSomewhat Honored
Not long ago, I was privileged, by way of a PC Gamer classic
games CD, to play the original Alone in the Dark, produced
in 1992. Although the graphics were primitive by today's standards,
one can certainly tell why this first game of its type caused such
a stir. The atmosphere was eerie; the moving camera perspective
surprisingly effective; the storyline was involving; and the puzzles
were practical and made sense. Indeed, this game spawned not only
its own line of successors but, in many respects, the Resident
Evil and Silent Hill series, along with their clones.
The arrival of this fourth iteration of the AITD series
was much anticipated, even though the creator of the first three,
Hubert Chardot, had moved on to similar projectsThe Devil
Inside and From Dusk Till Dawn. Unfortunately, his omission
from the design team was significant, with the resultant product
rather disappointing, given the heritage and our expectations.
Carnby and Cedrac
The rather bumbling Edward Carnby ("famed supernatural detective")
of nine years ago has been modernized and become quite hardenedas
if he has personally experienced not only the first three Alone
in the Dark episodes, but perhaps also the Resident Evil
series as well! Joining him is Aline Cedrac ("determined
young archeologist"). Having been summoned to the appropriately
named "Shadow Island," the pair proceeds, due to an initial
separation, in differently pathed quests to try to resolve the mysteries
of the island and, ultimately, reclaim three ancient tablets.
Edward starts outside a haunted mansion with a set of problem-solving
tasks, involving a lot of key finding, door opening, back-and-forth
movement, and monster killing. Aline, the more cerebral of the two
investigators, starts on an upper floor balcony and has more puzzles
to solve. These separate paths are not retreads of each other, but
rather two quite distinct pieces of the whole detecting effort.
Indeed, in order for the rather good storyline to make complete
sense, both parts eventually need to be played.
Communication does occur between Carnby and Cedrac, via walky-talky,
with the first point of mutual contact coming from observation of
their respective flashlights. These lamps, with permanent batteries,
are a graphical highlight of the game, illuminating very effectively
the generally impressive scenes. Alene's torch also works as a primary
weapon, used to ward off monsters afraid of the light.
"The Shadows Always Prevail" Game-Over Screen
From the game title to Shadow Island's appellation, it's clear
this game evolves at night, in the dark. Characters are depicted
in 3D animations on beautifully rendered 2D backgrounds.
Although lip movement isn't present, this doesn't present a serious
impediment. As mentioned, particularly impressive is the flashlight
effect, which is needed not only to illuminate your path, but also
to find hidden clues and objects. The 640×480 resolution (the
only choice) is surprisingly satisfactory, thanks in large measure
to OpenGL assist.
Ambient sounds (whistling wind, barking dogs, creaking floor boards)
all serve to add to a generally effective atmosphere of forebodingness
and imminent evil. The musical score is suitable.
"This Island Is a Hellhole" Little Old Lady
I love action/adventures, particularly of the survival/horror subgenre.
But console porting, or simultaneous PC/console development, really
imposes limitations on the flexibility of the PC. Clearly, Darkworks
had the consoles in mind first, then the PC. The third-person movements
of our characters are awkward and imprecise. Getting to the correct
spot on the screen is often an exercise in frustration, let alone
the movement required when trying to confront an unexpected and
unpleasant zombie! Relatedly, camera placement and angles can be
severely limiting, allowing a monster to be hurting you and yet
out of your line of vision. Finally, the use of a weapon, usually
by Carnby, involves the unusual action of holding down the left
mouse button to aim while simultaneously holding the right mouse
button to fire. I never did get the hang of that one.
And then we come to game saving, the greatest Achilles heel of
this game. A la Resident Evil, there are pickups to allow
save game opportunities. And you can, presumably, save anywhereby
using either one of only four save slots or the quick save/load.
Tragically, though, saves return you to the beginning of the room
or sequence you last began, with it being necessary to repeat all
your exploring and fightingyuck!
Finally, I experienced an annoying pixel precision problem (PPP).
Unless an object to be retrieved is approached in the most tediously
precise fashion, typically several times, it's not likely to become
part of your inventory. Again, the annoyance of "consolitis"
rears its head, to the detriment of a potentially good game.
As an aside, Darkworks, the publisher, is developing a similar
title, Cold Fear, to be released in March of 2005, for PS2,
Xbox, and PC. Hopefully, the PC version will reflect a greater awareness
of the strengths of our favorite platform.
There are some gameplay merits of The New Nightmareincluding
two distinct and interwoven styles of play, an eerie atmosphere,
an interesting underlying narrative, and generally more cerebral
than monster-bashing activities (except for the last quarter). These
strengths are diluted, unfortunately, by the multiplatform limitations
imposed on the PC version by the developer.
A Game Worthy of "Undying?"
As an admitted fan of survival/horror, I found moments of enjoyment
in AITD: The New Nightmare and would give it a qualified
recommendationbarely passing. However, the story, scare factor
and implementation aren't near the level of such games as Clive
Barker's Undying or the more recent The
Suffering. The third-person control doesn't approach
the fluidity of Max Payne, for example. These efforts have
set standards, for story on the one hand and control implementation
on the other. Yet the game is better than most in the Resident
Evil series (particularly from an adventuring perspective),
miles beyond Evil Dead: Hail to the King, more interesting
and involving than the Blair Witch series, and about at the
same level in overall quality as The Devil Inside (Chardot's
If you are more used to console-type controls and their inherent
limits than I, you may want to give this flawed, but interesting,
New Nightmare a trial; of course, with the blinds drawn and
only a candle for background lighting!
What I Liked Most About AITD 4
- Tells a good story, from two different perspectives;
- Impressive overall graphics, especially lighting effects;
- More cerebral and puzzle-solving than monster bashing.
What I Liked Least About AITD 4
- Frustrating console-type control problems;
- Terrible save game system;
- Often problematic camera placement.
Release Date: August 2001
Four Fat Chicks Links
Windows 98/ME/2000 (will run under XP)
Pentium II 400 GHz
64 MB RAM (128 MB recommended)
16 MB DirectX compatible video card (32 MB recommended)
400 MB free hard disk space
Where to Find It
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