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ALONE IN THE DARK | REVIEW | PS5

''ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?''

 


Developed: Pieces Interactive

Published: THQ Nordic

Genre: Puzzle/Horror

Release Date: March 20th,2024

Platforms: PS5/PC/Xbox family of systems

*Review copy provided by THQ Nordic


Alone In The Dark is remake of a 90's classic and it is developed by Pieces Interactive and published by THQ Nordic. With the industry being rampant right now with Remakes, Reimagines and Remasters, most of which have been surprisingly good, THQ Nordic decided to say ''Hey bro we can do that too''. But was this the right title to try to remake? or should it have been stuck relegated to a relic of time where it can still hold fond memories? Only one way to find out, so lets go!


STORY:


Discovering that her uncle has gone missing, Emily Hartwood goes looking for him with the help of private investigator Edward Carnby. Arriving at Derceto Manor, a home for the mentally fatigued, they encounter strange residents, portals to nightmarish worlds, dangerous monsters – and ultimately a plot of rising evil and its followers.



''SOMEONE WAS A JILL SANDWICH HERE''

 

GAMEPLAY:


Alone In The Dark has captivated a ton of people over the generations since it's original trilogy in the 1990's, whether you played the original on 3D0 or MS-DOS or are just a fan of puzzle based horror games in general, there's a high chance you have at least heard of this series in shape or form. While the original game itself wasn't necessarily the most eye pleasing thing if you compare it to modern standards, but back then, the tech and graphics used were some of the most state of the art stuff in the business due to the fact that no game really back then was using 3D graphics to the extend the original Alone In The Dark did, even if they do look a wee bit funky with their jumbled little shapes configured together to make a ''human''. They aren't as ugly as Igor, but close enough. Graphics aside of the original title, its the gameplay that people remember most for its detective and puzzle solving themed gameplay that combines itself with a horror aspect alongside it. With the janky camera and tank controls, the movements, the searching for specific objectives and key items to unlock doors and new rooms, solving puddles by finding keypad numbers for closed off areas, all while fighting off monsters that happen to try to come and slay you. Sound a bit familiar? well it should considering the original Alone In The Dark was the stepping stone and the foundation laying for the format that would eventually become the Resident Evil series. That's right folks, this is one of the earlier grand daddies of horror that set the tone for the rest of the industry and genre. Well if you don't count HAUNTED HOUSE on Magnavox Odyssey, but then again, you just placed a piece of paper over the screen and use the light cursor to pretend its a human in a horror house... so... does that count? who knows, but my overall point of telling you this is to give you an idea of what this franchise trilogy influenced and what exactly it was aiming for with this remake of it. The will it or won't it component of living up to expectations based off reputation is always a hard one to crack. So did Pieces Interactive crack it? Yes and no, but mostly on the no side due to certain changes or tweaks made that does not help the game stand out from its modern counterparts in modern media and horror gaming in general. But I'll explain the further we get into this one. Context is key, people.


There are definite flaws in this remake of Alone In The Dark with combat feeling a bit unresponsive with slow turning, not being able to move properly alongside the camera or certain bugs not letting you pick up key items unless you engage with an exact pixel in the screen, etc, you get it, there's issues, but that doesn't damn the game right out of the game to be fair as there is some heart and soul provided in this remake that manages to salvage it from falling completely on its face, and still leaves you with a decent horror romp that is capable of providing you some good thrills and chills. ''Players beware, you're in for a scare''. Props to the people who get that reference. As stated before, the game is a lot of Resident Evil, both with the original that inspired things like Resident Evil in the first place and even with this iteration as well with you as the player being able to make a choice as to who you want to play as, ala your Claire or Leon picks, but in this scenario it is, do you want to play as Emily Hartwood, played by Jodie Comer? or do you want to play as Edward Camby who is played by David Harbour? Uhh, yeah, you already know who I'm picking, David Harbour for sure. No offense to Jodie, but David Harbour in a detective like setting? that's perfect casting and I'm there for it regardless. In this version of Alone In The Dark, you set off on a detective mystery at the Derceto Manor with the purpose of finding Emily's uncle who has suddenly vanished under suspicious circumstances, much like me when you have a pizza around and pieces just disappear out of thin air, DID SEPHIROTH DO THIS?. The backdrop of the narrative has you going through dim lit streets with horrors around every corner that pits nostalgia against contemporary gameplay in what comes off as a mixed bag as it tries to infuse the classic style of old with a more mainstream level of gameplay by utilizing the industry standard puzzles, giving you low ammunition that makes you conserve energy just for the right moment should you need extra bullets for another time, on top of some really really funky melee combat that just doesn't feel good at all. Its rather mundane or even cumbersome, no matter if you're using a lead pipe or any other hand to hand weapon, you really just want to use your gun and be done with it. While those are some things the game gets wrong in its efforts, it does however get quite a few things right, with Derceto Manor itself being the setting that engulfs players in an eerie setting that is just ripe for the horror genre, complete with the mandatory fog. Come on, its not horror unless there's fog, I didn't make the rules, that's just how it is. As you venture through the streets and of the manor, you as a player will be able to engage in brain racking puzzles that give you hints to where a key might be, re-arranging tiles to a specific picture that unlocks closed doors, turn dials to connect them to match a magical tailsman, correlate documents and objects you find with each other in order to learn more about the area, who lives there and further lore of this mystery. These are well very well done and gives you a good feel that the developers for the most part ''get it'' in regards to the original title and the genre itself. Now if only adults can see why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch, then maybe everything would come full circle, but alas, that is for another day.

 


''WELCOME TO NON-SILENT HILL''

 

While the game faulters in many other aspects, its complexity in its puzzle design is really what carries the core of its gameplay from something that would be medicore without it and instead turns it into something more respectable, with every new challenge thrown at you being unpredictable from what you'd expect in your average horror game in regards to the roaming of the mansion, moving steps that are retractable in order to reveal new pathways, puzzles being more in light of early Resident Evil games where it may take you a fair bit to figure out unless you search for clues like you're Blue from Blue's Clues, only without the cute UH BOW BOW BOW, BOW BUH BOWWWW. Much like the Resident Evil you know and love today, the map shares a similar style in the sense that when you pull it up, you see all areas and floors you have to traverse with markers indicating locked doors or areas you have been to or havent been to and also track discoveries you might have made in specific areas so you know which area you have already treaded in, which reduces TONS of backtracking. A great quality of life feature that lets you roam the spooky manor without having to keep a notepad near to write down all the areas you have been in. I still have nightmares from older horror games making me run around the same areas for 3 hours and when you're on a time crunch as a kid and only have the weekend to play before school, you better damn well not get stuck at all, but of course, I was low brain cell nugget, so a lot of rentals remained unfinished or id hide them and rack up parents late fees. Oops. Parents gaming and video rental debt aside, the game tries a little bit too hard in the supernatural department that decides to go with industry tropes of ''theres always a BIGGER threat out there''' and takes you beyond the manor walls, removing the games own personal strengths it had going for it. Once removed from the mansion, the game no longer feels like an Alone In The Dark detective mystery that kept me so engaged and instead felt more like a marriage between recent Resident Evil games with some Evil Within thrown into it with enemies that looked like a mutation of the T-Virus, sponge enemies that take forever to melee or take down with bullets, which you're limited on and very stoic feeling stealth gameplay that feels broken with having you crouch and use R2 to throw an object, but its hard to aim where you want to throw it, so 90% of the time, you end up throwing it near you, inciting the monster and just getting attacked anyways. When you were in the manor or grounds around the manor, you were able to stealth, yes, but you had more places to hide and should you get into trouble, you still had means to protect yourself, melee or shooting, but once you leave the manor, the stealth missions become instant fail. Oh I wish I could harness my inner John Cena and be like''YOU CANT SEE ME'' because even if they see a smidgen of your head, you fail, start over. Its in complete contrast to what the game had going for it during its opening hours and completely goes against the horror and suspense the game had already got you accompanied to. Its a decision I am not sure why it was and breaks the immersion you once had, at least it did for me.


What makes it even more jarring is the puzzles themselves don't necessarily falter to the same degree as the immersion and combat, if anything it remains its saving grace even outside the confines of the manor itself, just mixed in with worse combat and now becoming DOOM guy and fighting otherworldly monsters. Should I really be playing as David Harbour or should I just be Bruce Campbell? just throw in Ash and were good. Consequently, giving the player choice in who to pick, does not change the narrative in the same way a game like Resident Evil 2 did back in 1998, and instead is similar to just picking a skin in Fornite to play, for comparison sake. Why did I use this comparison? well while both Alone In The Dark and Fornite are nothing like each other in terms of gameplay, picking between Emily and Edward is. In Fortnite, you use a skin of a character you like with a big drastic change to the game overall, much is the same for player choice in this title between Emily and Edward, there's no dual narrative going on like Claire and Leone where you can see the same story unfold but from two varying perspectives that could give you insight to each characters problem solving skills or their personal plights they might be going through - none of that is here and instead amounts to simply each character having occasional interaction between each other and the rest of the time just spent solo with no real context or sign to what the other character is doing or finding. The experience itself stays the same from start to finish, no matter who you pick, which is a real bummer because of a game of this genre and setting just screams as a walk in the park for success. Its like promising to make a game that's true to its roots, then adding in harry potter like ghosts that feel completely out of kingdom hearts. Looking at you Square-Enix. The reason I'm ranting on about this is because its painful for my brain because Pieces Interactive genuinely DO get what makes a horror game like this fun, this much is 100% evident in the opening hours, they get it and they prove they respect the pioneers of the past that have come before them that made this genre possible and popular in the future place by having great exploration, fun and inquisitive puzzles that requires a stop and think approach like a real mystery and finding secret entrances to hidden doors in the dark and eerie manor, it excels to a degree that gets you excited and lets you know that Pieces Interactive can 100% make a bonafide hit from start to finish, it just that they seemed to have trouble figuring out how to wrap up the middle to later half of the game by removing the bread and butter that brought them the key to success in the first place and that's the biggest bummer here.


 


''I GOT A BONE TO PICK WITH YOU''

 

OVERALL:


At the end of the day, Alone In The Dark remains a fun but marred experience. It definitely has its ups with the horror aspects and detective work early on in the game that really sets a great atmosphere with the dark manor with multitude of secrets to discover, alongside great puzzles that make you plan accordingly in order to figure out and when you do? you feel accomplished because you're immediately award with a new secret passage or mystery to solve. It's fantastic when its at its best. However, after the opening few hours of the game, the positives start becoming fewer with combat getting more sluggish and less responsive, supernatural taking over the narrative that doesn't fit with what the game was originally going for early on, headache inducing stealth missions with bad throw distraction mechanics, etc etc. Sure throughout the game it keeps its puzzles engaging for the most part, which is definitely a saving grace, but it isn't able to stick the landing overall or reshuffle its footing on the pacing it loses after the first few hours, which is a shame. The game isn't terrible by any means, don't get me wrong, there is an entertaining game here, overall though it ends up a hampered down title by the overly used modernized tropes that we see far too often in the industry and kills all the uniqueness it had going for it. This game is definitely worth a purchase... eventually, for sure, just not at full retail to be fair. If you're a fan of classic horror and puzzle solving and willing to go through some of the other grievances the game has, then I say definitely pick this game up at $40 and under, should you find an opportunity to do so. So with all that having been said, my verdict is clear, GameNChick says WAIT




 

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