Alone In the Dark
The grandfather of all survival-horror games felt more like a dinosaur in its most recent console iterations (not to mention its craptastic movie). But Alone in the Dark's next-gen debut should be chilling. The game's story revolves around Edward Carnby's investigation of paranormal elements linked to the afterlife, but the setting--New York City's Central Park, which is already full of fright at night--is paramount. "People will feel disrupted because this game happens where people usually feel at peace," says Producer Nour Polloni. "It's a city in the city, and we wanted to create a myth around Central Park and raise the question of why there is such a vast space right in the middle of one of the most densely populated cities in the world." And, surprisingly, creepy creatures won't be the catalysts for all of the scares here. "One of the approaches we're using to create fear is to work on people's phobias," says Polloni. "Like fear of heights, suffocation, animal bites, and drowning. Those things that paralyze them from reacting."
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DUSTY OLD MANSIONS, fog-filled towns, insane asylums--been there, not so scared of that anymore. The repetitive nature of survival-horror settings is killing the fright factor in videogames, which is why we're looking forward to Alone in the Dark's unexpected backdrop: New York City's Central Park. Even the Big Apple's craziest kooks are afraid of the spooks that lie within its 843 acres, especially when night falls. And after recently learning more about the game (which is a series reboot), we can say the locale isn't the only surprise in store.
It's episodic: While so many games look to the silver screen for inspiration (and pale in comparison), AlTD's structure takes a page from hit TV series like Lost and 24. Each level will essentially act as an episode (the disc will contain around 11, each consisting of 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes of gameplay), complete with plot twists and cliff-hangers. Oh, and you know those times where you put a game down for a while, only to come back and totally blank on what happened previously or what you're supposed to do next? That won't be a problem here. "A ‘coming next' trailer plays when you leave the game at the end of the episode to tease you into wanting more," says Producer Nour Polloni of developer Eden Games. "Then, the previous trailer plays when you come back to help you get back into the story." Also, Eden isn't ruling out offering additional episodes (via download) after the game ships.
It's hot: As you guide Edward Carnby (yes, the same paranormal investigator from the 1992 original) through Central Park, it'll be important to bring out his inner pyromaniac. And whether you're torching stacked-up furniture, wooden roofs, or the game's evil forces, "fire will behave as it does in real life," says Polloni. "It'll propagate in real time across flammable surfaces and objects, moving at different speeds depending on the material." It's got an olfactory bulb: "Enemies can detect you with a full range of senses--including, of course, sight and sound, but also smell," says Polloni. This unique characteristic (at least for game A.I.) does give AlTD's fuglies a leg up when hunting you down, but you'll find instances where you can actually turn it against them. "This lets you actually bait enemies," says Polloni, "with blood trails or a cadaver, which can prove to be very useful."
It's got air-conditioning: Even though most of your time will be spent on foot, you can also hop into vehicles to get around NYC's sprawling recreation area. These aren't the typical videogame rides, though--AlTD's cars come fully loaded with working radios, heat, and AC. More importantly, these features will factor into gameplay. "You won't be turning on the radio for hits of yesteryear," says Polloni. "You'll be picking up distress calls, for example, which can give you useful information like meeting points for survivors. And if it's a cool night in New York City, the heater could come in handy getting that frost off the vehicle's windshield."
Derceto, with its steeply angled roof and sinister appearance, guards in--its basement the secrets of Astarte, the goddess of fertility to whom the house was dedicated. The owner of this mysterious building, Jeremy Hartwood, died a few days ago. The police report concluded that he had taken his own life. Derceto is now empty. Rumors abound of a curse or of an evil power dwelling within its walls. For some days now a cloud of doubt has hung over your mind. What are those lights inside the house at nightfall? What could account for the eerie noises? Why did Jeremy commit suicide? And what compels you toward the house? What is Derceto's secret?
I like the impressive animation and the fact that you can move almost anywhere in the house.
The fighting sequences need to be refined a little because the controls lag.
The game is a great horror story. Some players may even get a few chills running up their spine.
Alone in the Dark is kind of like Out of This World meets The 7th Guest. Kind of, we said. It lumbers along with a polygon-animated, horror-under-the-floorboards theme.
Alone in the Dark is a new virtual-reality ghost hunter that takes place in the deserted mansion of Jeremy Hartwood. Hartwood took his own life, leaving behind a legacy of horrible puzzles that you must solve.
You play as either Emily Hartwood, Jeremy's niece, or Edward Carnby, a private detective. The action takes place in the mid-1800s, which lends the game a Victorian feel. Once you establish who the protagonist is, the rest of the game involves solving riddles, finding dues, knocking off a few undead creatures, and basically getting your butt out of the house in one piece.
Some amenities that help you on your quest include a shotgun, a bow, and mirrors. You open chests, break vases, and serve as the maitre'd at a Ghoul Banquet, to name a few scenarios.
The action is linear, which means you can't progress until certain items are found in order. This tight restriction makes for a very formal, less adventurous game. Then again you'd expect that sort of conservatism in Victorian times.
The sparse polygon-based graphics offer minimal detail. While the game shoots for a more realistic 3D effect, it produces only silly-looking, quirky-moving monsters. Maybe this haunted house is on Sesame Street.
The sounds fare better than the graphics. Weird moaning, zombie laughter, and occasional hands-around-the-throat screams instill the right mood. There's very little music, but what's there does enhance the scenes.
Controlling your character is as hard as getting Queen Victoria to do the Hustle. The sprites' syrupy movements affect your ability to react in crisis situations, especially when you're facing more than one monster.
Alone Again... Unnaturally
Alone in the Dark is for gamers who want a little puzzle, a little challenge, and lots of hang time. While the action is nothing to write home about, you'll marvel at the use of fully animated polygons and 3D views. The problem is, after that you'll be all Alone.
- If you read the fable in the attic correctly, these two gargoyles should have a problem with mirrors. Try the end tables for placement.
- Instead of fighting the two monsters in the attic, move the cabinet to cover the window and move the trunk to cover the trapdoor. Do it fast, because both monsters show up quickly.
- You don't have to tight every monster If you shut the doors quickly enough.
- Check the bookshelf in the attic for a hit-or-myth clue.
- Sometimes finding a clue Isn't enough-you have to search the clue for dues. What's inside the flask?
- Check every possible container In the vicinity before and after a sequence of events, such as a fight
The award-winning PC game comes to 3DO with all its excitement intact. The story line involves a suspicious suicide, a chilling curse, and an evil power. This one-player game features fast polygon graphics, 3D control of your character, and zooming and panning techniques seen in movies. Unlike the computer version, the 3DO version uses digitized speech.