Alone in the Dark

"I have freed hellish forces and now the price must be paid."

I never imagined Alone in the Dark to be so bright and colourful. It's plot certainly isn't. Jeremy Hartwood has committed suicide, though some people think there's something else going on at his mansion, and a couple of them are prepared and determined enough to find out first hand.

You play as either Edward Carnby, the private investigator, or Emily Hartwood, Jeremy's niece in a fixed camera 3D survival horror game that, as I said, is bright and colourful.

What's going on here?

Fun Times

I'm not terribly sure if Alone in the Dark had voiced introductions originally, but they're worth a listen to in whatever version of it I'm playing, and not because they're fantastic (they aren't). They do set the scene, however, and that's what matters.

After a slow, text heavy introduction that could well put people off, the game opens up into a slow, detailed intro cinematic of your character getting dropped off at the mansion gates, walking up the drive, into the house, the doors slamming shut behind them, through the house, up all the stairs, through the corridor, up into the loft before finally allowing you to control your character.

It looks pretty damn good. I didn't picture it looking anything like this, based on the name, if anything, so I was idling along in the loft for a while, getting used to the controls (left/right to run, up/down for forward and back - a kind of bumbling, heavy control scheme that probably has some sort of name to help us all out...), picking up lamps and stuff when this monstrosity crashed through the window.


Apparently, Alone in the Dark is known for its ability to kill you, just like that. I wasn't in one of those situations, per se; I had the opportunity to punch and kick my way out of the problem - were I not trapped in the corner by the vicious little bastard.

So our first character, Edward, didn't get very far at all. He showed me the controls - briefly, and barely - so I will learn from the past and correct the mistakes for the future.

Further Fun Times

Now playing as Emily, we've put ourselves into the mansion in order to find a suicide note, which Emily believes is in a secret compartment in the piano, in the loft. If that's not the easiest thing to find, I don't know wha-- hang on a minute...

You can block the window with the wardrobe? Gee, thanks for that... I'm sure it'll come in handy.

They come through the trap door instead, of course they do.

Emily had a bit more fight in her than Edward, though, and slapped and kicked at this zombie-looking thing until it fell over and disappeared into a cloud of bubbles (I simply cannot call that visual effect 'dust' or anything like that), allowing me to switch up my actions in the menus and search the piano for perhaps the best voice acted suicide note in the history of video gaming, which you will, unfortunately, have to find for yourselves.

Letter in hand, that must be job done for Emily, so it's time to get out of the house and head home.

If only it were that simple...

Further Frustrations

I went downstairs, got confused with the controls (up is always move forward relative to the character), went back up to the loft, went downstairs again, picked up a bow and arrow (or maybe just a bow), before stepping into the wrong room, and being too nosey for my own good.

Once again I was trapped into a corner, the animation of my attacks just not having enough time to be completed, and thus not enough time for them to land any hits on my little green foe here.

Emily got further, but still ended up on a slab in who-knows-where. If I were to continue at this rate, I'm going to have sat through the introduction longer than it takes to complete a run of the game itself, so I better go and see how competent players fare with this title before wrapping this up.

Final Word

It seems even if you know what you're doing, the way the characters control and behave will cause problems for everybody. The more you know about the game, the fewer problems you'll have and the easier it will be to overcome the ones you do, but it'll still look like a bit of a clunky game.

But it's the first attempt at 3D survival horror, which is ambitious for all kinds of reasons, and you can clearly see the origins of the inventory systems and fixed camera perspectives of series that we're yet to reach on this 1001 list.

The puzzles may be beyond me and my skill severely lacking, but Alone in the Dark is a pretty cool game, despite me getting nowhere near the meat of the plot or the puzzling. As you gain access to the lower floors of the mansion on your way back through it, you'll have to solve puzzles (often related to item management) in order to make progress, all the while fending off monsters from the dark.

I don't know how spooky it was to people of the early 1990s - it's almost charming, looking at it today - but I bet it got a few heads to turn, and one of them should be yours.

Will I get back to it to try again, knowing much more? Maybe, maybe. I might make it to the second room downstairs. That'd be an achievement...

Fun Facts

Opening the wrong book could kill you in Alone in the Dark. It was a rare event, but one designed to instil a sense of fear when opening any book, or any door, or simply walking in the wrong place...

Alone in the Dark, developed by Infogrames, first released in 1992.
Version played: DOS, 1993.
Version watched: DOS, 1992 (Swizzley)