The day has come, Weiner fans. This is my first 1 Weiner out of 5. I tell you up front because I believe in fair warning, accuracy and succinctness, concepts with which the developers of Alone in the Dark are obviously unfamiliar.
The original Alone in the Dark series is the scary godmother of the survival horror genre. These PC-based thrillers drew on such diverse source material as H.P. Lovecraft, H.R. Giger, and the voodoun tradition. The original games starred Edward Carnby, a private investigator with a habit of treading into darker paths than he would like due to his passing sensitivity to the parnormal. The original Carnby is a fairly unassuming detective – a bit of the “everyman” with just enough skill and verve to live to spy another day. The original games had everything a gamer could want from survival horror – good stories, decent visuals, okay voice acting, and enough terror to make you want a night light for a while.
In 2005, Uwe Boll released another one of his cinematic abortions, this one based on Alone in the Dark. The movie starred Christian Slater as an overwrought Carnby who was experimented on as a child, giving him the power to see paranormal phenomena. (Shockingly, Boll had to replace Slater with Korean-American actor Rick Yune for the upcoming sequel, because Slater “declined” to return.). Most of the plot points in the film directly contradict the game, and the entire thing is a vomitous heap of bad acting and terrible visual effects.
So, which version of AITD did Atari choose to emulate when they decided to revive the series? You guessed it – Uwe’s baby. Today’s Edward Carnby is a grunting whiner who believes that fire is the answer to everything. The “immersive” Central Park setting is a repetitive grove of dark (and flammable) trees. Yes, you can pick up and interact with almost anything (when the nice buttons announce you can), but the limited “hey, wanna buy a watch” jacket inventory system and the fact that every single thing in the game appears to be completely incendiary makes the whole thing a moot point.
Visually, AITD is a dud. I played the PS3 version of the game, and it looks passably grim. Light help you if you attempt to play the PS2 or Wii versions. Even on the PS3, the cutscenes look like they were rendered by first-year students working on Grape iMacs, and the in-game character modeling has two settings: “brooding” and “undead”.
The controls do not improve the situation. AITD handles like Resident Evil 1’s mentally challenged younger brother. It’s a shame, too, because every time you die you are kicked back quite a ways, and have to relive each cutscene or listen to the exact same ambient noise or dialogue as you burn your way to the next checkpoint. And burn you will, because fire is the answer to everything and if you try to take the time to cobble together some items to find a new way of dealing with a situation, you will be killed thanks to Atari’s “innovative real time action”.
I found myself wishing that Atari had taken a page from BioWare and allowed for pauses to experiment with the inventory. That would have gone a long way toward making this a playable game. As it stands, after five tries, I don’t care if you’re trapped in the elevator ma’am, I just want you to shut your mouth. Permanently.
In the end, AITD’s developers managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of very possible victory. They had a strong series of games to use as source material, and adequate time and processing power to make something awesome happen. Instead, they took the road less traveled (at least by cinemagoers) and followed Uwe Boll down the road to damnation.
For being a terrible remake of an excellent series due to shoddy controls, adequate visuals, and the waste of what could have been an excellent inventory and interaction system, Alone in the Dark “earns” 1 Weiner out of 5.