Games: Alone in the Dark back for more scary puzzling with new creaky country-fried caper

The original 3D survival game gets another 21st century reboot - but nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

A scene from Alone in The Dark
Alone in The Dark .
Alone in the Dark (Multi, THQ)

WHILE most gamers will tell you Resident Evil invented survival horror, Alone in the Dark was putting the frighteners on players four years before Capcom’s zombie-buster shuffled onto the scene.

The original 1992 scare-fest is recognised by Guinness World Records as the first ever 3D survival horror game, and Shinji Mikami admitted in 2014 that his Resident Evil had copied Alone in the Dark’s homework.

After an original 90s trilogy, two lacklustre attempts this century failed to shock the grandfather of the genre back to life - but third time’s the charm. The latest taps Hollywood talent in the form of Scouse star Jodie Comer and Stranger Things shlub David Harbour to bring the franchise back to its puzzling roots with a handsome reboot.

Much like original, players attempt to rid Derceto of its bad juju in 1920s Louisiana as either noir private eye Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood, who visits the titular nuthouse after receiving a worrying letter from her uncle.

Borrowing heavily from Capcom’s Resident Evil remakes, with an over-the-shoulder view and modern bells and whistles, Alone in the Dark emphasises noodle-scratching over gung-ho action, meaning much map reading, matching keys with doors and fiddling with an abundance of shifting tile puzzles.

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Alone in The Dark .

On top of hoofing through the mansion’s hallways, action segments see players enter Uncle Jezza’s dreams, fighting eldritch horrors across graveyards, paddle boats, war trenches and the like by shooting the place up, smacking baddies around with shovels and healing yourself, tramp-style, by swigging whiskey.

With a well-penned plot and plenty of callbacks for its middle-aged fans, AITD is clearly made with love for the original, but that nostalgia extends to clunky combat and movement swampier than its Louisiana setting. And having to play through twice means a double dose of misery in Missouri to experience its full story.

Technically, Derceto is beautifully realised, brimming with so many period details you can almost smell the mahogany. But coughing up for Hollywood talent seems to have left the coffers bare for anything else.

Alone in The Dark . (Neil)

Janky and with bugs galore, the sound glitched out for much of my run-through while characters had a tendency to get trapped behind furnishings. And, though David and Jodie deliver natural - almost comatose – performances, its supporting cast sound like they’ve wandered in from an am-dram production of Streetcar.

While it’s the best the series has been since the 90s, Alone in the Dark’s digitally captured stars can’t save a conservative reboot that fails to raise the pulse in the way Resident Evil 7 did when it visited the deep south back in 2017. Slathered in HP Lovecraft sauce, its lushly atmospheric Southern Gothic is more mumbo jumbo than hoodoo for a creaky country-fried caper that takes fans back to the 90s in all the wrong ways.

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