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Alone in the Dark Review

Nick Shively Posted:
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It’s been more than 30 years since the original Alone in the Dark made its debut, and now we’re coming full circle with the game that helped define the survival horror genre. Clearly having an influence on  Resident Evil with its puzzles, weight management system and overall creepy theme, the remake of Alone in the Dark has definitely borrowed a few things from more recent games in Capcom’s series. Unfortunately, Alone in the Dark can’t decide what it truly wants to be and falls a little flat by the time it wraps everything up.

Welcome to Derceto

Oh, how I love exploring creepy old buildings. As a kid, Resident Evil completely blew my mind. It was so much more complex than any of the previous games I’d ever played. I had to go back and forth through this frightening mansion, collecting puzzle pieces, shooting zombies, and being absolutely terrified of what awaited around every corner or behind each creaky door.

I got that same feeling when I arrived at the main location in Alone in the Dark. Derceto is a giant manor in the heart of the bayou and is currently a residence for the mentally fatigued. We’re brought there by Emily Hartwood after she receives a disturbing letter from her uncle Jeremy. Not sure what she’ll encounter, Emily enlists the help of private detective Edward Carnby.

Upon arrival, I had the option to play as either Emily or Edward. Eventually, I played through both stories but I picked Emily first since the plot specifically revolves around her family. That being said, most of the story overlaps, so you won’t miss too much if you decide to start with Edward.

As expected, things start off a little creepy and ramp up from there. Initially, no one answers your knock at the door, so whoever you pick must sneak through the garden and break into the manor. After letting your partner in, you’re confronting by the staff who aren’t too happy to see you. You learn that Jeremy has been missing but is still somewhere on the premise.

The rest of Alone in the Dark involves going through the rooms and items of all of the patients and staff at Derceto to learn the history of the mansion and uncover clues to Jeremy’s whereabouts. Eventually, you’ll stumble upon a pendant that will transport you to different imaginary locations and help unveil what has really been going on at Derceto.

Tapering Puzzles

Initially, Alone in the Dark focusing heavily on puzzles. I had to run back and forth between all of the rooms within Derceto collecting pictures, statues, pieces of broken plates and keys to reform them in a way to unlock a path to more puzzle pieces. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the game with a few minor combat sections thrown in.

As you complete puzzles and learn new coordinates for the magical pendant, you’ll be transported to different worlds where you’ll have to fight off various types of creatures, which are typically some type of skeleton, mold zombie. At first the zombie encounters were few and far in between, but once I had access to most of the mansion the puzzles were easier and less frequent with multiple re-used themes. A couple of the early puzzles really stumped me and probably took longer to figure out than they should, but by the second and third time they were used the solutions became trivial.

After a certain point, it felt like the developers were just trying to get the game over with and chained multiple locations together without me needing to do much besides go from point A to point B. I suppose there’s only so much they could have done with the manor itself, but due to the teleportation mechanic there really could have been endless opportunities for new and different puzzles.

The bigger problem with this heavier emphasis towards combat in the latter half of the game is that the fighting mechanics in Alone in the Dark are just okay. The shooting feels similar to Alan Wake but without the plot device of the flash light. There also aren’t any boss fights until the very end of the game throws a couple at you back to back. None of them are particularly difficult and make sense thematically but I feel like there were other opportunities throughout the game where more complex fights could have been incorporated.

Identity Crisis

The main problem that I have with Alone in the Dark is that it can’t figure out what it really wants to be. Is it survival horror? Well, the game throws ammunition and healing items at you around every turn and provides ample amount of everything in the more challenging combat sections. Is it a puzzle game? While the puzzles start off strong they become stale and much easier as the game goes on. Is it an allegory for trauma? Probably, but there are a bunch of plot holes and there aren’t any specific lessons to be learned other than “don’t do voodoo” or “keep your imagination in check.”

That being said, the visuals and voice acting is done very well. Jodie Comer, David Harbour and most of the supporting actors do an excellent job of making the story feel alive. Also, everything is voice acted including minor interactions with ancillary characters and written notes. Not only is this refreshing because there is a lot of text to go through but it also improves accessibility.

There are lots of visually unique and impressive designs throughout the manor and the other locations you’ll visit. You can find interesting little details everywhere, such as all different books on the shelves or a different setup on every coffee table, when they could have just used duplicate assets that many people probably wouldn’t have noticed.

Despite its issues, Alone in the Dark is interesting enough to be worth completing. While much of the story overlaps between Emily and Edward, there are a couple of unique sections for each, and apparently if you uncover all of the hidden items there’s a secret ending available. With that in mind, Alone in the Dark can be completed in around 5 hours the first time and about half that for subsequent playthroughs because the puzzles don’t change depending on which main character you select.

Full Disclosure: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of this review. Reviewed on PS5.

7.0 Good
  • Spot on acting by Jodie Comer and David Harbour.
  • Lots of visual details in the mansion make it feel like an authentic experience.
  • Initially, there are a lot of interesting puzzles and secrets to uncover.
  • Puzzles use repetitive themes and fizzle out in both style and difficulty.
  • Quite a few game-breaking bugs.
  • The story feels incomplete with a lot of plot holes.



Nick Shively