AITD: Chapter 1


TIME: Hour or so
FOCUS: Controls

I had never really played any of the other Alone in the Dark games (I tried one on the PSone, and got rid of it ten minutes later due to a truly awful control scheme, I forget which one it was though), but that didn’t make me any less excited for the new one, because I love survival horror in general, and if my beloved Xbox360 has one flaw, it’s the complete lack of games in the genre. Condemned is the only other one, and that came out at launch almost three years ago! There is also Dead Rising, but that’s more of an action/comedy game than anything scary (plus the actual survival mode is only available once you beat the game). So not only did I want to play the game, I want it to be a success, thus presumably paving the way for more of its type to hit the system (and indeed, two more are on the way – Dead Space and Left 4 Dead. Woooo!)

The game starts off in the middle of a crisis. New York is seemingly under attack by some sort of monstrous force (black liquid/tree-ish tentacle things devouring everything), and of course, its up to you, Edward Carnby, to stop it via solving puzzles, killing enemies, and having long dialogues with strange people you meet along the way. And of course, since it's a video game, he has amnesia (which is a bit odd for a game that’s essentially part 5 of a series). As the game begins he is about to be executed for some reason, but the monster things kill his captors and destroy much of the building he is in, and so your job is to get out alive while helping a few folks along the way.

The first level functions as sort of a long-form tutorial, as you learn to use weapons, heal yourself, solve puzzles, climb on wires, etc. None of it is particularly groundbreaking, but some of the puzzles you’ll encounter are pretty original. For example, at one point a dangling electric wire is blocking your path. To get by, you must keep the wire away from the ground by hooking it on an extruded part of the wall above. Stuff like that is much more preferable than the type of puzzles found in the Resident Evil games, which often don’t make any sense (why would a police station have a statue that needs two differently colored jewels placed in its eye sockets in order to get to the second floor?).

The controls are not very intuitive, sadly. The Y button is used to switch perspective from third to first person, and A is used for pretty much everything else. X is used to make Edward run, but it’s barely faster than his walking speed. In addition, it’s very difficult to make him turn around when in third person mode, as he is often seemingly fixated on something in front of him (I quickly got into the habit of just switching to first person, turning, and switching back rather than fumble about). It’s also a bit awkward to swing melee weapons (chairs and brooms mainly), which is how you catch things on fire to make torches. You use the right stick to swing them around, which is a sweet idea in theory, but it’s very awkward and hitting an exact target (a small flame for example) is a very trial and error process. Hopefully this is just growing pains associated with a new control scheme, and as I progress it will become more natural. So far, it’s a pretty fun game and definitely has a bit of an old-school charm that I highly appreciate.


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