DAY 5 – CHAPTER 5
TIME SPENT: 2+ hrs
ACHIEVEMENTS: 5 (Revive, Bloody Mary, Goal!, The Biggest of All, NOT ALONE ANYMORE)
Alone in the Dark chapters apparently operate on an alternating design of having a really annoying driving sequence (chapters 2 and 4) and a really annoying black liquid sequence (3 and 5). Chapter 1 had liquid too but it was pretty easy to navigate through. Here, it’s a long L shaped hallway with the liquid covering the entire thing and no nearby fire. You have to run, jump, and of course, do a running jump in order to get through. On a normal game this wouldn’t be much of a problem, but with the bugginess that I’ve grown used to (I even added the word to spell check!), it’s not so simple here.
For starters, the camera often turns at inappropriate times, resulting in you walking into liquid where you couldn’t even see it. But even if the camera worked right, it wouldn’t matter much, because sometimes you’ll die even when standing in a spot that looks clear (apparently the barrier that triggers the instant death animation wasn’t drawn exactly on the lines of light/liquid). And, of course, the jumping button doesn’t always work right when you’re running, and your guy sometimes stops on a dime as soon as you let go of the run button, rather than slow to a normal walking speed, so if you let go in order to prevent yourself from running too far ahead of the light, you’ll just die from behind. Nice. This took me almost an hour to finally get through. And, par for the course, the rest of the level posed no real challenge.
That’s not to say it was a quickie either. Early on you need to clear a bunch of nests, something that isn’t really explained. This took me a while as I ran around scouring for items and ammo, with lots of back and forth stuff. Then there was a pretty goofy puzzle involving lighting a rat on fire that also stumped me for a bit. But that’s OK – I like thinking things through and trying different ways of getting the job done. I DON’T like having to do the same thing over and over again because the unpolished control/camera kept resulting in my death as I tried to do what is otherwise a very simple task. At least when I am stumped with a puzzle, I don’t have to keep watching myself die over and over and then look at a re-loading screen.
This level also contains the first true boss battle. There have been other minor ones, but they were largely simple – you just had to throw a Molotov at them. And that’s how you beat this one too, but unlike the others, it’s not a stationary, largely harmless mass of monster organ stuff. It’s a big ol’ tarantula man thing who shoots an almost endless series of stingers at you and also runs around chasing you. To beat him you gotta wait until he stops shooting in order to take a breath, THEN toss a Molotov at him. I think it takes 5 hits, after each one he goes apeshit and demolishes one of the pillars you are using for cover. Supplies are limited and obtaining them leaves you open to attack. It’s not the toughest battle ever, but it’s a good, and more importantly FAIR, challenge, un-hindered by the problems facing the driving/liquid scenes. It’s not completely perfect though – at one point I got stuck on the wall and had to reload.
The enemy design is great, and it is one of many you see in this level (I think this is the first one to incorporate all 5 of the game enemies seen thus far – Batz, Ratz, Humanz, liquid, and some sort of underground tentacle thing that whips you around if it catches you). I like that you can’t just shoot everything to death, as that would get boring (far as I know, there is no way to ‘kill’ the last two I mentioned). The limited number of supplies and imprecise aiming controls actually serve to intensify the excitement of the battles when they come – not only are you down to a single Molotov, it’s also possible to miss when you toss it in order to make it explode midair because your guy decided to suddenly spin around. Humanz are the most fun to fight – not only are they easy to see (unlike the Ratz, which have a tendency to attack you out of nowhere), but they don’t endlessly respawn like the Ratz/Batz do. Along with the boss, this is probably the most action driven level so far (not counting driving sequences), and the locale (a half-demolished museum) is a nice change of pace after the last two mostly outdoor levels.