It's been 9 years since the original Alone in the dark, and with titles such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil ruling the genre, can Alone in the dark's fourth outing - The New Nightmare - still cut the mustard?
The story once more follows the long-standing hero, Edward Carnby, as he sets off to Shadow Island to bust some heads, hoping to find out why his best friend has kicked the bucket while investigating the island. He is joined by a young lass called Aline Cedric, who's hoping to perform translations on some mysterious tablets, and along the way find her long lost mad scientist of a father.
Murder, mystery, and gruesome family secrets dominate the story, which slowly develops into an irresistibly playable game, and there is an overwhelming desire to play the game to the end to find out what happens. This is an intelligent affair, not a "see zombie, shoot zombie, run to another room and shoot another zombie" game - you feel like you are part of a very well written and suspenseful film.
Straight from the start the game's tension grabs you and doesn't let go for one minute. The game is terrifyingly atmospheric, with gorgeous CG sequences and in-game graphics alike, complimented by tense, creepy music, which alongside your controller's vibro function, responds perfectly to scary moments to make you jump out of your seat and hide behind the sofa.
The controls are intuitive and easy to use, although the game does suffer slightly from the random monster element. They can pop out of mid air and attack you without warning - terrifying for the player, and although it adds to the edge of your seat factor as you can never relax, it does not combine well with the game screen at times. You can be attacked by a monster which you can't see as it's off the screen, and you'll have to position yourself appropriately to defend yourself. Thankfully this is a minor niggle as it's easy to shoot at the shadow monsters due to the intelligent aiming system, and you are unlikely to run out of energy unless you are completely useless - the puzzles and long plot are your main foe here.
The puzzles however, can be irritating. You have to inspect everything, no matter if there is an object near you or not, to find everything you need to progress through the game. Many revolve around gaining keys for all of the mansion's locked rooms, and it's a case of simply going to one locked door, trying all of your 5 keys, and moving on to the next door. It could flow better, however this does make the game last longer, and while you may be stuck in the game, you know that you have another key to another room somewhere, and there may be help there. To its credit, every negative in this game is complemented by a positive.
Talking of positives, there are some outstanding ones in this game, one of which being the two characters on offer. They both start the game in different areas, and have different reasons to investigate the island. Game-play varies between the two - Aline can climb walls, but has few weapons, meaning you need to activate your brain-cells a lot more than Carnby - who can simply pump the monsters full of lead. While they meet up only occasionally, you are kept in contact by walkie-talkie - another innovative addition to the game. Use the walkie-talkie if you have something to say, and often a conversation will follow, packed with clues of how to proceed. Far from easing the tension of being alone in the mansion, it adds a sense of distance and danger, knowing that every room is packed with peril.
The torch also deserves a mention - with the game being very dark and full of shadows, you must rely on the torch to view the entire room or landscape. It works brilliantly, with light beams illuminating every pixel of your screen, controllable by your left analogue stick. You soon learn to rely on it to find clues and ward off light sensitive monsters - it is a tool of both hope and power.
Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare is definitely up to scratch. The atmospheric graphics and music combine to give you more 'jump out of your skin' scares than ten of the best horror films, and game play is overall satisfying to play and flows well, resulting in a game that will keep you hooked to the end, no matter how long it takes (and it will take a while). Whether you're a fan of the genre or not, it will not disappoint.Overall score: 9 out of 10
Recommended Price: £29.99
Available: May 18th 2001Buy Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare from Amazon