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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: August 13, 2001
More than any other game, Infogrames’ original Alone in the Dark opened the door back in the early 1990s to the adventure-horror genre on the personal computer. This landmark offering’s mix of combat, exploration, and brain-teasers created a huge splash in the gaming marketplace. Now, more than half a decade after the last release in this series, Infogrames is giving us a fourth installment: Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare. While the balance among action, adventure, and puzzle-solving in this latest installment is pretty similar to that of its predecessors, can it live up to their brilliant legacy?
Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare‘s tale begins in the present day (as opposed to the early 20th century as in its predecessors) with Edward Carnby — the hero of the earlier releases in the series — discovering that his close friend, Charles Fiske, is dead off the coast of Shadow Island. Since we last saw him, Carnby has undergone a dramatic and frankly disorienting physical transformation, from a naive gentlemen to a long-haired mod expert on covert action. This time he teams up with a young and attractive professor of ethnography (cultural anthropology) named Aline Cedrac, who specializes in the Abkani Indian tribe. During the plane flight to Shadow Island, Carnby and Cedrac have to undertake an emergency evacuation by parachute when a mysterious attack occurs on the plane carrying them. They each land in different places, so the first challenge is for the two of them to find a way to get together. While not particularly innovative, the setup for this story has great potential for immersion.
You get to play the role of either Carnby or Cedrac, giving you two distinctly different experiences because each follows separate but interconnected paths. Carnby focuses more on fighting and action using weapons, while Cedrac deals more with puzzles and investigation. Interestingly, Carnby’s journey also ends up being considerably shorter than Cedrac’s. Though you can assume the role of only one character at a time, their escapades intersect more than once, and they can communicate via a two-way radio. The intriguing interplay between the two, as well as the gradual development of their relationship, is well done and is an unexpected bonus in a genre where personality and cooperative friendship is often downplayed.
The locale of The New Nightmare, Shadow Island, is appropriately foreboding. Aside from the expected haunted house, you explore surrounding caves, sewers, forests, churches, and swamps. You discover monsters, a violent history, and the presence of people who make your skin crawl. However, exploring the environs freely can be problematic: thanks to flawed collision detection and limited viewing angles, you often can get trapped bumping into items you cannot look at in places where you cannot view your character’s actions; and cannot see the monsters which confront you.
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