Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: August 22, 2001
Back when the PlayStation was still a twinkle in Sony’s eye, survival horror had already been introduced to the gamers of the world in the form of the original Alone in the Dark. While Resident Evil and its offspring were the breakthrough titles for this genre, their PC predecessors had already laid the groundwork and established the formula by which almost every one of these games operates. Perhaps realizing that it’s time for the originator to show the upstarts how horror is really done, Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare has been developed for both the PC and, giving rise to this review, the PlayStation. Will the ancient master scare the bejeebers out of Capcom fans, or will it succumb, Obi-wan Kenobi-like, to its protégé?
The Alone in the Dark series has always centered on the activities of paranormal investigator extraordinaire, Edward Carnby. Like many heroes before him, Carnby is just a normal man, though he is possessed of a keen insight into human nature that often lets him pierce otherwise inscrutable mysteries. Having been through countless horrors before, Carnby has dedicated his life (and given the spread of time covered by the series, one must presume that the family has adopted the same philosophy) to preventing others from suffering the same terrors. Shortly before the beginning of The New Nightmare, Carnby’s old friend and partner, Charles Fiske, was found dead near the ominously named Shadow Island. Fueled by a burning desire to uncover this mystery, Carnby immediately contacts Frederick Johnson, the man who contracted Fiske to go to Shadow Isle.
Assuming his partner’s contract, Carnby meets up with Aline Cedrac, a young linguistic anthropologist who specializes in Native American languages. She too has been employed by Johnson for her expertise, as the mysterious employer is looking to acquire a set of three tablets that are essentially a Rosetta Stone for an Indian language thought lost to time. One professor Morton claims to have translated these tablets, and Johnson needs Aline to confirm that his readings are both accurate and meaningful. The two meet and charter a small plane to the island despite a vicious storm, and as Aline drifts off, her reverie is broken by a sudden failure of the plane’s controls. As Carnby uses his pistol to beat back something that rips through the plane’s roof, the two of them dive out of the doomed aircraft and parachute to the island below.
This action packed opening provides a believable reason for the two protagonists to end up separated; and two intertwined storylines are the end result. Choosing to assume the role of either Carnby or Aline, players will experience unique locales, events and even gameplay. Testosterone-driven as he is, Carnby packs quite a bit more firepower than his counterpart, who must overcome more puzzles than Carnby as she makes her way through the game. Regardless of which character you choose, you will thread your way through many of the same areas, often crossing paths or seeing evidence of your counterpart’s presence. The two characters aren’t entirely alone in the dark either, as they have the foresight to both use walkie-talkies that let them keep in touch on their way through the jungles of the island and the manor in its center. The radios are for more than just plot advancement, though, and if you find yourself stuck, you may be able to glean a hint by calling the other character for advice.