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Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare
Score: 83%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Infogrames
Developer: Darkworks
Media: CD/2
Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror

Graphics & Sound:
The graphics is Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare are typical survival horror fare, with detailed pre-rendered backgrounds of the likes of Resident Evil. Its what we have come to expect from this genre and it suits me just fine. Nice touches include the fantasticly spooky lighting effects (this is Alone in the Dark, after all), and a very Geiger-esque maze later in the game. Cut scenes are a combination of FMV and game engine generated scenes and this works fairly well. One major annoyance is the fact that you cannot just hit a button and bypass the in-game cut scenes. FMV yes, but you can simply halt each sentence spoken. It takes the same amount of time as you watch the characters attempt to converse in clipped phrases. Not cool.

As for the sound effects, they are inevitably creepy and very well-done, with the exception of the oh-so-irritating squeaks of the plant-like creatures. It feels so good to finally be able to zap them with the Lightning Gun, once you find it. But I digress... Voice acting in Alone in the Dark is not bad. There is some cheesiness present, but hey, it is survival horror and cheesiness is par for the course. The banter between Aline and Edward is actually quite amusing at times. The very evil Alan Morton is rather overdone, but I think he is a closet actor in spite of his hopes of becoming world ruler. But hey, what's with the wacky 80's sounding guitar ballad at the end of the game? I literally laughed out loud at it. In spite of this bit of goofiness, suffice it to say that the environs in Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare will keep you on the edge while you play. Its good stuff.

Imagine your helicopter is crashing towards a dark and dismal island. Shadow Island. You grab your parachute and jump out, not knowing what's awaiting you when you hit the bottom. You find yourself on the roof of a house, somewhat shaken and bruised, struggling to stay calm as the rain pours down. Or... you shake the dirt off to find you've crash landed in some spooky woods, with an ominous mansion in the distance. You've just experienced the first few minutes of Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare where you can begin your game as either Aline Cedrac, the lovely young foreign languages expert who's come to help translate a set of ancient tablets, or as Edward Carnby, an investigator trying to find out what happened to his friend who was last seen heading to Shadow Island. Aline's road is much harder, as she starts off somewhat injured and with no weapon. However, on the upside, she doesn't have to fight her way to the house as she lands on top of it. Carnby, on the other hand, has a gun that is somewhat passable, but lands in the woods surrounding the manor. I played my game through to the end as Edward and have started a game as Aline, and being Aline is considerably more difficult.

Your journey as one of the two will lead you through the spooky Morton mansion, with shadowy ghoulies jumping out at you around many a corner. Yes, the requisite zombies are here. The good news is these take 3 shots with the trusty shotgun and they are done for. None of that getting back up business. There are hell hounds as well, and the first time one came at me, I screamed and frightened my own dog who was sitting next to me. Actually, I think he just thought I was crazy, but whatever. Edward's game is more action oriented while Aline's is more puzzle based, so you can choose according to your preference. I recommend starting as Edward, as this helps to make Aline's story make more sense when you play as her. Personally, I really enjoyed the whole Alone in the Dark experience so much that I want to play through Aline's story until the end too.

Along the way you'll also traverse a gloomy swamp, a dungeon-like laboratory and the World of Darkness (cue the ominous soundtrack), among other things. A fort is mentioned and Edward is even allowed to sneak a peek of it through a telescope, but doesn't get to go there. Aline does, however, so play as both characters to get everything you can out of the game. Occasionally, the paths of Edward and Aline cross to further the storyline along, but its not very often. They provide hints and things to one another from time to time via the walkie-talkies you both have, so its not a bad idea to keep in touch if you are stuck. Of course, sometimes Aline just derides Edward or whines about needing to be rescued (but that's only in the beginning before the flirting starts).

There aren't many weapons to be had in AITD, but they aren't hidden very well, so you should easily be able to find what you need during the normal course of the game. As Edward, I found that they were provided right when needed, and I rarely stressed over a lack of ammo. When my ammo ran out, I magically found the Lightning Gun, which was perfect for the level I was entering. And so on. As Aline, its not quite as easy, but then again, you don't run into as many baddies either and she is smaller, so dodging enemies is easier.

For starters, its harder as Aline. Edward's game is more action oriented, and Aline's is based more on puzzles, therefore she doesn't have the ammo stash Edward does. This makes things more 'challenging'. There's nothing insurmountable in the game, and for the most part, it was clear enough what you needed to do to proceed. I'd say there's a healthy does of difficulty here.

Game Mechanics:
Alone in the Dark uses a standard survival horror style of control, and in my opinion, that's a good thing. I simply prefer using the D-pad for games like this, so it worked well for me. Your opinion may differ, but if you liked the Resident Evil style control, this'll be second nature in minutes. Ahh, but how is the camera, you might ask. Its not too bad. Sure, there were times I found myself craning my neck like I could actually see around that dark corner (didn't happen), but I didn't find them too often.

One bit of irritation was the fact that it took forever to reload the damn gun, and in the meantime, the enemy you are trying to kill has a grand old time tearing you to bits. Word of advice: Reload in the inventory menu. Its much quicker and you don't get hurt doing it. Another odd feature of the game is the save system. When you save in an area, the game remembers where you were, but not what you did. Huh? This really stunk. At least, until you learn that its just best to save right when you enter a new area. Then you don't get irritated by it.

The game is easy on your memory card, has passable load times and is a lot of fun. But boy is it short. Edward's story can be beaten in a few days of persistent play, while Aline's will take a bit longer. The fact that their stories are different enough to warrant playing through both stories does give the game more play time, but I do wish that the experience had been longer.

PS2: Do not try to run this game on Fast Speed, because it was my experience that this caused the game to hang up at the very beginning. It allowed me to choose a character, but then stopped before entering the actual game. Do not try to run the game on Smooth because at many points in the game, you can see the scale system used to draw the backgrounds. Its very weird. So, just play the game as it was intended and everything will be fine.

I really enjoyed Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, although die-hard fans of the AITD series may be somewhat disappointed at its drift towards the Resident Evil styled game and away from the true nature of the original Alone in the Dark. However, if you are a fan of survival horror, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. Despite its shortcomings, AITD gives us survival horror fans something spooky and fun to play until Silent Hill 2 comes out. Woohoo!

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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