Alone in the Dark GameSpot Review


Alone in the Dark GameSpot Review

This reboot of a long-dormant horror franchise doesn’t do enough to justify digging up the dead.

When I think of the survival-horror genre’s best games, I often wonder if they were made better by their frequently unwieldy combat mechanics. The inability to reliably defend yourself heightened the terror in anti-power fantasies like Silent Hill, and the awkwardness of taking on the undead in Resident Evil became core to its tension. With that in mind, could a modern horror game benefit from having similarly janky self-defense systems? Alone in the Dark, the 2024 reboot project from THQ Nordic and Pieces Interactive, emphatically resolves this question for me; as it turns out, the answer is no–it’s certainly worse off.

Alone in the Dark centers on characters and a haunted house all named the same as they were in the original 1992 game, but it mostly ditches that game’s original story and old-school adventure game leanings in favor of a third-person, over-the-shoulder horror experience in line with modern counterparts. The game’s writing pedigree flaunts Soma and Amnesia: The Dark Descent’s Mikael Hedberg, and the story even plays out like an Amnesia game at times, to its credit. Much of what it does well is also derivative, but a larger issue is that it can’t do these aspects of the game well consistently. And all the while its worst parts are ceaselessly unenjoyable.

With its reality-bending story, parade of puzzles, and unwieldy combat, Alone in the Dark is, in some ways, more faithful to some turn-of-the-century horror games than their own revitalized modern remakes. I enjoyed the game’s story, setting, and abundant lore, and I felt smart when I’d overcome some of its puzzles. But others proved so obtuse as to be frustrating, and nothing about the combat even climbs to a level I’d call serviceable–it’s consistently poor. This isn’t Alone in the Dark’s first revival attempt, and it’s probably not its last, but it isn’t the one that will put the series’ name in the same breath as the all-time greats it originally helped inspire.

Date: March 20, 2024