Back in 1992, the first real graphic horror game appeared.
The original Alone in the Dark was not about killing hordes of evil mutants; it was at its heart a puzzle game in a horror setting. Backed with an intriguing story and some awesome visuals, it attracted a wide and well deserved fan base for its time. This latest release: Alone in the Dark: Inferno is, believe it or not, the fifth in the series (plus one film, with another on the way) and we are happy to say it has remained true to its roots.
Waking up in a dingy room surrounded by people you don't know, with no idea who you are, may sound like the typical aftermath of a Gameplanet office party; however this is different, because the people around you are about to take you outside and execute you... (okay, well maybe not so different after all)
So the story begins. It is based in the present, but as Edward Carnby you are somehow linked to a distant past. Set in and about New York's Central Park, there is an awakening of evil and what is physical now seems to be intertwined with hell itself. As the walls crumble and buildings about you burn, you must survive episode by episode through to your ultimate destiny. This is no easy task, as it seems everything is against you. As you explore your surroundings, they seem to be falling apart about you. Fire burns everywhere, and often your only choice is to climb out onto impossible ledges and swing across, as large portions of the building crash down. New areas are revealed, and slowly you piece together the horror that is to come.
Alone in the Dark: Inferno is the updated PS3-exclusive version of the basic Xbox 360 game, and sports a number of enhancements to camera controls, along with bug fixes and a small amount of additional content towards the end of the game.
There's nothing really wildly different about this enhanced version, and it really seems as if these additions have been created to justify a longer development curve on Sony's next-gen platform.
Technically Alone in the Dark is a platform puzzle game with first person shooter bits chucked in for good measure. These are however just a vehicle to drive the tale of horror, and the sum of the parts creates something that is both scary and absorbing to play. Puzzles can be as simple as finding a table to climb up to a new area, or something combustible to use to dimly illuminate the dark unknown. Other puzzles are more complex and are about interacting with objects to affect other objects that in turn allow you to progress. Some can be quite obscure and there is a real sense of achievement once you have successfully worked out the puzzle.
Carnby can walk, jump and climb. Utilising ropes and electrical cables he can also swing from one place to another. Unfortunately the movement (although generally good) at times feels stilted and imprecise. Walking along a ledge for instance, the controls are so touchy you can dangerously yaw from side to side as you wrestle to keep yourself from falling. You also can drive vehicles (once you figure out how to hotwire them... or find the keys).
The control set-up itself is pretty straight forward, and the onscreen prompts in the early stages of the game serve as great form of tutorial.
Fire plays an integral role too. You can cook with it and you can warm yourself with it, but what many people don't know is that it's one of those all-purpose cleaners when it comes to ridding yourself of pesky demons and their minions. It is your principle weapon for roasting and toasting the spawns of hell, and like all good recipe books there is more than one way to prepare your dish. This is one of the real strengths and challenges of the game, as by utilising what you find along the way you can make all sorts of inventive weapons to dispatch your foes. There is the simple act of dousing of your crippled demon with fuel oil for a flambé, to the more inventive method of hurling a home-made Molotov coated with adhesive to produce a heart-warming Roman Candle effect. There aren't a huge amount of things to kill, but knowing you flame-grilled it yourself with your DIY arsenal is, in its own way, quite satisfying.
One aspect of the game we found really innovative was the inventory. Shying away from the traditional pictorial representation of a 'rucksack with slots' type arrangement, you instead look down and open your jacket to reveal the pockets and holsters where you can place items. All this sounds gimmicky, however its implementation in the game feels very natural and works really well.
Graphically the game is excellent, with some great fire effects. If you don't put it all out with a fire extinguisher you may easily find that the fire takes hold and blocks your way (hint: - just like in the instructions on the fire extinguisher, aim for the base of the fire). The use of light and dark combines well, and the horror effect is further enhanced by the crashing and burning of large chunks of the background elements. Combine this with some great audio and it's something that is best played in the dark on a big screen, and preferably alone so that nobody can hear you scream like a girl.
Alone in the Dark: Inferno is rated R18 and rightly so, given the horror content and the use of strong language. Its graphic nature and overall theme is not suitable for younger players.
We liked this game, particularly as in places it was truly frightening. It was challenging and absorbing to play, and we found we had many of those 'eureka' moments when we worked out the solution to a particularly curly puzzle. The big failing of the game however is once you have completed it there is little challenge in replaying it again.
In summary though, if you are looking for a good PS3 action puzzle game with a large dollop of horror and suspense, then you should definitely pick up Alone in the Dark: Inferno.