Alone in the Dark (2024)

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Alone in the Dark (2024) review
Jordan Helsley


A careful return to madness

A careful return to madness

It's easy to be cynical when a questionable pair of companies announce a revitalization of a seminal horror franchise, especially when that same franchise lost its way so long ago that it would be acceptable to forget it had an origin to begin with. In fact, Alone in the Dark has gone so far afield as a series that a return to its roots appears to be a dramatic shift from its very identity. Not only does Alone in the Dark dredge up its 1992 progeny, it maintains its Loveceaftian story and gameplay ethos while standing nearly toe-to-toe with its new survival horror contemporaries.

A Blast From The Past

Edward Carnby is back and more fedora-loving than ever, Emily Hartwood returns even more competent than before, and the rest of the cast of the original game embody new variations. While the two leads are the stars of the show (literally and figuratively) the entire roster of characters and actors waste no time showing off their impressive performances. Throughout the story, which has a typical level of intrigue, each and every time a character speaks, or a note is read by its writer, I was more impressed than the last. It's a testament to the writing and the performances, and the sheer amount of passion and care that was put into both aspects. These days, when a publisher takes great pains to advertise their Hollywood stars, a certain amount of skepticism is automatically generated, but both David Harbour and Jodie Comer lead the way with largely impassioned and believable line reads, mostly minimized by the amount of times the gameplay triggers a "huh," or something similar. Jodie Comer's Emily has by far the most missteps, though. Some of her lines feel like they're read straight from the page, including moments where she's "screaming" out the name of a person she's searching for, but it comes out as a flat whisper. Despite some issues it comes together in a mystery that becomes more coherent as time progresses, more engrossing with each new setting, and just as surprising as the source is it adapting in spirit while crafting its own narrative.

No matter which protagonist you use to explore Derceto Manor, you're going to experience the same larger story and beats. The differences lie in the actual dialogue, the lore you find, and the personal tale that unfolds underneath the umbrella of madness around you. This dampens the replayability a bit, but they do a decent job of incentivizing exactly that with a shared pool of collectibles (leading to lore and other unlockables) that won't fully reveal themselves in just one playthrough. Make no mistake, this is more of an echo of the original game than it is the second entry in a now-more-influential series, but just as Alone in the Dark influenced Resident Evil, this remake is clearly influenced by the latter's remakes, crucially without feeling like a rip-off.

Fighting More Than Monsters

One area where it falls short with this inspiration: combat. Rather than sticking to its melee roots, both characters enter with a handgun and acquire additional firearms along the way. They don't minimize the terror or turn it into an action game (and are in fact critical to one of my favourite, albeit missable, story-adjacent moments that punishes you for trying to shoot your way out of a particular problem) but they are your primary combat implements, with melee weapons taking a backseat. This could very well be because the melee combat doesn't feel quite right, from a weight and impact perspective, though it retains a bit of the intentional nature. Some of the combat, especially on a higher difficulty, truly feels like a puzzle as you try to manage your limited ammo, a shovel that's about to break, and the bottles, Molotovs, and bricks littering the space that you can fling at foes. The deeper I got, the more fun I had with it, simply because it's all inoffensive, decently sparse, and engaging enough to keep me thinking.

I found more joy in trying to avoid enemies in the few sections I had the opportunity to do so. It's not perfect stealth, not going to turn you into an Eldritch horror hitman, but it's an option I was happy to explore. Most enemies can be avoided altogether, if you wish, but for bosses and certain arenas you need to be ready to fight. Disappointingly they didn't really explore any enemies that require actual puzzles to defeat, nor many unkillables that require the use of stealth, but that last point is likely to work in its favour. Overall the action feels serviceable when you're hitting, dodging, throwing, and shooting frantically just as any other 1940's not-a-cop probably would, but if your primary frame of reference and benchmark is the recent Resident Evil remakes you're bound for disappointment.

Immerse Yourself In The Bayou

Traversing Decerto, and the many settings associated with it and the surrounding Louisiana Bayou, is a joy. The visuals look good, and at points downright stunning with the "cinematic" graphics preset, but the design is also stellar. Once again you can clearly see the care that went into every square foot of the playable space both in and out of the manor. Additionally each change in setting brought new visual treats as it runs the gamut of atmospheric potential, as the stakes of each area increase with those of the story.

Sound design deserves its own recognition. It's not just the score or the occasional whispers, but simply the ambiance of the spaces, the creeks of floorboards, the sounds of footsteps transitioning from grass to concrete, the radio playing some so-innocuous-it's-creepy music. It invites you to just close your eyes and soak in auditory splendour, and it doesn't disappoint. I ran into (what I believe were) a few audio glitches, made more jarring by contrast, but those are easily patched and resolved themselves, unless, of course, it was all a part of the madness.

Puzzles For All

A survival horror game is nothing without its puzzles, and Alone in the Dark has crafted some good ones. There are a few too-easy-to-miss ones, but there's others that require quite a bit more consideration to solve. It's a good balance, from both pacing and satisfaction considerations. On the standard, "old school" difficulty, you'll be flexing your brain muscles to make your way through the game, even as the map is adorned with the now-standard colour coding of rooms and icons for locked doors, etc. If puzzles aren't your strong suit, or if you require additional accessibility options to make the discovery less tedious there are options for that. I found in my second playthrough, with those assists turned on, not only did my character mutter to herself ways to solve puzzles, but the map also added icons for puzzles that you have all the pieces for and doors for which you have the keys. The number of ways the experience can be tuned makes it more approachable to more people, and makes a task such as cleaning up a few collectibles less laborious.

Relaunching The Franchise

Alone in the Dark is surprising. It doesn't have the budget to fight the big boys, but through sheer care it manages to punch above its weight. Its biggest detractors reside in its combat, and its biggest strength are just about everywhere else. It's clear to me that the entire production understood the assignment. Even with its missteps the combat design has valuable ideas. The audio and visual designs are a delight. The acting is probably its greatest strength. The writing, led by Soma's Mikael Hedberg, brought lessons learned from both his previous involvements and the legacy of the series to make a more refined story. He also showed, through a nuanced understanding, that Lovecraft's world extends so far beyond tentacles and old-Gods named Cthulhu. It's far from perfect, but it exists, at the bare minimum, as a great starting point for a revitalization of a series that has fallen from influential to forgotten.

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fun score


A talented recreation of both the original game and Lovecraft's works, with impressive acting, settings, and story beats.


The combat, especially when compared to contemporary horror games, feels lacking, and the level of replayability could be disappointing.