“…a reworking of the original narrative that’s worthy of every comparison to Lovecraft or Machen.”

Alone In The Dark brought out of the bayou by THQ Nordic and summoned by Pieces Interactive is set in 1930’s Louisiana, a spiritual remake of the 1992 genre creating classic. Emily Hartwood (Jodie Comer) grows concerned for her Uncle Jeremy. Seeing as Jeremy is currently a ‘guest’ at Derceto, an old plantation house come psychiatric hospital deep in the wilds of swampland. So concerned is the attentive niece that she’s bringing along former detective, current private eye Edward Carnby (David Harbour). 

Alone in the Dark - Gamehype
I’ll admit, Jodie being in the game was a big draw for me.

Depending how deep your roots grow down in the swamplands of gaming history you will probably have hugely different opinions of Alone In The Dark as a franchise, to me, it’s that creepy survival horror game I couldn’t work out on my uncles PC back in the day. To say the franchise has had some ups and downs would be a understatement but with Atari SA selling the franchise to THQ Nordic perhaps there are some witch lights in the darkness for the franchise that all but invented survival horror.  

There are a few extras in Alone In The Dark that I appreciated, skins for characters and some filters to give the game a different look, although the 8-Bit filter is a crime to eyes, but one thing that was a joy to behold. Old School Mode. While games overall difficulties of Easy, Medium or Hard dictate the key gameplay things you’d expect, like enemy health, scarcity of ammo and whatnot. Old School Mode (OSM) dictates the difficulty of the games puzzles, OSM turns off all the hints and tips that moderns gamers are used to, meaning that with OSM active you’ll actually have to do some thinking, I’d recommend playing with Old School Mode on, all the better to have you mind challenged as you slowly lose it. 

Alone in the Dark - Gamehype
Old School is full of class.

Horror, well, what’s scary is subjective and I feel it only fair to mention a few horrors right off the bat…or bug. The pre-release build of the game provided to us by THQ Nordic was infested with them, but in a move I personally found speaks volumes for the publishers, they were up front about it and swore to the dark gods they’d be ironed out in a day one patch. With that in mind, I’m not going to mention any of those now. However, one bug not mentioned was that of an audio syncing issue. Seemingly all combat based audio is delayed, so you’ll blast an eldritch nasty right in the kisser with the shotgun only for the sucker to hit the ground before the shot has actually sounded. This did dampen the tension of combat rather a lot but I will check back in with the game upon release and update this review if this bug has also been squashed. 

Alone in the Dark - Gamehype
Body horror…ick.

Combat consists of a rather limited melee swing and some fairly inaccurate shooting, thats not a complaint mind you. Fear, comes from a lack of control and a sense of helplessness. Nothing mitigates that fear like running around a la the Doom Slayer. Thankfully like many of it’s later contemporaries Alone in the Dark manages to balance increasing levels of combat acumen with the need for such, so it’s not really until late game that you’re ever sure if you’re actually going to be able to deal with whatever the Dark Man has to throw at you. 

Speaking of the Dark Man lets make our way to Derceto. The game opens with a toad being gobbled up by a big ol ‘gator as Emily briefs Edward on why she’s bring him along. It’s sets the scene that something is amiss right away and got my investigative nose twitching. You arrive at Derceto and this is where you’re presented with a choice of which character you’ll like to play as. Emily or Edward, now, not much changes based on what you pick however there is specific content for both characters as well as multiple endings. I don’t want to say too much about the specific content as especially in Emily’s case, that content was my favourite moment of the game. These trauma sections really kick the mind bending Lovecraftian horror into full gear, not that Alone in the Dark ever skimps on that. 

Alone in the Dark - Gamehype
Not alone in the dark after all.

You’ll being to explore the seemingly abandoned asylum and bump into the very abrupt housekeeper before you’re off exploring the house looking for your uncle, who’s apparently missing, but still in the house. It’s not long before you’re exploring places mortal minds were never meant to wander, one moment you’re in a corridor stepping into what is a rather lavish room for an asylum and the next you’re in the mist choked streets of the big easy. Space and time, their meanings are mere suggestions in Alone in the Dark. Not long into your stroll through New Orleans you’ll come across your first enemy. The foes you’ll battle in the game while simple in design evoke an immediate unease in their unnatural mimicry of humanity, you’ll end up with a satisfying yet simple arsenal of ranged weaponry, and a plethora of melee weapons, but melee is very effective so these weapons will break after too much use. In any other genre this mechanic drives me nuts, I can’t stand it but in Alone in the Dark the knowledge, well, let’s call it fear that my weapon may crumble when I need it most just adds to the tension. 

Speaking of tension, this is where Alone in the Dark excels, it’s simply tantalising. I was tense and on edge constantly and never knowing what reality rending event was about to befall Emily had me hooked all the way through. Part detective story, part horror and part an examination of exactly what it is to be considered sane through the perspective of two characters who’ve let trauma keep wounds open that have begun to fester and infect their very psyche. I really want to avoid spoilers as it’s this journey that kept me enthralled all the way. 

The Dark Man is for the most part the central antagonist of the movie and it’s from his sinister clutches you’ll need to rescue uncle Jeremy, but as there’s more than one way to skin a cat, or mummify it in this games case, The Dark Man is more than just a bad gut to tussle with, more will become demystified as you play and the nature of horror is in unknown, so I’m not going to say too much about the games plot. 

Alone in the Dark - Gamehype
Say the line game!

The adage that less is more is certainly fitting when it comes to Alone In The Dark, but thats not to say that anything is missing, rather the opposite. Pieces Interactive  have managed something that I’ve never experienced in a horror game before, essentially perfect pacing both in terms of the games length and it’s narrative. The games cosmic elements ensure that just as you begin to tire of the creaking run down halls of Derceto you find yourself plunged into a wide variety of locations. Eldritch horror emanates from stranded river boats to ancient Egyptian tombs and even the artic circle.  

However, it’s exploring the people of Alone in the Dark that I found to be most compelling. Emily and Edward bring their own trauma to the bayou but the residents of Derceto have all too much of their own. Both Comer and Harbour bring their talent to bear and as always Jodie Comer proves she’s the master of accents. Some characters are more compelling than others but Grace (whom you may know from the short prologue released last year) is intriguing and Ruth charmed me out of my senses, as well as examining the historic inequality in sexuality between the genders. 

Alone in the Dark - Gamehype
Told you, trauma.