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Alone in the Dark
Jack in the Dark
Alone in the Dark 2

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Alone in the Dark 3
Time Gate: Knight's Chase
The New Nightmare

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Alone in the Dark (2008)
Movies
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Alone in the Dark 3 / Alone in the Dark: Ghosts in Town - IBM PC, PC-98, Macintosh, Windows (1994)

Cover

Trilogy Cover

"Back to the basics" might be the best way to describe the final opus of the original trilogy: more puzzles, more exploration and less combat. In the end, this makes Alone in the Dark 3 the more worthy sequel to the original, despite the fact that it still used the exact same game mechanics and engine two years later. Since Franck de Girolami took Raynal's example and quit Infogrames immediately after Alone in the Dark II, Christiane Sgorlon was made the "coordinator" (the credits don't list a formal director) of the project. She also was in charge of the 3DO port of the second game, and who has since become an editor of documentary films.

In 1925, after freeing Grace Saunders from the clutches of the immortal pirate One Eyed Jack, Carnby is still a penniless sleuth. Fortunately, one of the nabobs in Hollywood put him on a new case. A whole movie crew disappeared in a two-bit ghost town in the desert Mojave called Slaughter Gulch. To make things worse, Emily Hartwood (the second playable character of the first episode), now an actress, was among the crew, and so Carnby ends up in the middle of nowhere, trying to save her. Of course, the ghost town is actually filled with undead cowboys, ancient native American shenanigans and radioactive magical ore. Once again, Hubert Chardot wrote the screenplay.

As explained before, Infogrames brought the series back to the adventure genre, and the combats sequences are thinned out and better distributed. Most of the undead cowboys you'll encounter can't be killed unless a specific puzzle is solved. A greedy desperado can only be killed by a gold bullet, for example. While the idea was present in the second game, here it is applied to almost every major enemy. There are numbers of fodder goons in between, but they're usually met in favorable camera angles and go down rather easily. Alone in the Dark 3 is also the first game to introduce difficulty settings in the original PC version, and it's possible to adjust Carnby's health and damage, as well as the enemies' health separately. The lowest setting effectively makes combat a non-issue; you'll hardly even need healing items.

The puzzles themselves are quite enjoyable and interesting (once again the various documents found lying around give most of the clues), but still some problems remain. Slaughter Gulch is pretty vast for an old western town, but Carnby's investigation is completely narrowed down to a very specific path. Going off the beaten tracks usually concludes with his death at the hands of invincible magic ghost pistolero twins - a brutal but efficient way to remind you of your objective. The other big problem is posed by the few platform sequences scattered along the way. Since the original game, it seemed crystal clear that the engine was not cut out for those, and age didn't make them any better.

Carnby is also not truly alone in the dark, anymore. He meets several survivors who help him out, usually immediately before getting killed, and he is guided by an ancient native American shaman. The latter accounts for what is undoubtedly the most striking feature in this game, in a sense the second playable character: During his attempt to save Emily, Carnby gets killed by the villain and the shaman resurrects him as a mountain lion. It doesn't last very long, but it's a nice set-up since no villain will pay attention to him in this shape, and the lack of available actions forces the player to improvise.

Carnby's second chance.

The music composed by veteran Infogrames sound designer Frédéric Mentzen is once again excellent, with a lot of creepy and eerie vibes. It really pushes the atmosphere forward, and remains probably his best work on a video game. This time the voice acting in the CD-ROM version is actually fun to listen to as well, as all the slideshow-accompanied exposition (accessed through coin-operated pianos) comes in rhymes and sounds quite funny. The rest of the voice work is still very bad, though.

Alone in the Dark 3 was the least widely ported game in the entire series. Besides the original IBM PC version, only the Macintosh and PC-98 ports remained. In 1996, the game was released for Windows under the title Alone in the Dark: Ghosts in Town. Aside from the title change, it is identical to the DOS version, but produces timing issues on modern computers. It's strange and unfortunate that only the weakest part in the series was ever ported to any mainstream home consoles. But if the timing of the second title's ports is any indication, Alone in the Dark 3 probably wouldn't have come out PlayStation or Saturn before the Resident Evil mania, and no one would have paid attention to the game anymore, anyway.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Designer:

  • Christiane Sgorlon

Genre:

Themes:


Alone in the Dark 3 (IBM PC)

Alone in the Dark 3 (IBM PC)

Alone in the Dark 3 (IBM PC)

Alone in the Dark 3 (IBM PC)

Alone in the Dark 3 (IBM PC)



Le Secret du Templier / Time Gate: Knight's Chase - IBM PC (1995)

American Cover

French Cover

Time Gate is a real oddball to the series: Neither really a spin-off nor a rip-off, the game known as Le Secret du Templier ("The Secret of the Templar") in Molière's language, was originally supposed to be the real Alone in the Dark 4. Unfortunately, with Resident Evil dominating what had now become a genre, the franchise wasn't deemed up-to-date anymore, and Chardot and his team took a very different route. The idea was to create a new trilogy implying time travel with an overarching plot about reincarnation and ancient Egyptian mythology. Knight's Chase was the first episode and the only one to come to life.

The protagonist is William, an American student in Paris, who has been enjoying lovely days with his French girlfriend Juliette. One night, a black knight breaks into his room and tries to murder him. After fighting an epic battle in his underpants, Willy discovers a magic mirror that shows his girlfriend ready to get grilled on a pyre by an overzealous inquisitor. In a effort to educate youngsters, the nefarious character compels the hero to reach le musée de Cluny (National Museum of Middle Ages). After a major break-in, Willy gets mugged by pissed-off security guards and thrown in a well. Through mysterious circumstances, he eventually finds himself in the year 1329, inhabiting the body of his ancestor Thibault de Montdidier (one of the founders of the Knights Templars). In a stroke of bad luck, he ends up locked in the knights' former commandery by the evil inquisitor.

Once again, the plot gets crazy very fast, a tendency that continues until the very end. Words can hardly describe the sheer insanity of the final twist. Other than the Alone in the Dark, the game never explains the workings and motivations regarding time travel, reincarnation, the main bad guy, or anything at all. It really feels like the team was only setting up the premise for an overarching story that never manifested. Still, the game impresses with the thorough research made about the history of the Knight Templars. Titbits of medieval history are thrown at the player all the time.

The engine is basically the same as the one used in Alone in the Dark, but backgrounds and characters are much more detailed, the latter finally getting textured surfaces. The environments are pleasant to look at, especially the many rooms of the commandery. The Name of the Rose probably has made a strong impression on the art team; they even put in a blind monk. The sound design on the other hand isn't the bright side of the game. The voice acting is as terrible as usual and the music, composed by Pascal Camisotto, is at best forgettable.

While the game really manages to have its own personality, it still leaves the sour taste of playing an Alone in the Dark title with the identity taken away. In combat the only difference is the presence of a salvatory auto-parade. The puzzles are fairly good and most of your actions are rewarded with a little in-engine cutscene. The game is even more linear that its fore fathers, though: Just leaving the "correct" room will make a crossbowman appear out of thin air and kill William; once again quite a blunt way to guide the player.

Aside from the medieval setting, there is not much to distinguish Time Gate from its unofficial forebears. After pushing the old engine in its last corner, Chardot eventually gave up working on his baby and resigned from Infogrames to create his own studio. Darkworks and later on Eden, developers of the following Alone in the Dark titles, had the courtesy to consult him for the screenplay of their interpretations of the franchise, though. After a few years in the movie industry, he came back to video games and now writes Nancy Drew stories.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Designer:

  • Hubert Chardot

Genre:

Themes:


Time Gate: Knight's Chase (IBM PC)

Time Gate: Knight's Chase (IBM PC)

Time Gate: Knight's Chase (IBM PC)

Time Gate: Knight's Chase (IBM PC)


Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare - Windows, Dreamcast, PlayStation, PlayStation 2 (2001)

European PlayStation 2 Cover

Japanese PC Cover

After a long hiatus, Edward Carnby was awaken from his coma in 2001 to try and take back his rightful place in a genre now vastly in the hands of Japanese companies. The game wasn't developed by Infogrames itself, however, but sourced out to Darkworks, a small Parisian studio that later became known for Cold Fear and the troubled I Am Alive. The project actually met with massive coverage in France, and the budget was gigantic for the time. The plot was written by Xavier Dorrison, famous bande dessinée storyteller, while the monsters were designed by Claire Wendling, one of the best BD artists around. Two majors French actors were also added to voice the two characters: Edward Carnby is played by Guillaume Canet (the husband of Marion Cotillard) and Aline Cedrac by Emma DeCaunes (she also voiced Jade in Beyond Good & Evil).

The character of Edward Carnby got a complete revamp, though: According to retconned franchise lore, every forty years a man called Edward Carnby is born to fight darkness and protect the world against evil. The Legend of Zelda much? The new 21st century Carnby discovers that his best friend and mentor, Richard Fiske, died in very strange circumstances. Just before his demise, Fiske told Carnby about his investigation of Native American ruins in a god-forsaken place called Shadow Island. Equipped with his loyal double barelled revolver and a torch, Carnby sets out to face the unknown on his own. Unfortunately for him, though, he is affiliate with the made-up government agency Bureau 713, which sees him as a "lose cannon," and sets him up with a partner, the archaeologist Aline Cedrac. As one would expect things go bad, the plane crashes and the two protagonists end up separated. The New Nightmare brings back two selectable player characters, but like in Resident Evil 2, the choice determines the starting point and progression of the adventure. Edward and Aline meet up and exchange their findings at certain points during the story, but for the most time they're out on their own investigations.

Edward Carnby

Like Doctor Who, the fearless paranormal investigator is reborn in a new, younger avatar. Dropping the blue suit and moustache for a trendy trenchcoat and long hair, Carnby is more action-focused than his partner. He possesses a double-barrel revolver from the beginning, and usually gets the most destructive weapons. He starts outside the mansion, and has to fight his way trough the gardens and sewers before entering the castle. His primary goal is to catch the master of Shadow Island, Professor Alan Morton, whom he beliefs to be Fiske's killer.

Aline Cedrac

A young and dynamic archaeologist with daddy issues. She crashes on the roof of the manor, with no weapons whatsoever. Her path is mostly focused on puzzles. Often her flashlight is her only means of defence against the shadow creatures. She also has to deal with an annoying Nemesis-like recurring boss through the game. She is also led to believe that Obed Morton, the younger brother in the manor, is her father.

Unusually for the series, the heroes also get to interact with a proper supporting cast. There's the good old Native American shaman Edenshaw, the last of his tribe and tutor of the two Morton brothers, so obviously not a very good one. He tries to repair the errors of his wayward pupils by helping Edward and Aline to stop Shadow Island's madness. The Morton brothers couldn't be any more different: Alan is a mad scientist who studies the darkness living under Shadow Island, whereas Obed is a famous archaeologist and Abkanis tribe expert. With the help of Edenshaw, he translated the ancient Abkanis tablets around which much of the plot revolves. He spends most of his time locked inside the mansion. Aline first encounters the Mortons' bedridden mother, and later an ancient Indian spirit trapped in a mirror.

Mixing together a mumbo-jumbo of classic native American mythology and the House of Usher syndrome, the plot does sound promising, if only its execution was successful. Unfortunately the dialog spoils most of it. Having good actors without good voice direction is pretty much a recipe for disaster. The incessant chat between the two protagonists is awkward at best and extremely annoying at worse, and plot expositions are usually thrown in between two inane sentences. On the other hand, the crossing of the two scenarios is really well done, and by replaying the game one gets a clearer picture on the whys & wherefores of the two protagonists.

Obed appears to be in trouble.

Although the series used to be the inspiration for Capcom' survival horror series, The New Nightmare feels like a typical Resident Evil clone, with fixed camera angles, ammo management, limited saves, absurd keys and overwhelming enemies. Even series staples, like the ability to place items anywhere, are gone. It's not like that is needed, anyway, as there's no limitation to the inventory anymore. Also, many of the latter are pure bullet-sponges: They can absorb tons of projectiles, to the point where it becomes silly, and of course they respawn all the time. Going the wrong way or wandering a bit too much in the manor becomes equal to suicide.

But Resident Evil is not the only Alone in the Dark descendant The New Nightmare owes to - the game runs on a variation of Terminal Reality's Nocturne engine. The most advertised feature of that game was the believable handling of lighting and shadows on the 2D backgrounds, and The New Nightmare puts it to formidable use. Many areas are covered in darkness, making it impossible to see properly without turning on the flashlight. But that's not enough, the effect is directly interwoven with game mechanics, as certain enemies are killed by light, or at least fear it. The rest of the graphics is also nice, displaying really scary environments with a 2D art direction that formidably accentuates the mastery in lighting. The characters blend in with them better than in most games with this kind of technology, although keen eyes still spot clipping errors here and there.

Can she trust him?

The music is nothing short of thrilling. Composed by French band Low Distortion Unit, the music is a direct tribute to NIN & Trent Reznor's work on Quake, but is also strong in the more quiet moments. It's a fantastic soundtrack and really helps to give a new direction to the series. The groans of monsters and other sound effects are creepier than ever, too.

Ironically, though The New Nightmare tries so hard to imitate the Resident Evil experience that it almost completely sacrifices what made Alone in the Dark special, namely the exploration, a sense of helplessness and being truly alone, and a bit of general wackiness. Yes, it is a good Resident Evil clone, but leaves the series standing pretty much as a shadow of its former self. It's also full of glitches, even more so than the often less-than-perfectly tested classic games: Monsters that just disappear into thin air after a cutscene, crashes and walls the player can run into and get stuck are no rarity.

Contrary to its ancestors, this new AitD was conceived from the get-go as a multiplatform title, brought to all available consoles at the time. Most of them are pretty much the same, although the lighting in the Windows version might be a wee bit superior. Other than the console versions, it also allows to switch to higher resolutions than 640x480, but only the characters get anything out of it, making them contrast more against the standard resolution backgrounds. Besides the PS2, there was also a port for the old PlayStation, which was still going strong at the time (in fact, this was the version that came out first, together with the handheld adaption seen below). Of course, this one features downsampled graphics. The backgrounds suffer surprisingly little from the treatment, but the characters look really bad compared to the other versions.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Darkworks

Publisher:

Designer:

  • Guillaume Gouraud et al.

Genre:

Themes:


Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (Windows)

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (Windows)

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (Windows)

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (Windows)

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (Windows)

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (Windows)

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (Windows)

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (Windows)

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (Windows)



Comparison Screenshots


Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare - Game Boy Color (2001)

Cover

Although Darkworks tried to the best of their abilities to properly bring The New Nightmare to the Game Boy Color, there just had to be compromises. Gone are the two selectable characters (you just play as Carnby), the FMVs are replaced by static images, and the adventure is a whole lot shorter; it can easily be completed in about an hour. And of course the main poster feature of The New Nightmare, the incorporation of light sources with the gameplay, didn't make the cut.

The game is divided in two parts, la Parasite Eve: an adventure phase featuring crassly downsampled backgrounds from the big brother, where the player gets to roam freely on Shadow Island and solve puzzles, and a separate combat mode on pixel art backgrounds, which works very arcade-like.

The backgrounds actually survived the translation to pocket format fairly decently, although they clash with the very different, simpler style of the combat scenes. The player character also never seems to merge with the background properly, making his movements seem unnatural and floaty.

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (GBC)

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (GBC)

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (GBC)



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Alone in the Dark
Jack in the Dark
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Alone in the Dark 3
Time Gate: Knight's Chase
The New Nightmare

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Alone in the Dark (2008)
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