After hearing about the new PS3 redesign of this summer’s blockbuster game Alone in the Dark we thought we should take a look at the Wii version, which you can now grab for as little as $15.
The original Alone in the Dark PC game was released way back in 1992, and soon built up a cult following as well as a number of sequels. Along with adventure game Myst and first person shooter Doom, Alone in the Dark was generally considered to be one of the first games to really show that PC’s were viable gaming platforms and not just glorified office word processors.
After years in the wilderness (when the series seemed condemned to the depths of gaming hell after the notoriously bad Alone in the Dark movie, starring Christian Slater, flopped), Atari and Eden Games decided to relaunch. Did Atari do the right thing in trying to resuscitate the game series, or should have AITD have been allowed to rest in peace?
To start with, Alone in the Dark doesn’t seem to want to be labelled as a game. The presentation, game chapters, and even the real-time item selection are designed to give the feel of a big screen movie. Perhaps the most unusual aspect about Alone in the Dark is that the script is written by a novelist and movie screenwriter called Lorenzo Carcaterra, who had no previous game writing experience. Outsourcing such an important duty to someone not directly involved with the game design is a very strange decision, and consequently will either be a great success that other developers will soon copy, or be remembered for years to come as a total failure.
You start the game with blurry vision and a vague awareness of a conversation taking place around you. Once you blink your eyes a couple of times your vision returns enough for you to see a heated discussion taking place between an older man, referred to as Paddington, and two younger men with serious guns. They threaten the old man in an attempt to make him cooperate with their proposed plans, and seem to discuss your relevance to the situation. This is confirmed when another man, who appears to be the leader, says that you are of no use and should be taken to the roof of the building and shot. One of the gunmen duly obliges and carts you off towards the roof, but along the way a strange, paranormal force surrounds both of you, cracking the walls as it goes. It isn’t long before your captor is dragged away kicking and screaming, leaving a splatter of blood. It’s time to get out of here before whatever that was comes back to eat you too.
Not long after attempting to escape, you rescue a woman called Sarah from a burning room. This is achieved by breaking down the door and putting out the fire in first person mode, using the Wii Remote to aim the fire extinguisher. Sadly Paddington dies soon after you get him to relative safety, but this is not before he cryptically tells you that the fate of the world rests upon you. Sarah will become a regular companion throughout the story, though you will end up splitting away from her many times only to meet up with her again later on. So will you be able to solve the mystery and overcome the evil threat that it destroying New York? Well don’t worry too much about that now, because rather than being one long, sprawling adventure game, from here on Alone in the Dark is split into chapters, like a DVD movie. Each chapter takes about 10-20 minutes to play through, so if you die you’ll only be put back to beginning of that chapter. Likewise, when you quit, the game is saved at the start of whatever chapter you were in.
There is lots of excitement to be had in Alone in the Dark, including a chapter where you must scale across a collapsing building, avoiding brickwork falling towards you, and another in which you’re required to hijack a fork lift truck and race it down narrow passageways in the dark. You’ll be driving around a car park, knocking possessed people over in your wake, and even shooting at a giant sucking bat with Molotov cocktails. Sadly, Sarah is of no use throughout the game -unless you like to be distracted by overacting and constant bitching as you play. She is no Alex Vance, and doesn’t really help out when it comes to killing nasties or solving puzzles. Her role is to give you orders and generally make things trickier, by demanding that you hurry yourself but be careful about doing it. Just like a real wife eh? This is all quite fun stuff, but is sadly let down by poor controls. You’d expect the motion controls – thrown in for the Wii – to be the problem, and to some extent this is the case…but even the standard controls that move Edward around are hideous and clunky.
With little camera support, you’ll end up performing three point turns just to face the way you’d like. You’re required to flick the Nunchuck upwards to jump, which is more awkward than anything really – there’s absolutely no need to map a jump movement to motion controls for a game of this nature. Sadly there is no support for Gamecube or Classic controllers, which we think would have made things a little more bearable here. Looking on the bright side, a plus point (for me at least) is the realtime inventory system. If you read the Gamesweasel Alone in the Dark Xbox 360 review then you’ll have heard Matt’s complaints about this…but I happen to disagree with him. Instead of having a menu screen (where you can pause the game and choose your weapons), Alone in the Dark does things differently. When you move the Wii Remote and Nunchuck apart Edward opens his jacket (like a flasher), revealing his weaponry and other items. You can then point at your desired choice and he’ll equip it. What makes it more interesting for me is that enemies can still attack you, and fire can still burn you whilst you’re making your choice. Switching into first person mode to aim your gun/extinguisher is also good fun with IR control on Wii, and at least that system works ok even if it is a tad slow.
The overall theme of Alone in the Dark for Wii is the same as that of the next gen versions, but you will visit different locations and essentially play through some totally different chapters. Graphically though, the differences are plain to see. The Wii version looks surprisingly dated in comparison to the 360 game. The whole game world, its environments and characters, look grey and very dull. The much touted realistic fire effects have not made their way across from the bigger platforms – so instead we have some horrid, near two dimensional red and orange fuzz to cope with. Apart from some nice lighting effects in certain places there is hardly anything to distinguish this from the Playstation 2 version. Considering that the Wii is around three times more powerful, this is quite disappointing.
The music and sounds effects are very atmospheric and suit the game perfectly – you’ll have no qualms about wearing headphones or using your stereo system with this game. The voice acting on the other hand is really grating. All of the characters are overacted, and the speech quite often cuts in (inappropriately) during the middle of an important scene or dramatic moment. I found it hard to concentrate on both at the same time; I was either listening and missing important onscreen action – or vice versa – watching the screen and not listening to the characters chatting away. Perhaps the addition of compulsory subtitles would have helped here.
To round up then, Alone in the Dark Wii is a fun title with a good storyline. The addition of chapters which you can skip if you get stuck is interesting, but does seem to spoil the idea of a traditional gaming exploration and reward system. The added Wii waggle controls are a bit of a pain and an unnecessary addition to the gameplay – but they don’t ruin things too much. If you can get past the dated visuals and bad acting then you could spend some enjoyable time here. If, however, you’re fussy about clunky gameplay and graphics then you should give the Wii version a miss and look for the new PS3 version. I award Alone in the Dark 6 out of 10.
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New: Buy Alone in the Dark for the Wii from Amazon.com