Alone in the Dark Catch-All

Well, I've waited about a day to get some playtime in, and the bulk of the discussion around here seems centered on Atari's sh*tty approach to negative reviews. Since it seems not too many other people have given this title a chance, I thought I'd weigh in and see if there was any discussion worth having.

First off, the reviews are pouring in and are mostly negative. The Metacritic score's been steadily dropping, but so far a combined 59 seems about right. This 1up.com review from Nick Suttner seems on balance with the first eight or so hours I've played it -- which, given my gameplay and fighting against some of the controls, amounts to about the first three-and-change "episodes" of the game.

So, to start with, the Bad:

  • The controls are everything you've heard about -- frankly, they're janky, a little annoying, and basically awkward. This works fine in the game sequences where you're solving puzzles, but try to do anything quickly -- like, say, not get killed by a horde of bad guys -- and you're not winding up anywhere fast.
  • No pause during inventory?!? Seriously? I understand that they're going for the heightened "survival horror" experience, but given that the inventory is controlled with the 360 thumbstick, and the sensitivity seems set on "barely breathe and you move it," just trying to hurriedly access, say, a rag takes a solid thirty-five seconds. Kind of infuriating.
  • You can probably lump this under the controls, but anything involving driving a car can suck a duck -- the car controls in this game are far, far more egregious than the on-foot controls. What's unfortunate is how, on paper, the car sequences seem cool -- and, playing them, you can see how cool they would be, had the player been given half a damn chance. But it's an unforgiving physics at play -- a slight tap of anything it seems will send the car careening into a one-hundred-and-eighty degree tailspin. That may sound like hyperbole, but it certainly feels right. The second car-chase sequence gets points for giving you something resembling a waypoint system -- which made the first sequence unbearable; seriously, what should have taken twenty minutes, with replays accounted for, took close to an hour! -- but those points are quickly lost when the game encourages you to damage your car, and then when the car's about to explode, makes you die from flying creepy things within seconds of leaving the car.

    While I'm busy bitching about the driving, too -- what sense does it make to give the player some cool jumps and cutscenes within the jumps and, when you complete them successfully, you don't get that cutscene as a checkpoint? Seriously?

  • The game clips like a mofo.
  • The third-person/first-person thing most reviewers mention is frustrating, but not quite to the degree which they say. That said, I'm sticking mostly to third-person, and the fixed camera angles can be dramatically appropriate and sound choices, but every once in awhile, to solve something, you simply want to swing that camera around without going first-person, and the game gets rather bitchy about that.
  • The game lets you save from everywhere, but I can't tell how that helps, since it seems to always load from the last checkpoint. Haven't played with that too much -- instead, I've been playing pretty linearly -- but it seems kinda awkward.

Okay, now The Good:

  • The "Television show" presentation is pretty neat -- just in general, getting the recap every time you hit continue is nice, and having each "episode" (read: level) end on a cliffhanger does, to the extent that you're sucked into the story, give you a reason not to set down the controller. Added to that, every time you hit the pause menu, it gives you a little timeline of your progress on that particular "episode," combined with the major checkpoints and how far apart they're distributed. It gives you a nice sense of distance, both in the level and, from the main screen, of the whole game.
  • It looks pretty.
  • Story and atmosphere are pretty top notch -- and the fixed camera stuff, while sometimes frustrating -- makes for some nice puzzle/climbing sequences which reminded me of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I haven't played too much from the genre, so while I imagine there's a lot here that's derivative/whathaveyou, I haven't found it too egregious to be beyond the pale. That said, one of the reviews -- I think it was Metacritic -- took the lead character to task for being a pottymouth, and while I don't necessarily agree, I do find it funny that, as far as I'm in, the game's making the link to the old-school Carnby, and yet every other word's the f-bomb. Dude from the Twenties is going to be free-wheeling in his language like that? ...okay...
  • An addictive structure, to return to the "TV Presentation," means that I'm more inclined to play into the next level since the story hit on a cliffhanger at the end of the last one. Likewise, I'm also inclined, as a player, to walk away from the game only at the end of an "episode." I haven't yet utilized the DVD skip features -- I'm comforted by the fact that they're there, but so far it's striking me as tantamount to failure. It's kind of a nice psychological trick they're playing on me, since I know I can just move ahead past the current annoying part (which, mostly, has been the driving sequences), but I'm not going to let the game beat me, you know? It's strange. Either way, kudos to them on that.
  • Some of the innovations do feel innovative. The blink mechanic is strange, but feels strangely intuitive, making me wonder why it hasn't been more prevalent; the jacket-inventory is an inspired design choice, even if navigating it is buggy -- giving you only what you can fit in your pockets is a pretty nifty notion; coupled with that, you handle health and wounds in a similar way, by viewing your wounds first hand and administering to them with the standard First Aid Spray (yawn), or bandaging them with gauze if they're serious enough (and under a seven minute countdown clock -- nifty); and the whole combining items thing, though I realize isn't wholly new, makes for some nice options, even though I haven't taken advantage of them all just yet.
  • The Melee Controls seem best designed for puzzle solving -- which is bad for combat, but good for the puzzling, as they're excellent in that department.

Overall, I'm close to halfway through, and while I don't hate the game, this is definitely an experience that has made me want to throw the controller a few times. I also wouldn't go so far as to say that I love it, neither, but The Good, thus far, is keeping me going through the occasional frustrations of The Bad. It's probably a case -- and I used to review comics, so I understand the sensation -- that The Bad is bad enough that it stands out and overshadows everything else the game is doing well.

Final analysis: I give myself certain thresholds on games -- like, say, this seems fun, but not a game I'd spend $40, or $60 on, that sort of thing. For me, I've no problem that I bought it full price, but for this community, I'd say this is probably at the $20-$25 threshold. Which, from the looks of it, we're only six weeks away on the used market.

when the car's about to explode, makes you die from flying creepy things within seconds of leaving the car.
There's gonna' be kryll!

I like your rating system, as that's sort of how I view games that I may buy: what would I be okay paying for them. Although now I'm on more of a buy/rent/wonder/forget kind of a scale.

Thanks for the update...I had a lot of interest in this game until some of the reviews started coming out. Even though it sounds like a "wonder about" sort of game to me, I'll give it a rent just because of the look / atmosphere / history!

Thanks for the detailed impressions, RSPaulette. I was quite amped to get the game but when the negative reviews started to hit I decided my money would be better spent elsewhere.

Such a shame too! The next game I'm looking forward to (SW: Force Unleashed) only arrives in September.

Wow, even IGN didn't like it.

You can navigate the coat-ventory with the d-pad rather than using the stick, makes it MUCH easier to move around.

I think, while it doesn't pause in the coat, it seems to slow down or switch off enemy AI or something - in one area I was surrounded by "Ratz" (who though up those original baddie names btw!?) and panicking around in my coat...i SHOULD have been massacred but they seemed to politely wait until I was finished before attacking en-mass.

Also its worth noting you can set up to four "quick-button" combos (gun + bottle, lighter + spray can, etc) which helps a bit - although you do still end up fumbling around in your coat when you hit something you weren't prepared for. (something you'll use often is Bullets + alchohol -- don't think that one can be preset and you have to do it every re-load of your gun, for example).

Overall though I had similar impressions to the OP, there's a great game in there trying to struggle out past the clunky controls. Needs more puzzling less combat though.

Oh, and has been said in many of the reviews -- fire seems to be the solution for pretty much everything...

*** A couple of other things I just thought of that are worth mentioning.

There's been at least one point where I've had to restart a chapter because I was too low on resources to make it through a room filled with enemies and had absolutely no way of permanently killing any of them.

When I *did* restart you are left with virtually nothing but your basic kit again (standard pistol, torch, lighter...possibly a knife, can't remember). It doesn't save any of the gear you carried across from the previous chapter ...which was annoying.

Luckily, around this time i noticed that items held in lockers actually respawn after a short period of time....something I wish I'd known from the start. Sort of defeats the "scavenging" aspect of it a little but It's saved my backside on a couple of occasions so far.

There's a few other bits and pieces I noticed eventually which would have helped earlier on but I'm not sure if they would constitute spoilers or not. Half the fun is seeing what combines with what.

Oh, the catch-all. I wanted to make this thread a month ago and I'm so glad that I didn't

stevenmack wrote:

You can navigate the coat-ventory with the d-pad rather than using the stick, makes it MUCH easier to move around.

I tried with the D-Pad, and it didn't seem to work. I'll have to give it another shot. I remember sitting there, feeling frustrated with the thumbstick, thinking "the D-Pad would be a much better fit for this.

If it works for me, I'd rescind my earlier anti-coat-ventory comments.

stevenmack wrote:

I think, while it doesn't pause in the coat, it seems to slow down or switch off enemy AI or something - in one area I was surrounded by "Ratz" (who though up those original baddie names btw!?) and panicking around in my coat...i SHOULD have been massacred but they seemed to politely wait until I was finished before attacking en-mass.

Some of the reviews mentioned that. It might be a bit greedy on my part, but I think I just wanted a full pause. I did notice that, but still -- having that reassurance of a breather while I can look at my inventory...so nice.

stevenmack wrote:

Also its worth noting you can set up to four "quick-button" combos (gun + bottle, lighter + spray can, etc) which helps a bit - although you do still end up fumbling around in your coat when you hit something you weren't prepared for.

The quick-button combos are a nice touch -- I forgot to mention those. I haven't found them useful for much more than drawing my gun, though. There's also the shoulder-button presets, too -- a tap of each shoulder button cycles through the corresponding-handed items.

stevenmack wrote:

Overall though I had similar impressions to the OP, there's a great game in there trying to struggle out past the clunky controls. Needs more puzzling less combat though.

Much, much agreed. Here's hoping the financial woes don't prevent Eden from working out the kinks for a solid spiritual sequel.

Oh, and has been said in many of the reviews -- fire seems to be the solution for pretty much everything...

stevenmack wrote:

There's been at least one point where I've had to restart a chapter because I was too low on resources to make it through a room filled with enemies and had absolutely no way of permanently killing any of them.

When I *did* restart you are left with virtually nothing but your basic kit again (standard pistol, torch, lighter...possibly a knife, can't remember). It doesn't save any of the gear you carried across from the previous chapter ...which was annoying.

Ooph. That sounds like a big ball of no fun. I'll keep an eye out for that.

stevenmack wrote:

Luckily, around this time i noticed that items held in lockers actually respawn after a short period of time....something I wish I'd known from the start. Sort of defeats the "scavenging" aspect of it a little but It's saved my backside on a couple of occasions so far.

I've noticed that, and lamed it out so that I use up all my health spray right by a first aid locker, and then restock so my first aid bottle is at 100%.

stevenmack wrote:

There's a few other bits and pieces I noticed eventually which would have helped earlier on but I'm not sure if they would constitute spoilers or not. Half the fun is seeing what combines with what.

I take it you're further on, then?

Yeah, I do like that aspect -- and the game even gives you some of it, like the flaming bullets, which I immediately implemented when I saw that tooltip.

I was finding it much more fun, though, in the steam tunnels than it was running around on foot in Central Park, so fingers crossed for more of the former and less of the latter. (And I have read the spoiler stuff about the free-roaming...not sure if I'm looking forward to that or not...)

I really hoped that this game to turn out to be good. Actiontrip had a decent review of the game that is not focused on the bashing of the controls.

Has anyone gotten the PC version yet? I wonder if the controls are any better there. *fingers crossed*

Ooph. That sounds like a big ball of no fun. I'll keep an eye out for that.

Having to restart was my own fault really, hadn't occured to me that attaching my final pack of bullets to a bottle used ALL of the ammo in the box..not used to games being that literal
Plus, couldn't backtrack to get any more ammo as the path had been blocked, so I was kind of stuck.

I take it you're further on, then?

About to start on chapter 7 (which I think is the one where it's supposed to open up).

I was finding it much more fun, though, in the steam tunnels than it was running around on foot in Central Park,

Chapters 5 and 6 are more like that, once you get past the first park-roaming bit.

RSPaulette wrote:

Final analysis: I give myself certain thresholds on games -- like, say, this seems fun, but not a game I'd spend $40, or $60 on, that sort of thing. For me, I've no problem that I bought it full price, but for this community, I'd say this is probably at the $20-$25 threshold. Which, from the looks of it, we're only six weeks away on the used market.

That's an excellent rating system. "How much would I pay for game X?"

If you have to attach a number to a game rating, this seems like the one to go with.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

That's an excellent rating system. "How much would I pay for game X?"

If you have to attach a number to a game rating, this seems like the one to go with.

Not a bad idea.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

That's an excellent rating system. "How much would I pay for game X?"

If you have to attach a number to a game rating, this seems like the one to go with.

Not a bad idea.

Great minds and all that?

doubtingthomas396 wrote:
RSPaulette wrote:

Final analysis: I give myself certain thresholds on games -- like, say, this seems fun, but not a game I'd spend $40, or $60 on, that sort of thing. For me, I've no problem that I bought it full price, but for this community, I'd say this is probably at the $20-$25 threshold. Which, from the looks of it, we're only six weeks away on the used market.

That's an excellent rating system. "How much would I pay for game X?"

If you have to attach a number to a game rating, this seems like the one to go with.

Great idea except I'm awful forgiving once a game hits $10-20 range for me. Short of shipping an actual turd in the box that price magically turns on the gaming shopaholic in me.

I bought Darkness, Stuntman Ignition both for $14 and Call of Juarez for $10 on price alone. I considered Wartech just because it was $10 Alone in the Dark Im considering picking up for $60 just because they were ambitious and attempted something new.. or maybe sanity might triumph and I may end up waiting for $20 and not pay for effort alone.

I'm gonna play it anyway. They really tried to do something with this game, and that's worth something even if the implementation was off. Games like this are at least interesting, which is meaningful, at least to me. I admire their ambition, if not their QA department.

Ok...I'm a good way through chapter 7 now and the game DEFINITELY opens up a great deal. Won't say what you have to do but you get free roaming of the park and so far I've been playing it for about as long as the majority of the other chapters combined and I'm still nowhere near completing it.

Some of the puzzles you come across here are pretty clever actually but the pacing hits a sudden brick wall, particularly after the "race against time" feeling the previous chapters have produced.

The game lets you save from everywhere, but I can't tell how that helps, since it seems to always load from the last checkpoint. Haven't played with that too much -- instead, I've been playing pretty linearly -- but it seems kinda awkward.

The save feature comes in handy here. If you quit and restart you always come back to the same point in the middle of the map but it's remembered what...actions...you've already done so far in the park (trying to avoid spoilers )

Apparently AITD is No 1 (on xbox360 at least ) over this side of the pond, which bodes quite well i think. I'd love to see either a sequel or another similar game with a few refinements made.
http://gameinfowire.com/news.asp?nid=12406

I tried with the D-Pad, and it didn't seem to work. I'll have to give it another shot. I remember sitting there, feeling frustrated with the thumbstick, thinking "the D-Pad would be a much better fit for this.

Yup, works for me - just uses left and right though.

***

One other thing I keep forgetting to mention - this game has one of the BEST soundtracks I have heard in a long while. the Choral stuff makes a nice refreshing change from rubbish heavy metal stuff or the latest 'epic' by Jeremy "might as well be John Williams all his stuff sounds the same these days too" Soule.

stevenmack wrote:

Ok...I'm a good way through chapter 7 now and the game DEFINITELY opens up a great deal. Won't say what you have to do but you get free roaming of the park and so far I've been playing it for about as long as the majority of the other chapters combined and I'm still nowhere near completing it.

Hurm. Trying to decide if this is a good or bad thing.

I think I know what the free-roaming stuff regards, since I read it in a review and stumbled across what they're talking about while trying to get to the museum.

Is it the whole [notag]

Spoiler:

[/notag][color=#EFEFEF]destroy the creepy roots to increase your "spooky vision"[/color][notag]

[/notag] or whatever it's called? Because I stumbled across a few of those already, and getting lots of them in the bag seems...daunting.

stevenmack wrote:

Some of the puzzles you come across here are pretty clever actually but the pacing hits a sudden brick wall, particularly after the "race against time" feeling the previous chapters have produced.

Good to know, and thanks for the warning. Is it just a lot of "above ground" action, or are there more steam tunnels. 'Cause, man, that above-ground park stuff was ruthless.

stevenmack wrote:

The save feature comes in handy here. If you quit and restart you always come back to the same point in the middle of the map but it's remembered what...actions...you've already done so far in the park (trying to avoid spoilers )

And much appreciated.

Yeah, I've been saving like a mofo just to get in the habit of it, so knowing that there's a central respawn point is okay, I guess. Still wouldn't mind being deposited right where I left off, though, but I guess you can't have everything.

stevenmack wrote:

Apparently AITD is No 1 (on xbox360 at least ) over this side of the pond, which bodes quite well i think. I'd love to see either a sequel or another similar game with a few refinements made.

Ditto. For atmosphere alone, I'm really digging it. Here's hoping there's enough sales on this side of the pond to make a sequel worthwhile for our market, too.

stevenmack wrote:

Yup, works for me - just uses left and right though.

Yeah, I found that out on the D-Pad. Works much better for the lowest tier, farthest away from your chin. The down-arrow still takes you out of the inventory, which I discovered much to my chagrin.

stevenmack wrote:

One other thing I keep forgetting to mention - this game has one of the BEST soundtracks I have heard in a long while. the Choral stuff makes a nice refreshing change from rubbish heavy metal stuff or the latest 'epic' by Jeremy "might as well be John Williams all his stuff sounds the same these days too" Soule.

Oh, and ditto on that. The copy I preordered came with a soundtrack disc, which I duitifully loaded into iTunes -- really nice, orchestral, epic-sounding work, too.

Is it the whole *Spoiler* or whatever it's called? Because I stumbled across a few of those already, and getting lots of them in the bag seems...daunting.

Yup.

Good to know, and thanks for the warning. Is it just a lot of "above ground" action, or are there more steam tunnels. 'Cause, man, that above-ground park stuff was ruthless.

So far it's been a mix of both (some of the things you need to find are underground or in buildings).

A couple of above-ground spots were pretty heavy on 'Humanz' (normally close to the *spoiler* locations) but they seem to stick there too, so in a couple of cases you can get in, do what you need to do, and get out and they don't chase you very far (this may be a bug though - in one instance they would run towards me then vanish and reset to their original starting positions).

Haven't seen any of the flying/scuttling critters since getting here though, which is a bonus.

Did have one close encounter with 'the ooze' though (note to self : look before dropping down strange access vents :P)

woops - ok, was wrong about restarting back in the middle of the park, must be several 'checkpoint' locations across the park and it puts you to the nearest one or something...

I was going to hold off on this, but GoGamer.com has it on sale on the 360 for 37.90 right now as part of their 48 hour madness. For that price I figured it would be worth a shot from what I've heard.

Here it is.

I absolutely can not wait to get my hands on this wonderfully crafted title at the bargain price of $5.99 next week. I might even wait until this delicious title gets bundled together with that old school epic E.T. or even distributed with purchase of a Super-Sized Meal at my least favorite late night hang out.

Ok...bit further on now...

...after hunting through the park chasing 'plot whatsits' I finally finished chapter 7.

Only to discover I need to find MORE 'plot whatsits' at the start of chapter 8 :S.

Pacing is DEFINITELY derailed somewhat at this point. If you were keen on following the story/linear segments rather than the the sandbox type stuff I think this could start to be a bit of a slog.

Also one of the checkpoints I hit left me coming back to the game later only to find myself instantly surrounded by four Humanz on that super-long narrow bridge on the right of the map with no room to maneuver. Not cool Eden. Not cool >|

lethial wrote:

Has anyone gotten the PC version yet? I wonder if the controls are any better there. *fingers crossed*

A few snippets from the PC Gamer UK review re: mouse/keyboard controls:

"On a 360 controller...you waggle the right thumbstick to swing your implement around...To do that on PC you have to inch the mouse oh-so-carefully towards an invisible midpoint, then click. It categorically does not work..."

"The mouse and keyboard controls are a sick joke throughout..."

"When dangling from a rope, to jump off you've got to press right alt. To select a "favorite" inventory item you have to hold tilde then press a cursor key...try doing that with one hand."

"this is a game that claims the fire extinguisher trigger - assigned to left mouse - is pressure sensitive".

***

39% final score with a tag line "Almost - but not entirely - worthless".

...I don't think they were fans.

Ouch, thanks steve! I really wanted to get this game too, looks like another poor console port, I will have to stay away.

Now I am sure next week we are going to hear Atari blame poor PC sales on piracy again...

For those who might find it interesting -- which may just be me and stevenmack -- Tycho has been running commentary on Penny Arcade for the past few days about Alone in the Dark.

For my part, I played a little today, but am stuck having to face some Crawly things coming from a nest in an inaccessible room, and I'm not quite sure how to send a leaky bottle back to them, as they all come attack me and never return...

Ah...the frustrations of conceptualizing the solution to the puzzle, without immediately seeing the means to solve said puzzle.

I'm kind of hoping for some sort of super PC version patch that reduces frustration. Seems like even that may not pan out.

RSPaulette wrote:

For my part, I played a little today, but am stuck having to face some Crawly things coming from a nest in an inaccessible room, and I'm not quite sure how to send a leaky bottle back to them, as they all come attack me and never return...

If that's where I think it is (the small kitchen/dining area?)...

[color=white]You need to chuck a molatov cocktail over the top of the wall where it is broken down (rag + bottle without the sticky tape since that will probably stick to the roof when thrown). Probably take a few attempts to get the angle right without smashing off the ceiling.

Also note that if you shoot the body of the cop in the room the blood-pool distracts the critters for a while[/color]

stevenmack wrote:

If that's where I think it is (the small kitchen/dining area?)...

Yeah -- I eventually figured the Spoiler out. Took some doing, though -- and seeing the cut scene about eight times before it finally sank in through my thick skull...

I finally finished out that Chapter, too -- with the Boss Battle being particularly...(good) aggravating.

Certis wrote:

I'm kind of hoping for some sort of super PC version patch that reduces frustration. Seems like even that may not pan out.

At this point, at about halfway through, the game definitely seems to be a grower not a show-er.

I believe that soon it'll be 6 bucks...

lethial wrote:

Ouch, thanks steve! I really wanted to get this game too, looks like another poor console port, I will have to stay away.

Seriously, in this day and age a 360 controller is becoming an essential piece of equipment for a PC gamer.