Home Tech Alone in the Dark review – Jodie Comer and David Harbour can’t save this soporific horror

Alone in the Dark review – Jodie Comer and David Harbour can’t save this soporific horror

by Elijah
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Alone in the Dark review – Jodie Comer and David Harbour can’t save this soporific horror

IIt’s fitting that this latest Alone in the Dark game chooses a generational curse as its premise, as the series that pioneered the survival horror genre hasn’t been good in about 30 years. Its various misadventures include the disastrous 2008 game of the same name, which, among many odd design decisions, included a dedicated button for blinking. Still, at least it was terrible in an interesting way, which is more than can be said for this boring, derivative reimagining of the game that started it all.

Set in Louisiana in the early 20th century, Alone in the Dark sees Emily Hartwood (Jodie Comer) visit her uncle Jeremy at the Derceto Manor convalescent home for the mentally ill after receiving a disturbing letter from him. So disturbing, in fact, that not only has she hired private detective Edward Carnby (David Harbour) to accompany her, but one of the first questions she asks Carnby is whether he brought a gun on fire, because she expects that he will have to “wave it”. a little” to see his uncle.

As it happens, you can choose Carnby or Hartwood to wave the gun, a decision that leads to a slightly different perspective on the same story. Although the reimagining retains the general premise of the 1992 original, its presentation and mechanics borrow heavily from Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 2. You explore the Derceto mansion with limited freedom, solving simple puzzles to unlock its different pieces. This is interspersed with more action-oriented segments where you enter Uncle Jeremy’s dreams, fighting monsters in locations inspired by HP Lovecraft stories.

Mostly deeply tedious… Alone in the Dark, 2024. Photography: Places Interactive/THQ Nordic

The Southern Gothic Manor is quite enjoyable to explore, and the puzzles within can be mildly entertaining. But for the most part, Alone in the Dark is deeply tedious. The most immediate problem is the writing. The game aims for vivid, noirish detachment, but simply can’t align it with the fundamental silliness of its Lovecraftian mystery. The abrupt shifts in tone and location are more confusing than intriguing. He also struggles to justify himself: why do his two protagonists spend most of the game apart, when Hartwood hired Carnby specifically to protect her?

If Pieces Interactive was hoping that the star talent it hired could elevate the writing, the effect is unfortunately quite the opposite. Comer seems confused about Hartwood’s personality; almost every line she speaks has an off-kilter tone. Simple filler sentences like “I need the key” sound like they came from a sarcastic teenager. Harbor fares slightly better, although he often seems like he’s reading the script with one eye on the clock.

It’s worth noting that the Resident Evil games aren’t narrative masterpieces either. But they are scary and thrilling, the Alone in the Dark qualities stumble just beyond that. Aside from a few instances, combat and puzzles exist in separate realms, so exploring the mansion is devoid of tension. Even in dreamscapes, encounters with monsters are surprisingly rare. Shooting enemies as they spawn can be fun, as long as they don’t get stuck in a corner due to the game’s regular AI malfunctions, but most other interactions are either underwhelming or downright irritating. Melee combat is sluggish, while opening doors or climbing ladders is excruciatingly slow.

The abrupt tonal shifts are more confusing than intriguing… Alone in the Dark, 2024. Photography: Places Interactive/THQ Nordic

Furthermore, for someone who is supposedly lost in the abysmal depths of madness, Jeremy’s dreamscapes are disappointingly ordinary. They include a Louisiana swamp, a cemetery, a warehouse and an (admittedly old) library. You visit a few more exotic locations later, but they’re too fleeting to have much of an impact. Listening to real people talk about their dreams is taxing enough. If you’re going to force me to live out a fake person’s dreams, you better make sure they’re profoundly strange.

After the excellent surreal horror of Alan Wake 2, which reveled in its own strangeness while delivering a clear and gripping story, Alone in the Dark is too staid, too clunky and too random to invoke anything other than a shrug. ‘shoulders. The mystery surrounding Jeremy’s madness isn’t worth solving, while the combat and puzzles are mere shadows of Resident Evil 2’s superior design. The curse, it seems, endures.

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