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

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

It’s fitting that this latest Alone in the Dark game should choose a generational curse for 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 strange design decisions included a button dedicated to blinking. Yet at least it was terrible in an interesting way, which is more than can be said for this dull and 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) visiting her uncle Jeremy at the Derceto Manor convalescence home for mentally ill people after receiving a worrying letter from him. So worrying, 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’s brought a ****, as she expects he might have to “wave it around a bit” in order to see her uncle.

As it happens, you can choose either Carnby or Hartwood to do the **** waving, a decision that leads to a slightly different perspective on the same story. Although the reimagining retains the broad 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 various rooms. This is interspersed with more action-oriented segments where you enter Uncle Jeremy’s dreams, fighting monsters in places inspired by the stories of HP Lovecraft.

For the most part, deeply tedious … Alone in the Dark, 2024. Photograph: Places Interactive/THQ Nordic

The southern gothic manor house is pleasant enough to explore, and the puzzles it contains can be mildly diverting. But for the most part, Alone in the Dark is deeply tedious. The most immediate problem is the writing. The game aims for a snappy, noirish detachment, but simply can’t align it with the fundamental silliness of its Lovecraftian mystery. The abrupt switches of tone and location are more bewildering than intriguing. It also struggles to justify itself: why do its dual protagonists spend most of the game apart, despite Hartwood hiring Carnby specifically to protect her?

If Pieces Interactive hoped the star talent it hired might elevate the writing, the effect, unfortunately, is quite the opposite. Comer seems at a loss as to what Hartwood’s personality is; almost every line she delivers is tonally off. Simple filler phrases such as “I need the key” sound as if they’re coming from a sarcastic teenager. Harbour fares slightly better, although he often sounds like he’s reading the script with one eye on the clock.

It’s worth noting the Resident Evil games are hardly narrative masterpieces, either. But they are scary and exciting, qualities Alone in the Dark stumbles right past. Outside a few instances, combat and puzzling exist in separate realms, so exploring the mansion is devoid of tension. Even in the dreamscapes, monster encounters are surprisingly scarce. ********* enemies when they do turn up can be fun, assuming they don’t stand jittering in a corner due to the game’s regular AI malfunctions, but most other interactions are either underwhelming or outright irritating. Melee combat is limp, while opening doors or climbing ladders is excruciatingly slow.

Abrupt tonal switches are more bewildering than intriguing … Alone in the Dark, 2024. Photograph: Places Interactive/THQ Nordic

Moreover, for someone who is supposedly lost in the abyssal depths of madness, Jeremy’s dreamscapes are disappointingly ordinary. They include a Louisiana swamp, a graveyard, a warehouse, and a library (admittedly an ancient one). You visit a couple of more exotic locations later, but they’re too fleeting to make much impact. Listening to real people talk about their dreams is trying enough. If you’re going to force me to experience a fake person’s dreams, you better make sure they are profoundly odd.

After the excellent surrealist horror of Alan Wake 2, which revelled in its own strangeness while also delivering a clear, compelling story, Alone in the Dark is too staid, too clumsy, and too haphazard to invoke anything other than a shrug. The mystery surrounding Jeremy’s madness isn’t worth putting up with the ponderous unravelling, while the combat and puzzling are mere shadows of Resident Evil 2’s superior design. The curse, it seems, lives on.

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#Dark #review #Jodie #Comer #David #Harbour #save #soporific #horror #Games

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