Alone in the Dark Review

For as much grief as the 2008 reboot of Alone in the Dark got, I remember it fondly. It was a fun, creepy alternative to Resident Evil (especially as that series was shitting the bed at the time); plus, you could set everything on fire which is a win in my books. One terribly-received PC release is all we’ve gotten in the meantime, and so when news of a fresh entry crossed our desks I was both intrigued and slightly guarded. I needn’t have been though, as Alone in the Dark has come good, with heavy thanks to the Capcom reboots of Resident Evil.

Those thanks form the base for Alone in the Dark; from the perspective, to visual style, pacing, map screen, and even the way a spotlight shines on a key as we zoom in to watch it open a door with no hands in sight. Pieces Interactive are clearly as big a fan of the RE remakes as I am, although this is no bad thing. If anything, I found it eased me into the game even more than something like the aforementioned 360 reboot.

That’s not to say it’s all a homage. Alone in the Dark forges its own path in presenting a more psychological story rather than out and out horror. We play as either the returning detective Edward Carnby (here played rather well by Stranger Things’ David Harbour) or Emily Hartwood (played, for my money, better by Jodie Comer). Hartwood has hired Carnby to assist her in finding her uncle and bringing him home after he sent some worrying letters about the institute he was housed in. In yet another Resident Evil nod, as they arrive at the house we get to choose who we’re going to play as. Each follows the same basic story, albeit with twists and alternate takes on scenes throughout. There’s no real A-B scenario here, but it is nice to have the option to play through twice (as I have) and get more context for what’s going on in the overall picture.

And we’ll need it, as Alone in the Dark goes to some places. Obviously we’ll keep spoiler free here, but let’s just say we’re not confined to the mansion for the entire game. It’s a bit dream-like and bizarre, but engaging enough to keep me invested through both playthroughs. There are also Lagniappes to find; these hidden collectibles offer more lore and occasionally in game bonuses, as well as an alternate ending should we collect them all.

When we’re not being asked to question reality itself, Alone in the Dark follows the Resident Evil formula closely; a sprawling, interconnected area that slowly unlocks as we gather new keys or meet new people, several puzzles to solve in order to get a McGuffin to open the next area, and occasional bursts of combat.

The atmosphere created here, be in the institute or elsewhere, often crosses into creepy territory. Plenty of ambient noise, sudden crashes and bangs and groans, hints that shit’s about to go down, and more help foster unease throughout. Even previously safer areas might suddenly verge into holy crap moments, and it was rare on my first playthrough that I wasn’t walking instead of running everywhere, just in case.

Puzzles offer up a mix of straightforward ‘key goes here’ and more involved affairs, where we need to look for clues in our inventory or in other areas. Nothing was ever majorly head scratching but the helping hands felt just about right without walking through it completely.

One aspect in this regard I really appreciated is the map. When we start we can choose from modern or classic modes of play; the former has a far more instructive map, while the latter leaves us to our own devices. Coming off of playing Alisa earlier this year and it’s strict adherence to the days of old, it was welcome that Alone in the Dark would offer this choice. In modern mode, the map will highlight rooms we’ve explored, whether we’ve cleared them fully, as well as the locations of puzzles and – most helpfully – whether we can currently solve it with the items/knowledge we have at hand. While I still enjoyed Alisa‘s way of things, there’s no doubt this was a far smoother experience due to this aid, letting us keep on track even if we have to stop and start playing often (or simply have a bad memory these days…).

Puzzles and exploration are great then, but I must say I’m not as fond of the combat side of things. It’s not bad really, but it’s also not all that exciting. We have access to (eventually) a trio of firearms as well as breakable melee weapons and throwables we find scattered about, but the feel of the combat is just…fine. Enemies (on the recommended difficulty) don’t take too much punishment but are fond of ducking out of the way and avoiding hits, especially some of the aerial enemies later on. Our protagonists can quick duck out of the way but this proved hit and miss for me, either getting caught up on enemies anyway, or moving in a way that the camera would be caught on the scenery/other enemies and make it hard for us to see. The final boss here was the worst offender as we’re in such a tight space and there’s so much going on, at times it was all I could do to avoid damage, let alone get my own attacks in.

We can utilise stealth to avoid enemies at times, though again this is hit and miss – sometimes enemies would be staring me in the face but because I was crouched they couldn’t see me, while at others I was spotted before I could even start to approach the area.

So while the action side of Alone in the Dark was slightly underwhelming, I can’t say it made a massive knock on my experience overall. While I was exploring, solving puzzles, and taking in the weird and wonderful goings on the game had me hooked right in, so much so that over the few nights it took me to beat I ended up staying up way later than I’d planned as I just wanted to see what was next. I did find my time with Hartwood’s side of the story more enjoyable; it felt to me that this was main story that was told as her relationship to her uncle and the others at the institute definitely lent more weight to things, while Carnby’s complete outsider perspective made some of the weirder moments feel a bit rushed – he was very keen to not talk about what had happened to him with Hartwood, whereas she was a bit more forthcoming. That’s not to say her side of things doesn’t have its disjointed moments, but overall it felt a lot more coherent.


Overall, I’ve had a decent time with Alone in the Dark. The Resident Evil reboots are a clear and massive inspiration, and while it might not be quite on their level, Alone in the Dark still manages to entertain with a weird and wonderful experience. The combat sections are definitely a weak spot, but the exploration and puzzle parts are able to balance this out nicely.

This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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  • Weird and wonderful premise and setting
  • Harbour and Comer put in entertaining performances as the leads
  • Exploration and puzzles are engaging
  • Combat is basic, and never really feels as good as it could
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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