Alone In The Dark 2 & 3
October 9, 2018 at 11:30 am #1982
I finished Alone In The Dark 2 last night. This was probably the most nostalgic experience I’ve had in DOS Game Club. It’s a game I played a lot when it was new but hadn’t ever gone back to. I didn’t remember it too well at first but it all kept coming back to me in waves as I got further in.
The sequel may look similar but it’s a really different beast to Alone In The Dark. The open/search menu option has been removed and there is just push and fight giving you a clue to the new nature of the game. It is extremely heavy on combat right from the beginning with lots of tommy gun fights, all with the problem of trying to figure out where exactly to aim given the camera angles. The start of the game is set in a garden maze fighting gangsters and it was apparently so unpopular that in the CD version a “teleporter” pad was added so that it could be skipped altogether. I played through it all anyway and I’d argue it works better than some of the later stages where more puzzles are introduced.
AITD1 had some tricky puzzles but they largely made sense. The puzzles in AITD2 are just insane, it’s try everything on everything and I can see why I struggled so much years back. I’ll give some examples (spoilers ahead). How to get rid of an otherwise invulnerable murderous clown doll – use a doubloon on a jack in the box which gives you a pom pom which you can then throw into a bunch of poisonous snakes so that the doll chases after the pom pom and gets eaten by the snakes.
Later in the game you get to play as a small child called Grace and it’s all puzzles with no combat. How does she fight her way past evil pirates you ask? Obviously by loading a tiny cannon with pepper and aiming it at a closed door, then smashing a vase to get a pirate to walk through said door and firing the pepper at him so he sneezes himself to death. Or alternatively, earlier in the game by pouring a jar of molasses on the floor so the pirate gets his feet stuck and can’t chase after you. Already used your molasses? How about pouring a bucket of ice on the floor so that a pirate walks on it and slips to his death? You get to use that one twice. This sort of cartoon logic doesn’t belong in a game that is supposed to be scary. These examples aren’t the exceptions in AITD2s puzzles, they are the rule. It’s one nonsensical puzzle after another.
I do still like AITD2 and to be fair there are hints to some of those puzzles. The production values are very high with a ton of nice background art, especially during a couple of story flashback sequences late in the game. I can see why it would have impressed at the time. The game is much larger than part 1 with more of a plot but it’s missing the foreboding atmosphere. The occult aspect is still there but AITD2 isn’t really a horror game any more. It’s still a good action-adventure but those puzzles let it down for me.
On to part 3. I don’t know anything about that one except it involved cowboys.
PixelProphecyParticipantPodcasterOctober 9, 2018 at 4:02 pm #1983
Oh wow, no surprise that I never got far with it. I tried playing it, but being thrown into the hedge maze with lots of ranged combat… boy, I was not enjoying myself! I think it clearly shows that the core team of the first Alone was absent: The engine is pretty much unchanged, it’s just more of the same with what Infogrames thought people liked most: Action! 😉October 14, 2018 at 7:19 am #1992
I’ve been playing loads of Alone In The Dark 3 all this week. It’s set in a ghost town in the desert where a Western was being filmed but all the crew have vanished. You basically have to go in there and save Emily Hartwood (from part 1) who is now a Hollywood actress apparently. I’ve been really enjoying this one. I’ve cheated like blazes using a walkthrough if I’m stuck for more than 10 minutes but the puzzles haven’t been quite as out there as part 2. The game tends to lock you in to smaller areas at a time so even if the puzzles are equally crazy, trial and error can usually get you through.
Part 3 still has a lot of combat but the difficulty has been dialled down and there are even options as to how easy you want it to be. The same techniques of staying too close to be shot work here so the combat is as silly as ever. After two games I’m even getting used to the funny angles. The open/search command from part 1 has been brought back again. There is also a small section where the jump command appears from nowhere just like AITD1. The whole game is much closer in spirit to part 1 but still not exactly scary. It does make up for this with the size of the town which is way larger than even part 2. This was the first AITD to be designed exclusively for CD and it shows.
I’m not exactly certain what is going on in the plot of this one. I’m never sure whether something has been lost in translation with these games but they aren’t exactly forthcoming with the storyline. It doesn’t matter a whole lot really, you just have to deal with a load of undead cowboy gangsters and get past locked doors. There is a really strange section where you die, get reincarnated by a native American as a cougar and have to kill werewolves by covering one paw with tar and silver nitrate. Survive this to bring back an eagle statue and you get to literally rise from your grave. It’s followed by a Prince Of Persia like puzzle where you have to drop your gun, and run into a cowboy mirror image of yourself to merge into one and then play the rest of the game in full cowboy attire. It’s all very odd really and probably best not to think about it too much.
I’m loving it anyway. My nostalgia for this series is very strong so it may not hold up as well for others but it’s a better sequel than AITD2 if you ask me. It doesn’t matter so much playing it now but it must have looked a bit dated by 1994. The engine hasn’t been touched as far as I can see so it doesn’t look any better than AITD1. It even still has all the same bugs on faster PC’s.
I’m going to give Time Gate – Knight’s Chase a go after this. It’s largely forgotten these days but it was supposed to be a whole new trilogy using the AITD engine. Said engine was looking even more dated by 1995 so it didn’t sell well. I’ve had it sat on a shelf since the early 2000’s so this is the excuse to play it at last.October 22, 2018 at 11:18 am #2006
I’m not much the wiser but I’ve finished Time Gate. It was essentially another Alone In The Dark with all the technology being the same except you can hold shift to run and there are now FMV cutscenes. It STILL had the bug on fast machines making it impossible to push things around. It beggars belief that this hadn’t been fixed on the engines 4th outing.
As for the plot, I can’t honestly say I know what was going on even now I’ve finished it. Story telling was not exactly a strong point of the AITD series and seemed to get worse as they went on. In essence though, you play the descendant of the last of the Knights Templar who starts the game being attacked by some sort of dark knight who you quickly dispatch with an axe you happen to have embedded in the desk for just such an occasion. Your fiancée (who hasn’t been introduced) is apparently missing and you are told to go to the museum if you want to see her again. So you go there, get threatened by a villain called something like Wolfram and ultimately get pushed down a well, at which point you levitate out of it in a load of light and wake up as your descendant back in the 1300’s. Cue adventures in an ancient monastery trying to rescue said fiancée who it turns out is also in the 1300’s somehow. There are evil monks, demons and ghouls around trying to get in the way. You have to restore jewels on the tombs of some dead templars so their ghosts can give you useful objects. You get to transform into an ass-kicking, gold armor wearing eagle at one point. It’s odder than ever and makes precious little sense. The puzzles are no better but there are hints and you are told if you aren’t close enough or at the right angle which makes the trial and error a whole lot easier.
I can see why the subsequent sequels never happened after this one I have to say. It’s really showing it’s age and the first Alone In The Dark was so much better years earlier. There is no atmosphere at all and the formula is getting old. There have been some minor changes to combat with the addition of blocking by holding control but in the end the combat is worse than before mainly because of the lack of range weapons in the 14th century. The whole interface has been made graphical but while it may look fancier it is way more clunky than the original. If you liked the Alone In The Dark games, then Time Gate fits the bill for more of the same but it needed more innovation and better design. I think on the whole, we can be glad that the engine got retired at this point.
That’s enough Alone In The Dark for me for one month so I’ll stop here rather than moving on the The New Nightmare.
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