Alone in the Dark is one of the most influential video game series of my childhood. And thank God the new game isn’t releasing in October after all, because I totally forgot about my retrospective. Here’s part two!
Alone in the Dark 2 and 3 – late to the party
The year was 1998. I was 13 years old, and this was a different world than the one in which I had been so scared of that damn library in the first game. This was the era of the Nintendo 64, I had played Super Mario 64 and had tried Ocarina of Time an hour in a brick and mortar game store. It cost 50 francs and it was well worth it. Games like Alone in the Dark – where the backgrounds were not full 3D but pre-rendered (i.e. “drawn”) – were super old to me, and I hadn’t heard of Final Fantasy VII to prove me wrong yet.
But there I was, on a Sunday morning, with my dad, in another relic of the past: A hardware store that happened to also sell video games. While my dad was shopping for tools, I used to gawk at the rows and rows of games. And then I would springt across the aisles, find my dad in the screws section, and he would know he didn’t need screws but was screwed, because I would start nagging incessantly for some game.
It didn’t always work, and only now as a parent myself I understand the delicate intricacies of “I haven’t had my coffee yet” or “God damn I just can’t be bothered today”. So when I saw Alone in the Dark 2, on CD-ROM, sitting on that shelf, my jaw dropped. There was a sequel?! I yanked the blue jewel case out of the shelf and read the back. Pirates! Mob bosses! This sounded awesome. I was just about to run to my dad when my pre-hormonal teenage mind was shook again. Because what I hadn’t noticed: behind the blue jewel case was a red one. Alone in the Dark motherfucking 3.
I didn’t even so much as look at that jewel case. I just snatched it and ran to my dad, thinking how I would convince him to buy me not one, but two games. I don’t remember how I did it. I don’t think I did – I think it was the aforementioned coffee or the god damn. Who knows – but I got those games. They’re both pretty mediocre.
And I played the shit out of them.
Alone in the Dark 2 is a game in which you, guns blazing, have to rescue a kid from mobsters and pirates on Christmas day. It is the Die Hard of the series. The horror elements? Gone – rightfully, I think, because even two years after the release of the first game, it didn’t look scary at all anymore. The only problem is: Crazy pre-rendered backgrounds and weird perspectives are not really that great for aiming. It’s a frustrating affair.
Alone in the Dark 3 is a western featuring zombies and even a cyborg. I sometimes like to pretend they based Wild Wild West with Will Smith on this thing. It is, in my opinion, the better game of the two, because it ditches most of the action and puts more emphasis on the puzzles. Only problem: Most of the puzzles stink. They’re super obtuse, especially when you’re thirteen and without internet.
Still, these games hold a special place in my heart and I played them religiously. They’re the first games that made me look at walkthroughs on the internet. I still have the CD-ROMs, I bought the games on GOG and on Steam – and I even ordered a rare floppy version of the second game with a 1993 strategy guide that details how Infogrames’ “cinematic technology” is the way all games are going to be in the future. The floppy version is horrible, with poorly sampled MIDI music and parts of the game missing, I payed quite a bit of money for it, but I regret nothing.
That’s nostalgia for ya.