Insert Disk collects Alone In The Dark 3 for the PC.
Today’s retro game review is Alone In The Dark 3 for the PC. This retro gaming classic is the focus of part 3 of the 4 part Insert-Disk Alone In The Dark Mini Series Where we will take a look back at Alone In The Dark, Alone In The Dark 2, Alone In The Dark 3, Jack In The Dark, The New Nightmare, Alone In The Dark 2005 and Alone In The Dark Illumination. Perfect for Halloween.
Following the success of the original Alone In The Dark and Alone In The Dark 2 in the following year it was only right that the original trilogy was completed with the same game engine in Alone In The Dark 3. This time we join Edward Carnby in the Mojave desert tracking down ghost cowboys and solving the mystery of Slaughter Gulch.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. You join today at for part 3 of the Alone In The Dark Mini series. During this series we’ll be revisiting the original Alone in the Dark Trilogy as well as the spin off game Jack In the Dark, The New Nightmare and we’ll also take a shorter look at the more recent attempts to reboot the franchise. Last time we took a look at the rather excellent Alone in the Dark 2. The original had set the bar for horror fans and part 2 began to open the series up as a contender to own the mystery adventure genre. With an aging game engine though Alone in the Dark 3 was going to have to do something special to retain its fans. It was now 1994 and polygons were nothing special anymore. CD based adventure was the norm and a little game called Resident evil was knocking its bloody fists on the door.
Whilst PC gaming was still popular in 1994 the 32-bit generation was slowly working its way in to our homes. So, how to complete a trilogy? We’d had haunted houses, ghost pirates, it was now time for a ghostly vision of the wild west. Alone in the Dark 3 sets out its stall as a continuation of Edward Carnby’s journey of his on-going supernatural private eye business. He’s called to investigate the disappearance of a film crew at Slaughter Gulch located in the Mojave Desert in California. Several people have been taken including Emily Hartwood, Jeremy Hartwood’s niece from the original game is one of the missing people (see we had a use for this character all along). The curse of an evil cowboy called Jed Stone is the responsible for the crew’s disappearance and its Edwards mission to stop him.
Right from the off you’ll appreciate that this is quite a departure from the original game scenario but don’t fear there’s plenty to enjoy here. The graphics are arguably the best of the trilogy and the soundtrack is also suitably strong for the series. I have to say that in terms of personal preference Alone in the Dark 3 is the game I’d rather play over the second entry. It feels that more time was taken and the overall design of the game play is much more satisfying. For a 1994 release though the game certainly didn’t have the impact of the original. Textures are certainly better here than the previous games but the relatively low polygon count for the day ages this game quite badly. Throw in to this the creaking control system and Alone in the Dark 3 isn’t an easy game to replay when you know there are better games of a similar style now out there. The theme itself is rather pleasing. The wild west film locations provide plenty of cinematic opportunity and there are some suitably eerie camera angles to get you in that survival horror mood. Add in to this an improved menu system including difficulty settings then you find that the developers probably got the best they could out of the original concepts and 3D engine.
For collectors the physical presentation of the Alone in the Dark games has always been a big draw with editions of the Mystery Examiner, the weapons books, the code cards etc. Alone In the Dark 3 fares ok but not great in my opinion. The game was released on CD only so no disks to enjoy. There’s also nothing too special in the way of additional box content. You’ll have to be satisfied with the CD case in lay manual, there are also game brochures as well as the warranty and registration cards. For a collector the only real piece of interest though is the Mystery Examiner newspaper. We’re now in July of 1925 and news of a curse is rife. There are also the trademark links to previous events in the series, sub texts around the movie sub-plot and mentions of the health potion. There’s also the compulsory advert for the latest guns. Of the 3 Mystery Examiners I found this edition to be the least engaging. Although I still really appreciate it as an add-in to immerse the audience. PC Zone magazine awarded this one 95% and I can’t help feeling that this was slightly out of loyalty rather than merit. Don’t get me wrong, all of the original trilogy are worth playing and all add something a little different. However, Alone in the Dark 3 does little to add to Edwards character development and you’ll get quite a way in to the game without ever really feeling those stand out moments as you did in the original. I guess what I’m saying is that this third instalment is where the series began to feel stale. The formula had been interesting and new enough first time around, the second game placed more of an emphasis on action. Alone in the Dark 3 marries these well but the end result just isn’t as memorable as it should be.
I would certainly argue that a 4th game with the original game engine would have been a disaster so the series ended at the right time. Not on a high but a dignified trilogy in 1994. We had seen 3 consecutive years of Alone in the Dark releases and that was good enough for the time being. With games such as Resident Evil picking up the threads of Alone in the Dark it was a smash hit in the following year. Which is great testament to what Infogrames had started. This even prompted the ill-fated re-release of Alone in the Dark 2 on the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. However, it was enough to showcase that the franchise couldn’t easily be progressed in its current state. The original trilogy remains important but was far from the end of the Alone in the Dark series of games. After a 7 year wait a New Nightmare was coming. Join me in the next episode to see how something unusual in the gaming world was about to happen. A reboot.