Alone In The Dark Series Retrospective Part 4: Alone In The Dark The New Nightmare

Alone In The Dark The New Nightmare
Alone In The Dark The New Nightmare

Insert Disk collects Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare for the PS2.

Today’s retro game review is Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare for the PS2. This retro gaming classic is the focus of part 4 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 trilogy The New Nightmare was a decent attempt by Infogrames and Darkworks to reboot the series. Now powered by the latest hardware such as the PlayStation 2 and Sega Dreamcast the fans were treated to a very competent entry in the series. The New Nightmare may have been released after the successes of the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series but it remains a decent game for gamers looking to revisit the story of Edward Carnby in an updated horror setting.

Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. You join today at for part 4 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. In the last episode we concluded the classic trilogy instalment of the Alone in the Dark series. An excellent first outing had led to sequel that never really hit the spot for me personally despite a wave of awards from the critics of the day. The classic trilogy then dies out in the old west in 1994. Whilst I admire the first game and can just about live with the sequels gamers were all darked out. We’d had an Alone in the Dark game 3 years running now and the series had hit a natural stopping point.

The 3D engine that had served the first game so well now looked rather dated and it was hard to see where the series would go. Especially as of the end of 1994 all the cool kids were getting in to true 32-bit consoles such as the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Alone in the Dark just quietly went away although I dare say that it retained many of its fans. It wouldn’t be until 7 years later in 2001 Infogrames would re-visit the series. To put this in to context, by this time Resident Evil 1, 2, 3 and Code Veronica had been released as well as the first Silent Hill game. The survival horror genre that Alone in the Dark had helped to create had now grown up. It was at this point that gamers started hearing whispers of a project between Infogrames and Darkworks, a true Alone in the Dark 4 sequel.

In 2001 Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare was released on the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast, PC and even the GameBoy Color. Despite a glut of survival horror series out there fans were keen to see what the grandfather series of horror could come back with. This was a comeback for the series and well deserved. Edward Carnby is back although now several decades in the future this is actually more of a reincarnated Carnby. It was felt that Carnby himself should be a character that rises every generation to fight various evils. It’s never really explained to too much of a degree but I’m not going to complain as it doesn’t mess up the original premise too much. The premise of the game is pure blockbuster. Carnby’s best friend has been found dead in a place called shadow island and he sets out to investigate. This spirals in to a rather far-fetched story fixated on three ancient tablets that have the power to unlock evil on to the Earth.
A young professor called Aline joins the search but ends up in an accident with Carnby after their plane is attacked. Aline ends up on the roof of a mansion whilst Edward lands near the mansion grounds. It’s a huge scope in terms of plot and I can say that although slightly out of step with the classic trilogy, I like it.

So, how does it play? Well, I’ll get the obvious out of the way first, it plays very much like any other survival horror game of the period. Expect the usual tank controls, inventory puzzles and suitably startling jump scares. Overall though I found the game to be really enjoyable. The combat is decent enough, the puzzles are challenging for the most part and this feels like a very well put together adventure. There are a couple of areas that the game stands out in. Firstly the graphics. Now I know you’re watching this several years after its release but take a look at those environments, not bad at all. Each area is really well realised and the lighting effects from the flashlight really help blend the rendered and pre-rendered elements of the scenes.
The star of the show though is the sound design. As with horror movies, decent sound design is king and New Nightmare really gets this right. From the ambient sewer sounds to the rumbles of thunder, it all just works and holds up far better than many modern games in my opinion.

I’m playing the PlayStation 2 version here but would recommend the Dreamcast edition for purists as it is seen as the native development edition. However you play this one I think that you’ll have some good fun. In terms of a recommendation I think that if you like what you see here you’ll quickly understand the appeal of the game. It’s just a really decent survival horror that never seems to make the top 10 lists for various reasons and although cannon in the loosest terms to the original trilogy I certainly don’t feel cheated. For those of you wondering, yes New Nightmare was originally conceived as Alone In the Dark 4 rather than a spin off. There had been previous discussion in the intervening 7 years but plans never came to fruition. Despite the game’s final release lacking the 4 numeral Infogrames did leaves us several clues as to their intent, one being the volume label on the disc. New Nightmare might have deserved a sequel although sadly Darkworks didn’t manage to survive as a going concern. As it is New Nightmare is generally considered as a last hurrah for Alone in the Dark and Infogrames. New Nightmare is well worth playing and is a very credible tribute to the original concept of the series. It’s also incredibly cheap so ideal for gamers that want an Alone in the Dark experience but don’t want all the hassle of the clunkier trilogy.

Now, it’s at this point I was going to give you three more episodes but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Mostly because I consider the Alone in the Dark series to be dead past this point.
There were however 2 more games officially released. 2008’s Alone in the Dark, a sort of shonky reboot and 2015’s Alone in the Dark Illumination, a sort of crap bag of fan boy incompetence that takes one last dump over anything that the original series tried to aim for. Rather shamefully I do have the 2008 reboot here. At £4.99 I was robbed. The game was meant to reboot the series for a new generation. With Infogrames now gone as the publisher the licences fell to Atari. However, classic Atari as we knew them back in the day were also dead so this is basically a rebadged franchise using Atari’s brand equity. Is it any good? Well, it’s ok. Sort of. Edward Carnby is back yet again but remove the title and this really could be any other generic game of the late naughties. Gamers had a luke warm reception, and the game failed to connect with the original fans of the series. To give you some indication here’s the front cover. 4/5 from Maxim magazine and 4/5 from FHM magazine. Wait, those are fairly decent scores? Well, they would be but for the fact that neither Maxim or FHM are computer or gaming magazines. They’re basically what we call lads mags here in the UK. We might as well have got Fishing monthly to give us the low down on the next Zelda title. Ultimately gamers saw through the mediocre game play and the franchise died once more.

That brings us on to 2015’s Illumination. Now if you want to kill a franchise and I mean really burry it good, this is how it’s done. The game single handily managed to be released in a broken state, had almost nothing to do with the Alone in the Dark series and suffered from chronic game play and reviews. To top it off, as at the time of making this episode the game is still on sale for £14.99 here in the UK Steam shop and $19.99 in the US. I won’t be reviewing this one as you’ll find various gamer rants online but I did want to give some closure to this mini series.

So, what have we learnt? The original Alone in the Dark is excellent for it’s time, it helped form the survival horror genre and was one of the first PC games to really get to grips with the new world of polygons. Parts 2 and 3 were ok, not ground-breaking but still worth a play if you enjoy a hit of PC nostalgia. Sadly they have dated quite badly but will be remembered fondly by those that played them at the time. The New Nightmare was a surprising resurrection of the series. It didn’t add much new to the genre that the original helped kick start but I do feel that this is a game that still holds up well. It plays, looks and sounds great so worth playing if you fancy a spooky night in full of jump scares. As for anything past 2001 I would personally give it a miss. You’re not going to get any more in the way of decent game play so best to save your money for another collectable you really care about. As for the Alone in the Dark movies, no, just no.

Alone in the Dark certainly has its place in gaming history, particularly the original trilogy. The new style of adventure and excellent physical presentation make it memorable in gaming history. Sadly the licence has been badly treated over the years and this is the real tragedy of Alone in the Dark. Each year we still flock to buy survival horror games looking for that hit of fear. If only the licence could fall to a competent developer, either a HD remake of the original or simply a reimagining with the original principles of the series could once more make this franchise relevant. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this mini series. Feel free to share your opinions in the comments section.

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