Alone in the Dark

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Martin III
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Alone in the Dark

Post by Martin III » Sat Sep 07, 2013 3:55 pm

This came in the mail yesterday at 8:15 p.m. (Actually, that's when I got home so that I could see my mail, but the late hour is still appropriate, no?) After peeling through the three dozen layers of packaging the seller put around it, I read through the manual, cringed at how nearly every action involves holding down the A button, guffawed at the witty "Troubleshooting" section, and popped out Unlucky Pony (I admit it, I'm addicted to the game) from my FZ-1 so I could have a look.

I picked Edward Carnby. His narrative is an interesting touch, since the datedness of such voice overs strangely suits the game's setting in the 1920s. I really don't understand Carnby's mission, though. Is he actually planning on moving a piano by himself?

The graphics definitely aren't up to 3DO standards, but something about their tacky, ugly look creates an unsettling feeling in my gut when combined with that nightmarish musical score. It's an altogether different feel, and I like it.

Once the intro is finished, I decide to save, and get the message "Error: Game not saved". I go to "load" to see if that'll help me deduce what's up, and there does seem to be a saved game there. I try loading it, and the game crashes, sending me back to the opening. This is not a good sign. But I shrug it off and put the game away for the night, hopeful that it'll work when I try it again.

Despite the brevity of this experience, and despite my having had only two dreams involving video games in my entire life, when I lay down to bed I had a dream about Alone in the Dark. I thought that I was playing it for the first time, though even within the dream I was thinking, "These graphics are way too sharp for the 3DO... This would be high-end even for the Wii." The fact that I wasn't holding a controller or looking at a TV, but actually within the game, didn't tip me off either.

Anyway, I was wandering around the haunted mansion, and the lights had gone out. I had a knife and some small light was guiding me, but I don't remember holding a lantern or anything. Ghosts of those who had died in the house sometimes approached me, but didn't attack - at first. Eventually I encountered the ghosts of two ten-year-olds, a boy and a girl. The girl asks me to give her my knife, and presents fairly sublime reasoning for my doing so, but I can't remember what it was now. As the game prompts me "Give knife?", the boy tells me that she's a sociopath, and that knife is the same one she used to kill him. I decide to give her the knife. At this point the ghost boy comes further into the light, and I can see blood red lines running all over his face and throat. Oops.

The girl comes at me with the knife. I manage to wrestle it away from her, but the commotion has caught the attention of many other hostile ghosts. For some reason I decide the way to defend myself is by cutting off all their hands, but my handling of the game's controls isn't so good under these panic-inducing conditions, and I'm not able to dice off more than a few. There's at least a dozen of them coming at me, and I'm hacking like a nut and retreating, but it's so dark that I can't see most of them at any given time, and I'm thinking, "My God, I'm all alone... in the dark."

That's where the dream ended. Game over, I guess? :twisted:

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Re: Alone in the Dark

Post by 3DO Experience » Sat Sep 07, 2013 6:34 pm

Sounds like a good start for a homebrew sequel. :D
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Re: Alone in the Dark

Post by Martin III » Sun Sep 08, 2013 4:04 pm

I started up playing for real yesterday. After another failed attempt to save the game, I popped in Game Guru to see what was up. Very weird: There were three Alone in the Dark save files in memory, and though the third one has 9.7K, the first two were empty. Zero bytes. I deleted them all, and after that had no problems saving. The only niggling problem is that the game only allots me one save slot, even though I have more than enough space for two slots.

I'd been told that Alone in the Dark is more about the puzzles than the action, so I was in for a rude surprise. I got the lantern, and before I could even walk all the way over to the rocking horse, a mutant frog jumps in the window. The dang thing moves like a rabbit on pep pills, so by the time I land enough hits to kill it, I've lost over half my health. Then, while I'm still thinking, "Well, at least now I've cleared this room of threats", a zombie comes up from the trapdoor!

Certain I won't survive another encounter, I flee through the storeroom to the hall, and turn into a bedroom. Here I begin to encounter my first frustration with the game: the room is full of objects, yet none can be interacted with in any way. I can't even open up the dresser to check for items within. And since every action involves holding down the A button, my vain attempts to search, push, pull, or otherwise interact with objects all result in the sight of Carnby awkwardly throwing kicks and punches at the furniture. :x As I ruminate on what to do next, a pair of outstretched zombie arms slowly drifts in front of the doorway. I soil my trousers. ...Not really, but it has honestly been a very long time since a video game scared me that much.

With nowhere to run, I give it a try at fighting again, and am pleased to find that zombies, even though encountered after the mutant frog, are much easier. And the combination of Carnby's slow movements and the cracking sound effects makes fighting very satisfying:

[holding right button] "How... do you... like my... right hook!" (crack!)
[holding left button] "And a... left, you... stinking... zombie!" (crack!)
[holding up button] "How... about... one to... the nads!" (crack!) :D

Even better than therapy.

I walk away with only one less hit point, and now that the zombie is taken care of, I figure I can freely retrace my steps and at last examine the starting room. There I find another zombie. (Who was it who said that this game focuses on puzzles?! WHO?!!!) Out of patience, I try hurling my lantern at him. No good, though I still find it cool that you can do it. So this zombie I take out with a little more difficulty, and I look around the room, only to find that I seem to have wasted my time. Once again, I can't push, pull, pick up, or search anything. I retrace my steps to the hall, get a vase, and another mutant frog jumps in a window to finish me off.

Though I have a saved game, at this point I think I should restart and pick a better way of dealing with the enemies - like running and closing the door behind me. There's clearly too many to fight even half of them.

What I like most about the game is the realism. What I mean is, in most games, the threats feel either scripted, where you can immediately see that the developers placed a certain enemy in a certain place for a well-considered reason, or random, where the pattern of a random generator is clear. In Alone in the Dark, they feel like neither. It's as though you really are inside a house with a bunch of evil things trying to get you.

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Re: Alone in the Dark

Post by T2KFreeker » Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:17 pm

LOVE this game. It really is one Hell of a ride. The only issue I really have with it is the hit detection. It can be sketchy at times making combay difficult. Know this though, you can beat this game and the sequel as well. Very good stuff and very strong for it's time. If anything, Resident Evil's Grand Dad. Have some fun. Perhaps I will join you soon as it occurs to me I still have not tracked these games down since reacquiring a 3DO again a couple of years ago.
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Re: Alone in the Dark

Post by 3DO Experience » Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:25 pm

I remember dieing a lot in the beginning, even managed to get myself stuck on a door once; had to start all over. Wish I still had the longbox.
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Re: Alone in the Dark

Post by Austin » Wed Sep 11, 2013 8:40 am

Martin III wrote:Though I have a saved game, at this point I think I should restart and pick a better way of dealing with the enemies - like running and closing the door behind me. There's clearly too many to fight even half of them.
I'd recommend practicing fighting them, because you are going to have to encounter them either way. If you can get an enemy cornered or pushed against a wall, you will find you can trap them and they won't be able to react if you can connect your hits fast enough. I also recommend using your fists over your kicks, because they have a similar reach yet attack twice as quickly (you can do quicker "left-right" combos with your hands).

The game is definitely heavily focused around puzzles, but like Resident Evil there is no doubt a good chunk of action as well. The actual fighting does slow down though once you get down to the main level of the mansion.

You can actually search more objects for items than it seems. You need to select the "Open/Search" function to do so.

Something else you may not have figured out yet is that you can run by double-tapping in a single direction, then holding after the second tap. I don't remember if the 3DO function is finicky when it comes to running, but I know it's a pain in the MS-DOS PC version. It's pretty necessary to master though, so practice it and get used to it.

Here are some tips for the beginning room:

(spoiler alert!)

- Select the "Push" function and move the large cabinet in front of the window. This will keep the 'frog' monster (is that what they are? haha) from breaking through.
- Immediately run over to the chest and push it on top of the door in the floor. This will keep the zombie from coming up.
- Use the "Open/Search" function on the cabinet, and you will find an item for use later on in the game.
- Use the "Open/Search" function on the book cases at the back of the room. You should find a book. There are a lot of these spread throughout the house that give random bits of history. The game is actually pretty rich with story, in a good way.
- If you haven't figured it out yet, use the "Open/Search" function on the chest. This will give you a shotgun. Recommendation: Don't waste those bullets, save them for later.

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Re: Alone in the Dark

Post by Martin III » Sun Sep 15, 2013 3:40 pm

Austin wrote:Something else you may not have figured out yet is that you can run by double-tapping in a single direction, then holding after the second tap. I don't remember if the 3DO function is finicky when it comes to running, but I know it's a pain in the MS-DOS PC version.
In the 3DO version, running is the single easiest action in the game to pull off. All you do is hold down the C button.
Austin wrote:Here are some tips for the beginning room:
Thanks! I did end up peaking at these, because I was feeling convinced that something about my approach needed fixing for me to continue getting enjoyment out of the game. Turns out I was right. To perform any action, you need to select that action from the same menu which lists your inventory - something which the manual completely omits. :evil: Seriously, what the heck. I could see if they forgot to mention it in the directions for just one action, but the directions for Search/open, Push, Fight, and Close Door all specifically leave out that you need to go through a menu. Nor is the menu's existence mentioned anywhere else.

Anyway, I pushed the cabinet in front of the window. Unfortunately, I misjudged how far I had to push, so I could still see the mutant frog (a poor description I know, but I have to call them something, and they don't look like anything on Earth or in mythology) against the window, and hear the horrible sound of it ramming against the cabinet. Plus the usual change in music. I sat there cringing, clutching my controller with sweaty hands, hearing that BAM! BAM! CRACK! BAM! and thinking, "Oh God, it would have been easier if I had just let him in!" I know it's weird that I could feel that much fear from anticipation of a monster that I'd already encountered and killed, but I did.

The rifle, book, and key I was able to find through my own devices, now that I knew about the action menu. I also discovered... the old cavalry sword! :twisted: I tried that baby out on a zombie and was utterly delighted with the new level of butt-kick I had opened up. Just when I though I had the combat in this game completely under control, I broke the sword on a mutant frog. Man, this game really goes for realism in the details! I love how you can even pick up the broken pieces.

I took a ton of damage on that foe, leaving me at 7 HP, but decided to try wandering a bit farther before reloading my save. That's when I found the first aid kit, with the flask. Pragmatically, I ought to have still reloaded my save so that I could save the flask for later, but I figure the whole idea of survival horror games is to keep chugging along in spite of adversity, hoping that another godsend will come along the next time you get in trouble, always fearing that it won't. So I chugged down the flask and proceeded, taking my chances that if I ever need a health boost again, the game will have another flask.

I made it out of the hall, with a strange-looking new threat waiting for me. I figured that was a good time to save and turn off the 3DO. Maybe this is where I use the mirror (I accidentally read about that bit in the manual).

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Re: Alone in the Dark

Post by Austin » Mon Sep 16, 2013 8:30 am

Martin III wrote:In the 3DO version, running is the single easiest action in the game to pull off. All you do is hold down the C button.
Durrrrrr [to myself].. I should have remembered that, hehe. Oops. :D
Martin III wrote:I also discovered... the old cavalry sword! :twisted: I tried that baby out on a zombie and was utterly delighted with the new level of butt-kick I had opened up. Just when I though I had the combat in this game completely under control, I broke the sword on a mutant frog. Man, this game really goes for realism in the details! I love how you can even pick up the broken pieces.
Yeah.. I think you are technically supposed to save that sword for another instance later on in the game. Or I could be completely wrong and just have a faulty memory. Let me know though when you figure it out. :P
Martin III wrote:I made it out of the hall, with a strange-looking new threat waiting for me. I figured that was a good time to save and turn off the 3DO. Maybe this is where I use the mirror (I accidentally read about that bit in the manual).
Aw man.. I think I know what you are at. That was one of the coolest parts for me. And that's what I love(d) about this game--it's very mysterious, especially on the first playthrough. Something few games since have replicated. I am curious to your thoughts as you continue to progress through the game. As you described in your last few paragraphs, it seems you are feeling about the same way of the game as I did when I first trekked through it when I was 14. Which is not a bad thing.

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Re: Alone in the Dark

Post by Martin III » Wed Sep 18, 2013 2:18 am

Austin wrote:
Martin III wrote:I also discovered... the old cavalry sword! :twisted: I tried that baby out on a zombie and was utterly delighted with the new level of butt-kick I had opened up. Just when I though I had the combat in this game completely under control, I broke the sword on a mutant frog. Man, this game really goes for realism in the details! I love how you can even pick up the broken pieces.
Yeah.. I think you are technically supposed to save that sword for another instance later on in the game. Or I could be completely wrong and just have a faulty memory. Let me know though when you figure it out. :P
To save myself time, I searched "cavalry" in the Alone in the Dark walkthrough, and it says that the sword doesn't need to stay in one piece. (I even managed to extract this information without reading where you need the cavalry sword, so I can still figure that out on my own.) The game does seem to be generally designed so that you can't get stuck without doing something completely stupid. Thanks for the warning, though.
Austin wrote:
Martin III wrote:I made it out of the hall, with a strange-looking new threat waiting for me. I figured that was a good time to save and turn off the 3DO. Maybe this is where I use the mirror (I accidentally read about that bit in the manual).
Aw man.. I think I know what you are at. That was one of the coolest parts for me. And that's what I love(d) about this game--it's very mysterious, especially on the first playthrough. Something few games since have replicated. I am curious to your thoughts as you continue to progress through the game. As you described in your last few paragraphs, it seems you are feeling about the same way of the game as I did when I first trekked through it when I was 14. Which is not a bad thing.
I've had a few more sessions with the game now, and I totally agree about the mysteriousness. Even after I overcome a menace, I'm never any closer to fathoming what it was. In some cases I find this more of a cause for eyebrow-raising, such as the room where you can get killed in under a minute by what seems to be leftover smoke from an ashtray, but for the most part it succeeds in making my spine tingle and my imagination creep.

For a while I've been stuck at three points. One, the pirate zombie. The first place where I tried out my rifle and revolver, and though the pirate is impervious to those weapons, man are they cool. The fact that the kickback from the rifle actually pushes Carnby backwards is such an exaggeration that it is unintentionally humorous, but the sound, the bullet's impact, and most especially the flash from the muzzle is just too cool. Moreover, I'm happy to say that I have no idea what 3DOKid was talking about in his blog when he refers to "The lunacy that is the ranged weapons and their for the most part unfathomable targeting system".

Two, the still dancers. They don't like either of the records I've played for them. Also, I'm already weary of navigating around those spiders. Why the heck can't Carnby step over (or better yet, step on) a creature that is less than two inches tall?

Three, the cellar. Same comment on the rats as on the spiders - doubly so, since I can't see how one can reasonably collect all the items in the cellar with impervious creatures constantly hounding you. I discovered you can cut them with the kitchen knives, but while it is pretty cool to do, it doesn't kill them even though their blood is shed with every strike. But where I'm really stuck is the cavern behind the barrels, i.e. the place where the owner's father died. The primitive 3D animation for the giant worm is ironically freaky. For that matter, finding a trippy cavern like this just behind the cellar is another example of the game's knack for genuine surprises.

And after all that time beating my head on those three points, I suddenly discover that I overlooked a whole hall full of rooms on the second floor! Looks like I've got some more exploring to do...

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