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Alone in the Dark review – An impressive reimagining of a horror classic

Alone in the Dark review
Image: Pieces Interactive/THQ Nordic

Despite the original game in the series being the very first 3D survival-horror, Alone in the Dark is often forgotten about amidst the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill. This reimagining of that debut entry by Pieces Interactive, however, might plant the series on more people’s radars. After all, while it doesn’t reach the heady heights of remakes such as Resident Evil 2, it has a good go at it.

In Alone in the Dark, private investigator Edward Carnby finds himself being hired by Emily Hartwood to accompany her to Dercerto Manor. An asylum, it’s here where Emily’s uncle, Jeremy, is supposedly being held, but he’s suddenly gone missing. Playing as either Edward or Emily then, your task is to unravel the mystery of Jeremy’s disappearance. And as soon as you arrive at Derceto, it’s clear that something’s not quite right.

Experienced from an over-the-shoulder perspective, Alone in the Dark plays like most modern survival horror games. Exploring Derceto Manor, you’ll often encounter roadblocks that you need to overcome by either simply finding items or solving puzzles. It feels like an old Resident Evil game in that regard, with you frequently having to backtrack through the Manor to access to areas upon acquiring things like keys or a palette knife.

Alone in the Dark review
Image: Pieces Interactive/THQ Nordic

The abundance of puzzles is welcome here, though, and for the most part they’re very engaging and enjoyable to solve. There’s everything from using items in ingenious ways to solve a problem, to more traditional conundrums such as working out codes for safes and rearranging parts of pictures to make them whole. There are even rooms where you need to solve a sequence of puzzles to progress, sometimes delving into your notes for clues or to make use of keys.

In order to add some much-needed variety, thankfully you’re not confined to Derceto for the entirety of Alone in the Dark. Being a place where what’s real can sometimes be hard to distinguish, you’ll occasionally find the world being warped around you, the relatively safe rooms and corridors being replaced by much more sinister locations.

Related: The best, and scariest, horror games on PS5

It’s in these more exploration-led areas that you’ll also tend to encounter enemies, eager to bring your investigation to an end. Thankfully you’re armed, your pistol eventually being accompanied by a shotgun and more. Melee weapons are available too, but if they’re used too frequently they break, leaving you fairly vulnerable at close quarters until you can find another one.

Unfortunately, combat is perhaps the weakest aspect of Alone in the Dark. It’s not terrible but it is rather basic, and your dodge manoeuvre feels ill-suited to getting you out of a bind when cornered. We were also left rather cold with the system that lets you make use of items in the environment. You can pick up bottles to distract enemies, for example, but only by approaching one and using it there and then. We’d had much preferred if we could pick up one such item to use at a more opportune moment.

Alone in the Dark screenshot_4
Image: Pieces Interactive/THQ Nordic

Playing on PS5 for review, Alone in the Dark is generally a good-looking game with solid performance, short loading times and a wonderfully unique jazz-infused horror soundtrack. You might have a better time playing as Edward Carnby rather than Emily Hartwood though; with the voice and likeness of David Harbour, Edward’s performance is much more lively than Emily’s, who’s played by Jodie Comer. Maybe it’s her character, but her performance just comes across as a bit flat.

Your first playthrough of Alone in the Dark is likely to take somewhere between eight to ten hours, which is pretty substantial. You might want to play through the game twice, too, what with each character having their own angle on the game’s events. Just don’t go thinking the two experiences will be wildly different. There are other reasons to return as well, such as multiple difficulty levels, endings, collectibles and achievements/trophies.

Alone in the Dark isn’t flawless, but it’s definitely one of the best entries in the series so far and an accomplished reimagining. Its story will keep you on your toes, even if sometimes you might feel like it could have a little more fleshed out. And while the game’s combat doesn’t impress, the oppressive atmosphere throughout is effective at keeping you on edge. Throw in a bucketload of enjoyable puzzles to overcome, and you have a survival horror that’s well worth spending some time with.

Alone in the Dark review – GameSpew’s score

This review of Alone in the Dark is based on the PS5 version, with a code provided by the game’s publisher. It’s available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.
Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!