Night mode

Alone in the Dark

Alone in the Dark

Alone in the Dark

A chilling 3-D foray into the macabre mansion of Derceto


Written by on

Developed by

Published by

Release Date: 1992
Platform: Macintosh, PSX, DOS, PC/Windows

Note: Original date of review is unknown

Alone in the Dark is one of the most influential games of the DOS era. How does it hold up today for the first-time player?

I was very interested in playing this famous older title, which is so frequently referred to in writing about our beloved adventure genre. After playing it, I can say that I was not disappointed.

This Game Could Justify the Action/Adventure Hybrid Label

First of all, as most of you who’ve been around the genre longer than I have probably already know, this is not a pure adventure. You’d have to call it an action/adventure. In fact, it’s so excellent at blending the two genres that you could probably make the argument that it’s one of the original games of this hybrid genre.

Alone in the Dark is heavily influenced by the wonderfully dark, twisted writings of H.P. Lovecraft, and that’s a pretty good literary pedigree for any game. If you haven’t read Lovecraft, chances are you’ve seen plenty of movies with the same idea: a researcher into the occult finds some ancient, dusty incantations and rashly begins reading them aloud, thereby releasing into the world all manner of unpleasant, icky monsters.

It was released way back in the dark DOS era (1992), and so I didn’t expect it to be graphically impressive. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, the technical limitations of the day keep it from having that smooth, polished, rendered Myst look, but I wasn’t expecting that.

Excuse Me, but Is That Your Six-Foot, Venom-Dripping, Purple Spider?

However, the game overcomes its “primitive” technology by a very high degree of craftsmanship. The sound effects are creepy and convincing. The character movement is complex and varied. The camera angles are constantly shifting, giving the game a very cinematic feel. Finally, the characters and objects have a convincing sense of weight and substance.

All of these factors add up to the result that, DOS or not, the world of Alone in the Dark is a strangely compelling, real-seeming (if not exactly realistic) place. This is vital for a game that is filled with such varied forms of physical danger.

There’s Something Weird About the Old Derceto Mansion …

The story is extremely simple. The old man of a huge, mysterious house has died under suspicious circumstances, and you show up at the house to check it out.

Not two minutes into your exploration of the house’s attic, and you’re set upon by a vicious “furball” and a relentless zombie! Clearly, this house is going to be no picnic.

The rest of the game consists of you carefully exploring the house and searching for weapons and for clues to the origin of the vicious monsters that lurk around almost every corner.

See Monster. Fight Monster. Run from Monster. Find the Next Monster.

Let me be clear: This is not a traditional adventure game! Action elements are at its very core. However, since it’s not a pure shooter, I believe it really earns the title “action/adventure.” You have to find magic daggers to kill beasties, you have to attack them with knives, guns, and even soup! Some of the action elements are very challenging. Particularly difficult is a swordfight with a pirate who, despite his undead status, is still quite a swordsman! Also, the final sequence is not for the impatient or the faint of heart!

There are many things I admire about this very influential game. I think it’s cool that you have your choice of two characters to play through the game. I’m impressed that the game includes a maze that neither bored nor infuriated me. I’m impressed with the level of difficulty–this game is challenging, but not defeatingly so. I’m impressed with the cinematic feel of the game.

Alone in the Dark has a very cool cinematic feel, scary monsters and fun gameplay. On the down side, lots of combat makes this not a game for adventure purists. Alone in the Dark is a game that lives up to its hype!

Final Grade: B

System Requirements:

    4 MB RAM
    1X CD-ROM
    VGA with 512 K
    Sound board
    DOS 6.2

    68040 microprocessor (minimum)
    256-color display
    3500k free memory
    System 7.0 or later
    Hard disk with 13 MB free disk space required
    Doublespeed (or faster) CD-ROM drive
    Quicktime 2.0 required

Ray Ivey

Ray Ivey

A gaming freakazoid, Ray enjoys games on all platforms. Also loves board games, mind games, and all puzzles. Co-wrote the Entertainment Tonight trivia game and designed puzzles for two Law & Order PC games. Also a movie freak, bookworm, and travel bug. Thinks games of all kinds are a highly underappreciated force for social good, not to mention mental and psychological health.   Ray's favorite adventures include the "Broken Sword" and "Journeyman Project" franchises, "The Dark Eye," "The Feeble Files," "Sanitarium," "Limbo," "Machinarium," "Riven," "The Neverhood," and "Azrael's Tear." His favorite non-adventures include the "Thief," "Uncharted," and "Ratchet & Clank" franchises, all of the Bioware RPGs, Skyrim, and Final Fantasy XII.   Ray writes about the movies for the Bryan/College Station Daily Eagle, which is the old-fashioned thing called a "newspaper." He's been on eight game shows. He's taught in seven countries and has visited twenty-one. His favorite classic movie star is Barbara Stanwyck and his favorite novel is "The Hotel New Hampshire" by John Irving.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.