Before the "survival horror" of Resident Evil and the foggy streets of Silent Hill, there was the original Alone in the Dark - the granddaddy of the game that hits Xbox 360, Wii, and PC today. It set the course for horror games to come and spawned three sequels that have led to Atari's first stab at a next-gen blockbuster.
Summon up your courage and join us for a terrifying look back at the series' evolution from perilously pointy polygons to an ominous Old West and beyond.
It's hard to imagine it when looking at these primitive polygonal graphics, but for its time the original Alone in the Dark was downright chilling. It was developed and published by Infogrames (which would later assume the Atari brand) in 1992 for MS-DOS based PCs, later appearing on Mac and the ill-fated 3DO.
Alone in the Dark was a horror game that combined puzzle solving and combat against monsters that roamed the corridors of a Louisiana mansion. It was the first game of its ilk to combine polygonal characters and pre-rendered backgrounds, with action viewed from set camera angles.
Players controlled either private detective Edward Carnby or a female character, Emily Hartwood, as they worked to unravel the source of the sinister happenings in the house while fending off aggressive creatures. The game made waves due to its spine-tingling atmosphere, but also offered a higher degree of non-linear gameplay than had previously been found in horror titles.
Fun Fact: The game drew inspiration from the horror novels of H.P. Lovecraft, and contained many references to the author's Cthulhu mythology.
Released on PC two years after the original, Alone in the Dark 2 (or Alone in the Dark: One-Eyed Jack's Revenge when it hit consoles in 1996) expanded the scope of the first game but wasn't nearly as creepy.
Players once again assumed the role of Edward Carnby, now a renowned "supernatural detective," on a quest to rescue a kidnapped girl. The game played out in another mansion, on its grounds, and in caverns beneath it as Carnby did battle with ... pirates and gangsters. More specifically, they were 15th century pirates who'd become gangsters. Yeah, silly, we know.
Fun Fact: The game introduced a "trade-off" mechanic where players would take control of the kidnapped girl at certain points and had to avoid detection from the pirate gangsters (or is that gangster pirates?). Shades of the Ashley gameplay from Resident Evil 4?
1995 saw the release of the third game in the series, and if you thought pirate gangsters (or were they ... oh, nevermind) made for unusual foes, this game had zombie cowboy outlaws. Radioactive ones, at that.
The plot saw Edward Carnby investigating the disappearance of a film crew who'd vanished while making a movie in a ghost town. It's not long before the evil zombie cowboy outlaw leader Jed Stone appears and ... now this is just silly. But, that really was the plot of the game. Lever-action rifles and all.
It was a while before another Alone in the Dark was made.
Fun Fact: The ghost town where the game takes place is called "Slaughter Gulch." We say that any film crew stupid enough to shoot their movie in a place with a name like that deserves what's coming to 'em.
The "next generation" of Alone in the Dark games hit in 2001 across several platforms (including the Game Boy Color!), reintroducing the world to protagonist Edward Carnby in what was to be a much more action-packed outing than previous installments.
In this game, players battled "Creatures of the Dark" -- living shadows that were most effectively driven back by light, whether it was from phosphorous grenades or a simple flashlight. In fact, the flashlight was a key game mechanic. Developer Darkworks (who later made the survival horror title Cold Fear for Ubisoft) created a unique game engine that allowed light to shine realistically on pre-rendered backgrounds. It was a neat effect, but the gameplay itself was trailing in a genre the series had essentially created.
Fun Fact: Uwe Boll, director of such *ahem* fine films as BloodRayne and Postal, made an Alone in the Dark movie in 2005 loosely based on The New Nightmare. It starred Christian Slater (really, Christian?) and was horrible.
This rarely-seen title for Nintendo's most notorious console flop had players controlling a young boy left "home alone" in his parent's spooky mansion. Gameplay consisted of setting traps to snare an intruder named Edward Carnby, who we learn, in a surprise twist ending, was actually a ghost.
It's been seven years since the last game in the series and Edward Carnby is back. Simply titled "Alone in the Dark," this new chapter adopts a TV series like structure of gameplay "episodes" which rely heavily on players using nearly anything they can lay their hands on to solve puzzles, get past obstacles, and ultimately stay alive.