Developer: Atari
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆ 
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Update: 6/20/2014, Version 1.1
It seems as though Atari has snuck in an update for Alone in the Dark that significantly improves the controls. The game is still a bit awkward, honestly, but now it’s because of its age and not a horribly broken interface. Rejoice, old school Survival Horror fans! This port is actually worth playing now!

Like most everyone who’s actually familiar with Alone in the Dark and excited about seeing it on the App Store, I’ve got lots of fond memories. Sure it’s an old game (almost 22 years old at this point), and much of that fondness is driven by nostalgia, but it’s also a classic! It’s got to be great for a trip down memory lane and a laugh or two… right?

If only.

aloneinthedark03Alone in the Dark is pretty much a direct port of the 1992 PC version. Players choose between playing as Emily Hartwood or Detective Edward Carnby as they explore the mansion of Derceto – and most likely die horrible deaths in the process. Along the way they’ll have to solve bizarre puzzles, avoid devious traps, and do their best not to get eaten by one of the many, many horrors that roam the halls.

Pretty much everything has remained intact for this port. Even the stuff that wasn’t really all that intact to begin with. The music is sporadic and unbalanced, as are the goofy sound effects. The camera angles seem to do their best to obscure enemies every chance they get. It’s still possible to kick giant carnivorous moles in the junk. Anybody who loved the original Alone in the Dark in spite of – or even because of – its flaws will certainly feel at home in the mansion of Derceto. For about five seconds, anyway.

aloneinthedark08Unfortunately the interface is a total mess that drags everything down past the point of being entertaining, even for the sake of nostalgia. Granted this game was awkward to begin with, but these controls take it to a whole new level. I’ll turn when I want to walk, walk when I want to turn, actually get stuck spinning around and around while in combat, and quite often I can’t even move forward in the first place. The movement and interaction buttons are way too small and don’t register half the time, while tending to get stuck for the other half. When it’s already incredibly easy to get trapped in a corner while an enemy unfairly wails on me (nostalgia can be a harsh mistress), unreliable controls are the last thing I need. The worst part is that I can tell the game I was looking for is still in here, buried underneath the messy interface.

All I wanted from Alone in the Dark was a pleasant B-Grade trip down memory lane. Instead I just feel like I’ve been taken for a ride.

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