Alone in the Dark Review | PlayStation 5

Alone In The Dark is a loving remake, as well as an epic stand-alone.

By MariDead, Posted 19 Mar 2024

In the early 90s, the gaming industry was changing, particularly in the horror genre. There were many games taking part in this change, with one of the most famous and most scary being the original Alone In The Dark, made in 1992. This game certainly made a bang, slipping into the world of psychological horror in a way that wouldn’t be done on this level again until Silent Hill in 1999. There have been many sequels to Alone In The Dark, attempting to recreate the magic of the original, but none have packed the same punch as the first one until now.

The 2024 version of Alone In The Dark was originally slated to come out at the end of 2023 but met several delays. Many feared it had entered development hell and would face delay after delay. But fans were still excited, and with Jodie Comer and David Harbour taking on the lead roles, this excitement was pushed even further in the run-up to release.

Alone in the Dark, PS5, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Horror Games, Emily Hartwoob, Edward Carnby

The prologue in Alone In The Dark was initially released as a playable teaser and is an addition to the game lovingly given the nickname Grace in the Dark, a throwback to Jack-in-the-dark, the prologue for Alone In The Dark 2. You play as Grace, a young girl in a strange building who experiences various supernatural events. She comes across Jeremy, a fellow resident of the home, which we soon learn is a psychiatric facility. Jeremy is in a paranoid state, wanting to send a letter to his niece as he feels the staff at home wish him ill, that they have made a deal with his monster, the Dark Man.

Grace helps Jeremy send the letter, going down the stairs as the world changes to a darker version full of monsters. This is the foreshadowing of what is to come, of the way the world will flip and turn, throwing you constantly in and out of the dark world. Grace gets the letter sent, and as she looks on proudly at her work, a mammoth creature emerges from the darkness as the screen fades to black.

This is all set up for the main game and shows how Emily Hartwoob and Edward Carnby enter the story. Jeremy was at a mental health institute called Dercito. Being set in 1930, the world had very different ideas about those suffering from mental health issues. The world worked with less compassion and less sympathy, and for that reason, those suffering, like Jeremy, tended to be hidden from the world. Dr Gray, the head psychiatrist at Dercito, is one of these less sympathetic characters; he is dismissive and shows very little care for the people he should be caring for.

When Emily and Edward arrive, Jeremy is missing, and no one has any clue where he might have gone. Dr Gray is dismissive of this, not seeming to worry at all, not even sending out a search party. This can also be seen during certain notes, such as the papers noting the administration of each of the patients, where Dr Gray seems to be simply going through the motions rather than truly having empathy for those in his care. Much of the story is told this way, through notes.

Alone in the Dark, PS5, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Horror Games, Haunted house

As you explore the house, you will find multiple notes, journals, and clues about Jeremy and his past. Rather than having the issue of most games told in this way, where the player is expected to read lots of the text just to understand what is happening in the story, the notes are all performed. Depending who wrote them depends on who reads them. Some simply read word for word, and others have a conversation that then leads to the note being written the way it is. An example of this is again in the transcripts of each patient where the orderly is asking Dr Gray about each patient, neatening up his answers as he writes what is being dictated.

This is a fantastic way to spice up the storytelling. Like all of us, I’m sure you have skipped a note or two to try to carry on with the gameplay, just to be left massively confused until you go back and read what you missed. Having every clue and journal entry read is a refreshing and inventive way of telling a story. Now that I have played it this way, it is a wonder that this isn’t the norm; I can’t imagine going back to not having the word's voice act so fantastically.

The story starts fairly simple. Emily and Edward want to find Jeremy so Emily can take her uncle back to New Orleans. When they realize he is not there, they search the house for him, learning about his life and accidentally slipping into his world. Jeremy is being haunted by the Dark Man; he slips into another world. Some characters say he is slipping into his own mind, and the Dark Man can haunt him more easily. As the game goes on, the player will travel to and from this world themselves, sometimes intentionally, and other times, they will be thrown in against their will.

Jeremy wants to find Taroella, a place where he can be free from the Dark Man and safe in his own mind. Other characters who seem to have access to his inner world seem to have differing opinions about whether Teroella is a real place or if Jeremy is simply escaping. There are moments where, in his darkest times, Jeremy himself has notes that suggest he even doubts if he can make it to his version of paradise.

Alone in the Dark, PS5, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Horror Games, Settings, Edward Carnby

You learn more about Jeremy and the other world he is switching to as you play Alone In The Dark. He struggles with feeling as though the Dark Man is hunting him down and the possession that apparently infects his whole family. The other world travels to many other places, which feel almost more real than Derceto. Rather than having the maze-like quality of the facility, the other world is more linear, making it easier to traverse than the real world, except for the fact it is full of monsters, of course.

You travel through the French Quarter of New Orleans, an oil rig, an abandoned cemetery, and Gallatin Street. The story then has the opportunity to diverge. In the opening, the player will have to choose Emily or Edward as the player character. There are some small variations up until this point, but the story will follow most of the same notes. But not anymore. Each character has their own demons, a theme explored throughout the game, and the character you chose at the beginning has to face their demons.

The story is told really well, the notes are performed in an immersive way, and each character has a lot of depth to them, making it feel as though each of them is real with their own story to tell. The narrative also shines a light on the treatment of those deemed societal deviants, who are too “sick” to live with everyone else. It is a fantastic adaptation of the original game, changing the tale when needed, as well as spinning a new one when needed to make the story a truly compelling one.

Alone In The Dark follows a lot of the gameplay that many survival horrors use. Introduce a setting with more locked doors than unlocked, then use puzzles, keys, and bolts to have the player backtrack through the same setting until they have unlocked every door. This is a classic of recent horror, with Resident Evil 7 being a classic example where the player has to work their way through the Baker house over and over. Exploring Dercito has the same feeling: working your way through endless corridors that are asking to be explored, unlocking more as you proceed.

Alone in the Dark, PS5, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Horror Games, Puzzles

It is a well-loved mechanic that has been utilized in many games. Alone In The Dark is a fairly effective use of this gameplay, although not the best that has come out in recent years. Dercito, as an environment, is very interesting. There is a large conservatory, a small courtyard garden, and three floors of the building to explore. But it is really hard to navigate. Most people who played Resident Evil 7 know the Baker house like the back of their hand, being able to run to various rooms without needing the map. Instead of this, Dercito is nearly impossible to navigate without using the map every second.

It is impossible to say exactly why the map is so hard to follow, and there are a few reasons. One may be due to the lack of directional arrows on the map. You don’t know what direction the character is facing while checking the map, allowing you to orient yourself with more ease. You know, “I have to turn left here because I know what way I’m facing”. Another could be having two staircases which means there isn’t a central column allowing you to traverse the floors. A base you can go back to find anywhere you need to. Or it could be the grand staircase having a curve, immediately throwing off your sense of direction.

While having a hard-to-navigate map can be a huge advantage in a horror game, allowing the player to stumble into a room of enemies without meaning to, it can also be incredibly frustrating as the player is constantly looking at the map when finding the room they have just found a key for. It is also a very strange choice as the world within Dercito does not have a map, yet it is far more linear and can be explored with a great deal more ease due to this simple layout, even without a map.

In addition to the tricky environment, Alone In The Dark does have a few issues with the movement in general. The sprint is introduced fairly early, but the sneak isn’t shown to the player until about 3 hours into playing, after many combat encounters. This is a very odd choice, as the bottles used for distraction are brought to the player very early on. Once you have found the sneak, it is fairly effective, although it is a painfully slow way to navigate and is often ineffective.

Alone in the Dark, PS5, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Horror Games, Female Protagonist, Emily Hartwoob

Another element of the movement that is not communicated effectively is the dodge button. I found this by accident. I button-mashed in panic, and an enemy moved towards me. Once you know how to do this, it is the best button in the game, getting you out of many tricky situations, but Alone In The Dark doesn’t teach you how to do this. This is really annoying when you are in combat, as the enemies inflict both damage and a stagger effect. But the stagger animation takes longer than the foe will take to wind up another attack.

This means that, on multiple occasions, the player will be trapped in a stun lock until they just happen to fat-thumb their way to escape purely by accident. The button is labeled as “dodge” in the menus, yet it never flashes up at the top of the screen the way the flashlight or sprint function is. There is one section in particular where the player has to run through hordes of enemies that are pouring into a tunnel from every direction, needing to escape if you haven’t found the dodge button by this point- Good luck.

These monsters that keep coming up, what are they? The honest answer is- I don’t know. They could be a manifestation of Jeremy’s waxing psychosis or a tangible threat sent by the Dark Man to torture Jeremy and keep those wanting to help him away. The monsters don’t exist in the real world, and you won’t come across them while exploring Dercito. Unless, of course, you accidentally enter the other world by going through a door and suddenly encounter a horrifying sight on the other side, causing you to throw your controller across the room in a panic. But Alone In The Dark wouldn’t do that to you, would it? Would it!?

The combat is fairly typical for a horror game; you have limited supplies as you fight your way through enemies, or you can choose to use stealth and sneak past them. There is no stealth kill, unfortunately; if you choose to engage, you are in for a fight. While this is normally a fine way to have combat, it does have some issues. The most glaring of these is in the diversions available to the player. There are bricks and bottles scattered around the map, which you can pick up and throw to lure an enemy out of your path. There are some issues with this, however.

Alone in the Dark, PS5, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Horror Games, Female Characters

Firstly, if you pick up a bottle, you can't put it in your inventory for later use. All quick slots are predetermined by the game, so you can't have a bottle to hand with you if you need it. This means once you have picked up the bottle, you are stuck holding it until you choose to throw it. I had an instance of picking up a bottle by mistake; holding the trigger allows you to aim, but if you just tap it, the character will fire it off in a seemingly random direction; in my case, it was at my feet, luring all enemies to me and putting me into a fight I was not at all prepared for.

The second issue is how slow you move holding these lures you can’t put down. The walking speed while holding a bottle is massively reduced, so picking it up and having to hold on to it through a section is very frustrating if you do so by mistake. This could be a “just me “ issue, of course. Maybe you don't hit every button prompt the second you see it, but I have been conditioned by horror games of old.

The Lures also seem to only call the monsters in a very tight radius, meaning they are fairly ineffective in their role of calling a monster out of your path. They are best used to scoop out an area, throw a lure, and listen for a reaction, even if the monsters don’t run straight towards it. Another amazing use of it is just launching them at the enemies. The bottles and bricks cause a stagger, which will allow you to run away, and they also deal some damage. Watching a horrifying monster get taken down by a brick is so much fun.

The gunplay in Alone In The Dark is kept simple. You start with a pistol, soon gaining melee, a shotgun, and a tommy gun (the tommy gun is so fun; use it whenever possible; I promise you will love it). The guns are added at good points, and it is possible to miss the shotgun and have to play a section without it, but you can go back and get it later, so don’t worry.

Alone in the Dark, PS5, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Horror Games, Zombies

Unfortunately, the weapons do make one of the issues in the gameplay more apparent. After you have finished the campaign as one character, you can go back and play the same narrative again as the other player; think Resident Evil 2 Remake. Many had hoped that, like in RE2, there would be some differences in the gameplay when playing as each character. There is a section of the narrative that diverges towards the end of the game, but beyond this, it is very similar.

Having each character possess different weapons would have been a great way to make the playthroughs of Alone In The Dark feel a little more diverse. Edward is a PI, a man of the law, and a lot bigger than Emily. He could have been more suited to an aggressive fighting style, using melee more easily. Maybe the melee weapons could take longer to break with him. Emily could have, in turn, used her smaller stature to her advantage, using more stealth as she traveled the other world.

The combat being similar in both playthroughs isn’t game-breaking. It is still very enjoyable playing through the narrative again, noticing things you didn’t the first time around. It just would have been nice to have the other world more effectively reflect each character's strengths, and more importantly, weaknesses.

Beyond this, the combat is really good. The number of enemies increases as you get used to the combat, meaning the difficulty grows well with your skill. There are times when ammo feels scarce enough to be a challenge, although there are no true ammo droughts. This will be a matter of personal preference, but those who like the impending doom of running around with no ammo or health won’t find that here; instead, you do feel fairly ready for most encounters, even on a higher difficulty.

Alone in the Dark, PS5, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Horror Games

The combat is fun, there is enough of a challenge to remain engaging, and the few times you are ambushed can feel very overwhelming in a good way. The fact that the enemies have the ability to stun lock you is very annoying, but it is avoidable if you have found the dodge. Overall, the combat is good, however, with most complaints being minor. The rest of the narrative is fun, making the mild annoyance worth it in the end.

Most of the puzzles in Alone In The Dark follow those most horror fans will be very used to. Find a key, backtrack, and unlock a door. Find a safe, and use a note to find the clues in the room. A strange garbled picture, rearrange it to make a clearer image. While there is nothing fresh and completely unique in these puzzles, they are often depicted in a very interesting way. An example of this is early in the game; a padlock is made of zodiac symbols with none of the same symbols around the room.

The keen-eyed player will notice a previous note has a zodiac wheel on it, with each symbol also being given a number. So, find numbers in the room and get them to line up? Not quite. Instead, the player has to match some mold up on some pictures and then reveal a name on the back of them. These names show up on a painting, and their names align with a number. That number can then be plugged into the wheel and linked to a zodiac sign. The signs can then be put into the padlock.

The amount of steps that go into this puzzle really shows the creativity of the team, so it is a shame that these more complicated puzzles are few and far between. Most examples of this kind of puzzle, putting the numbers into a code, are simply reading a note to get the information, nothing more. It is a shame to know what the team can do and then see what they do in most cases in comparison.

Alone in the Dark, PS5, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Horror Games, Protagonist, Edward Carnby

The gameplay is by no means bad. Alone In The Dark has a very specific story to tell and a fun way of telling it. There are some issues with engaging with the environment; the layout is difficult to move through, but not in a way that feels intentional. There are some issues with the movement, as well, although once you are more familiar with the controls, these are easier to move past. The puzzles and gunplay are fun in most moments, and while there are some issues, it is easy to see past these as the game and its story are so enjoyable.

The graphics in Alone In The Dark are incredible. Jodie Comer and David Harbour have been brought to life in the world in a way that is stylistic and realistic all at once. A perfect example of this is a moment in a library; whichever protagonist you are playing is panicking as they attempt to access an elevator. The look on their face is one of terror that has an otherworldly quality. They are both real and terrified, but also a disillusioned presentation of their fear, their trauma, and their past in a way that stretches and contorts the face. It isn’t a real expression, not one a human could make, but it doesn’t break the immersion; it makes it more real instead.

The environments are also designed in a way that encapsulates an epic sense of dread. You will not be able to enter the “art gallery” at the top of the main stairs in Dercito without fearing the statues have moved every single time. Many of the rooms have lower ceilings than that in the hallway, feeling claustrophobic and adding to the unending dread throughout the game. The differences between the other world and the real one are also communicated clearly, as the world in Jeremy’s head is dark and grim, and a thick fog is settling over the world, showing you are somewhere dark and almost forbidden.

Due to the acting talent brought in, there was no doubt the voice acting would be amazing. Both Jodie Comer and David Harbour bring great performances, and they are not the only ones. Each character has passion and feelings in their acting, and they all feel real. The notes are also acted out, which helps with immersion, as you don’t have to stop and read every time, and allows the actors to show still more of their talent as they pour expression into what could have been a very dull part of Alone In The Dark.


The sound in the combat is also incredible. The pistol you start with is so loud every time it fires that it feels as though every enemy in the game must be about to run toward you. It fills you with dread even after the creature has been killed. Sometimes, the musical sting of engaging in a fight with a creature can come a little late. You may have just finished battering an enemy with a pipe by the time you have the music cue that you have been spotted. This was a fairly rare occurrence, though; it doesn’t detract from the otherwise amazing sound design.

Alone In The Dark is a loving remake, as well as an epic stand-alone. Even if you have not played the original, this is well worth a play. The scares are effective, and the tense nature of the game can’t be expressed enough; you will be terrified every time Dercito changes into something more sinister. The stealth elements aren’t perfect, and some of the movement and gunplay need some tweaking, but overall, the story is amazingly told with complex characters and a stunning narrative.

Mariella Deadman (@MariellaDead)
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS5, XBSX
Publisher(s): THQ Nordic
Developer(s): Pieces Interactive
Genres: Survival Horror
Themes: Psychological Horror, Action, Lovecraftian
Release Date: 2024-03-20

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