Alone in the Dark 3
Edward Carnby has been through a lot. After freeing himself from the clutches of the possessed and bizarre house, Derceto, (Alone in the Dark 1), and releasing a captive young girl from the fiendish claws of the Zombie Witch Queen and her Ghost Pirate lover (Alone in the Dark 2), now he has been thrown into another adventure: the investigation of notorious, Slaughter Gulch, the most aptly named 'Ghost Town' in history. The ghosts, however, seem a little more solid than might be expected.
Alone in the Dark 3 is a western - not a genre that immediately suggests a mystical air, but bring Navajo Indians into it, and voila! Entertaining indeed. Unlike the first game, but as with the second, you cannot choose to play a female character, your only choice is to play Edward Carnby. As Edward, you are no stranger to bizarre magic and confusing puzzles and many a time you'll need to take notes of combinations, colour codes and the like. Edward is an occult investigator, and a man of action to boot, he fears nothing and faces all challenges with unswerving courage. So, prepare to don your thinking cap and your holster and riding breeches partner!
Jed Stone, an evil cowboy from the Badlands, has taken hold of this mining town, and turned it bad. Jed is the man you must defeat, but your main task is to free the captive Emily Hartwood. (Remember Emily from the first game?) Slaughter Gulch, however, is crawling with nasties, everything from unpleasant gunmen to two-headed human mutants, and they aren't going to make your task easy. Luckily, this game has a variable difficulty level so that you can change your life points as well as those of your enemies, to make the fighting easier or harder, as you desire.
AITD3 has taken a step back to the original with less fighting and more puzzle solving than the second game in the series. How do you get that Indian to move aside and let you pass, and how are you going to open that locked door with only a bullet, and no keys to be found? Although some parts of the game rely on throwing things in the right direction, and there is another column-jumping test, neither of these really detract from the play. Many of the enemies you meet need to be overcome by special means, and once you have that means, the task is easy. Ah, research, research! Know your enemy!
This is not to say that you do not meet friends along the way. A Navajo wise man will aid you, if you show him your colours. However, he asks a price for saving your life and sets you a minor quest which you must fulfil before you may return to your main task. Emily, too, will do her best to help you, if only you can free her first. She will, however, leave the bulk of the work for you.
I had very few gripes about AITD3, the only one of consequence being its length. For a game of this series, it seemed smaller than usual. I managed to finish it in only one and a half weeks, and although I enjoyed every second of play, it seemed over all too soon. There is a lot to do, but it can be done fairly quickly, if you get the knack of what the designers want you to do.
Sometimes the puzzles are a little obscure, I wouldn't have immediately thought of using a voodoo hangman's noose as I eventually ended up doing (not giving anything away here), but with hindsight it does make some kind of sense. Also, as ammunition is a little hard to find seemed odd that reloading a gun removes all the previous ammunition and it simply vanishes.
The highlight of the game for me was dying and coming back as a puma, which was original, fun and interesting. How do you fight a werewolf (who can be killed only by silver) when you don't have hands to hold things? The puma's movement was done to the same exacting standards as human movement, and the sight of the puma running blew me away.
The game interface is the same as the previous two episodes. You control your character's movement with the arrow keys and select items with the enter key. Many people have criticised the Alone in the Dark series for its control system but I find this a little hard to understand. For me it is simple to use, intuitive, and works well. The only real problem comes when fine aiming is needed for throwing things, or aiming a gun. At one stage you must throw a bottle in a narrow passageway, with a wall of spikes at your back, and getting that bottle to avoid the sides of the hallway was a task worthy of nightmares. However, overall the movement system was smooth, easy to use, and easy to learn.
Also, this series is sometimes criticised for the constantly changing camera angles. However, I think they give the game atmosphere, and add to its mood immensely. Simply remember to save often to avoid those rare occasions when you must fight an enemy who is off-screen. Readers who have played either of the earlier Alone games will already understand this and find it second nature.
This is a game that will appeal to most adventure gamers, and fans of the Alone prequels will be pleased to see its release. Readers who have played games like Relentless will also find the game system familiar.
With the tried and true offering of 3-D polygon graphics animated against a drawn background, Alone in the Dark 3 will not let you down. If anything, the graphics of this series have become better and better. It takes an old method of game production, and gives it new life (or is that un-death?) and well animated characters lend a delightful air to the story. The sound is well done, if a little buggy in places (noisiest 'silence' I ever heard), and the soundtrack is well within context of the game.
Speed-wise, AITD3 is fast on the slowest systems, and is not slowed down by a lot of disk accessing. As for space, well the whole game is copied to your hard drive on installation, the CD is used for playing music only. This seems a little unnecessary, but worked well and allowed for quick game play.
Succinctly put, Alone in the Dark 3 is a western with an intriguing story behind it, some wonderful graphics and challenging puzzles, and it is a delight to play.
You can purchase this game on-line from Playing Games Interactive
Copyright © Adrian Carmody 1995.
All rights reserved.
386DX33 or higher, 4MB RAM, 35MB hard drive space, CD-ROM, DOS 5.0 or higher, VGA, mouse.