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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Alone in the Dark: Illumination.

TranscriptEdit

Well, violate my sense of intestinal security if it isn’t another Alone in the Dark game. This venerable series stretches all the way back to 1992 when it virtually codified the fixed camera-survival horror genre - someone even awarded it the ECTS 1993 Best Graphics Award and managed to keep a straight face. From those lofty heights the series went downhill quickly, spawning two sequels and two attempted reboots that wobbled up and down between “big poo sandwich” and “big poo sandwich with ketchup”. But still, I’m surprised that a new installment of this decades-long legacy managed to slip under my radar and I’d like to know where they were hiding it, 'cause it should be put back there with extreme force!

Yes, experience has taught me to watch out for a couple of obvious warning signs when it comes to games - the mysterious absence of hype, the attempt to sneak out onto the Steam listings on the week of a summer sale as if the publisher was forced to fulfill an obligation but was praying to God that no one would notice it, and the mysterious urge to club myself in the head with a frozen walrus cock as I attempt to play the fucking thing. More alarm bells start to ring when you boot up a game called “Alone in the Dark” and the first three options on the title menu are “host game”, “join server”, followed grudgingly by “single player” thrown out like a chicken bone from the feasting table. I guess we’re co-op multiplayer now – they fucked up the "dark" thing in the last Alone in the Dark by setting the whole game on fire so now they’re fucking up the "alone" part instead!

“Yeah, guess I’m pretty lame, well I’ll just toddle off to the bottom of Metacritic for the rest of time then…”

Not so fast, Alone in the Dark: Illumination, you’re getting a full review, for no better reason than because you tried to sneak out quietly like a fart in a job interview and I ain’t letting that fly on my watch!

Alone in the Dark is indeed a Left 4 Dead-style four player co-op shooter, so like a deep space exploration probe it’s about six or seven years behind the rest of planet Earth. Each player takes the role of one of four characters: the hunter, Edward Carnby, whose main role in combat is to wear a t-shirt with “series continuity” written on it; the witch, whose role is to look good in a miniskirt and fling lightning with a gesture like she’s trying to shake snot off her hand; and then there’s a priest and a female engineer, and isn’t it nice to know cast members of Firefly are still finding work! These four unique talents work extremely well together – or extremely poorly. I don’t know, because I found no functional public servers and I didn’t want to lose what few Steam friends I have by asking them to download this garbage!

I played alone in the single player and learned to live with the sense of rejection from three-quarters of the random pickups being for someone else. Why even spawn the fucking things?! It’s like online dating all over again!

But I don’t remember any moment in the game when having another player around would have helped, frankly. The central game mechanic around which the game names itself is the fact that monsters only become vulnerable in light. This is explained by a piece of story dialogue saying “the monster became vulnerable in light”. Nice world building there, Alone in the Dark.

“As the light hit the creature, mutated plants in the graveyard soil still clinging to its rotten form grew with supernatural speed, pushing the hardened scales of its outer flesh apart.” See how easy this is, I just made that up!

Monsters only being vulnerable in light is the kind of mechanic that probably sounded like a good idea at the planning stage, but in practice it means turning on a light and then waiting for the enemy to queue up in single file for an ass whoopin’. But the enemies constantly respawn and you’re not going to be completing the current arbitrary fetch quest standing under a streetlight like a mournful hooker in a gritty musical. So you keep moving and swiftly find that it’s a lot more expedient to just maintain enough of a brisk walking pace to stay ahead of the shambling horrors and go about your daily life unmolested. That’s if it weren’t for the fucking poison-spitting ones that make no sound and have laser accuracy, so the first time you know of its presence is the moment when you get a shamrock shake to the eyeballs. The scenery’s in cahoots because it maliciously becomes non-corporeal just when you think it will block the shot. And then the poison will make your health tick down for a bit – it might as well just knock it off in one go! There are no healing abilities or items you can carry, so if you’re low on health and not three feet from a resupply shelf, all you can do is try to adopt a hilarious suggestive pose before you die!

You’d think a game with a priest class but no self-heal ability would be like a Cub Scout camping weekend without a bed-wetting incident, but in truth, the classes all have the exact same role – shoot the baddies when they’re in light, use special ability to kill baddies that aren’t in light. In which case, you might as well just stick with the hunter, who gets as many guns as he can fit in his Y-fronts and a fucking flamethrower - I know of very few instances in which the word "flamethrower" could not be preceded by the word "fucking"!

“Hey, I could infuse my bullets with the power of Christ in order to turn a single monster into a light source so that all the monsters around it-”

Or I could just napalm the room with my flamethrower!”

“Or I suppose you could just napalm the room with your fucking flamethrower…” Must have been a blow to spend your whole life currying favor with Jesus to the point that he’ll let you weaponize him, and only then find out that gasoline exists!

You know, I could go on picking apart how all the little cracks and subtle odors go together to make this monster turd, but let’s get down to broad analysis - not that kind of broad analysis!

Is it fun? No, it’s as fun as playing two-hundred consecutive games of patty cake during a prolonged blackout!

Is it scary? No, it’s as scary as see above.

Fuck it then, I stopped playing after four missions and I can tell the developers gave up on it long before I did, with its text dumps in place of narrative and the way it was released like an unwanted dog on the side of a highway. So why should I put in any more effort? I’m going to review the remainder of the missions from their names alone.

Dark Crypt - as opposed to all those lovely well-illuminated crypts where all the dance parties take place! Seriously guys, you couldn’t think of a single other word that means "foreboding?" What about “Creepy Crypt”? Or does that sound too much like a Banjo-Kazooie level?

Reflective Pond – could’ve done with one of these before you embarked on this venture, couldn’t you Atari? Assuming the sight of your own visage doesn’t turn you to stone!

Sonorous Sewer?... what’s that, the new album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds?

Silent Quarry – oh, I see what you did there!

Train Graveyard – well, that’s what happens when you try to get home from Toowong Station at one in the morning!

Final Facility – and how very welcome it is, but I really think the series has only been going downhill since Final Facility Seven!

AddendaEdit

Alone in most lighting conditions: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

What the hell kind of name is Edward Carnby anyway. Hey, is that Edward over there? No, it carnby

Sure was a nice IP while it lasted

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2

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