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Scared stiff: Why should we care about Alone in the Dark?

Jason Dobson

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The survival horror genre is set to get a shot in the arm in 2008 with a number of high profile, not to mention highly anticipated entries all vying for the opportunity to keep us jumping at shadows and screaming like little girls. Or, for those gamers who are, in fact, little girls, just keep them screaming.

But as all of us know, build-up seldom equals pay-off, leaving us to look upon these titles with what could be described as a mixture of cautious excitement and malaise. However, rather than simply sit and wait to see what the games have in store for us, we decided to corner the teams working on this year's more notable survival horror titles, and pick their brains in true survival horror fashion -- with an ice pick.

But having left the ice pick at the office (my bad!), we opted to simply ask those working on these titles why we should keep their games on our collective radar. This week we'll be talking with people working on such games as Dead Space, Silent Hill: Homecoming and Project Origin, and kick things off today by asking Eden Games' producer Nour Polloni about her studio's re-imagining of survival horror architect Alone in the Dark, particularly, why should we care?

Gallery: Alone in the Dark (2008) | 18 Photos

Polloni, who unsurprisingly counts the original Alone in the Dark for the PC as her favorite survival horror game of all time, told us that the studio designed this new take on the franchise with the intention of living up to the Infogrames 1992 classic.

"We wanted to break the constraints of any one genre and challenge what gamers expect from video games"

"We wanted to create a game that would live up to the legacy of innovation of the very first Alone in the Dark, which means we wanted to break the constraints of any one genre and challenge what gamers expect from video games," said the producer. She added that the developer attempted to create an experience in Alone in the Dark that was "much broader than any one genre with a really rich mix of different gameplay and some bold innovations."

Added Polloni, "For the gameplay there's big action set pieces, exploration, problem solving, driving and visceral combat, which all combines to give a varied experience which can appeal to a wide cross section of gamers."

Break constraints? Challenge expectations? Big words for sure, but given that so much of troubled publisher Atari's financial fortitude rests squarely on the shoulders of Eden, whose previous projects include 2006's criminally under-appreciated Test Drive: Unlimited, we're unsure how much of Polloni's excitement we should take at face value, and how much comes seasoned with anxiety.

Nevertheless, the producer talked up Alone in the Dark's gameplay novelties as yet another reason we should be mindful to keep the romp through Central Park on our list of survival horror titles to pick up, despite the game's somewhat mixed reception since dropping onto European shelves late last week.

"There's a level of interaction you won't see anywhere else based on real world rules."

"We've created new gameplay," Polloni told us, "which relies on the creativity of the player to create tools and weapons using his environment and the things in it, hence there's a level of interaction you won't see anywhere else based on real world rules."

It all sounds a bit complicated, like mixing the thrill of a roller coaster with having to puzzle out a Rubik's Cube. However, the producer's promise that players will have to chuck convention out the window and "instinctively apply what you know about how things work in the real world" certainly doesn't come without a sense of appeal.

The game certainly impressed us the last time we played it, but will it be enough to make Alone in the Dark stand out among 2008's other interactive frightfests? Our Magic 8-Ball offers an ambivalent "Maybe," though the game undoubtedly has some stiff competition.

Tomorrow we'll turn our attention to Electronic Arts, and hopefully even from the blackness of space you'll be able to hear us scream as we ask the company why we should care about Dead Space.

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