The Let's Play Archive

Alone in the Dark

by Qotile Swirl

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Original Thread: Did you remember to bring the birthday candles? Alone in the Dark turns 20.



August 25th, 1924: The body of Jeremy Hartwood, painter, is discovered hanging in the loft of his reputedly cursed house, Derceto. Though no note is found and whatever his motive may have been remains unknown, the police declare it to be suicide and close the case. A few days after learning of her uncle's death, Emily Hartwood travels to Derceto to investigate for herself. If Jeremy killed himself, as every sign says he did, he must have had a reason. When she reaches the house, it becomes immediately obvious that the neighbors' talk of curses and occult dealings was not idle gossip.

* * *

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of a game that revolutionized PC gaming in that it was one of the first PC games to use true 3D graphics and the first to use not only 3D wireframes or primitives, but recognizably human-shaped characters fully rendered in polygons. It created an entirely new genre - survival horror - and spawned not only its own series of sequels, but was the direct inspiration for series like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Today, Alone in the Dark has been largely forgotten, eclipsed by its successors, in no small part due to the hubris of Infogrames (its creator) and their mismanagement of the property.

I have a special fondness for Alone in the Dark (it was the first PC game I ever bought new) and it's for that reason I'm playing it. I like to think I'm fairly good at the game and I know a little about it and its development (gleaned from articles, interviews, and presentations here and there), so my commentary will be mostly informative.

Alone in the Dark is an adventure game emphasizing story and puzzle solving, but most of it is free-roaming and allows you to take set pieces in whatever order you like. Consequently, nearly all playthroughs of the game, even those following the official walkthrough, sequence events in ways that shuffle the plot exposition and solve puzzles before finding the clues for solving them. I'll be playing the game in what I'm calling "story order": finding the clues first, solving the puzzles second, and uncovering the plot as it naturally progresses.

In direct opposition to that, in bonus videos, I'll do my best to sequence break those few roadblocks the game does throw up to prevent you from skipping over sections and we'll see just how many or few items are truly necessary to beat the game.

Structure-wise: The LP begins with a preface that largely repeats what's written here. After that, it will be divided into five chapters. Each chapter begins with a prologue that will show different but related games. Each chapter ends with an epilogue drawn from contemporary articles in gaming magazines that chronicle the development and release of the game. The playthough itself will be covered in the main part of the chapter. Deaths, dead-ends, and other interesting but not narratively appropriate segments will be relegated to the appendices. In an addendum at the end, we'll look at some things that didn't quite fit anywhere else and are best left until after the LP proper has finished.

Schedule-wise: The first installment is a huge video dump, but in future, they'll be posted one at a time. Ideally one every few days. Ideally.

Spoiler-wise: In the videos, I'm going to pretend no foreknowledge of anything that happens in the game beyond the current chapter, but I honestly don't care if you want to talk about spoilers in the thread. It's not like the game is new.

Preface: Introductions
...including why I'm playing the game, what the game is and why it is relevant, and how this LP is structured. Sponsored by

Prologue: Pop Corn
The "first" "commercially" "released" game from Alone in the Dark creator Frédérick Raynal.
Chapter 1: Reflection in the Mirror
As we begin our story, Emily finds a curious book that reminds her that mirrors are things that exist.
Epilogue: Call of Cthulhu (part 1)
An article from the May, 1991 issue of Joystick magazine announcing the development of Call of Cthulhu: Episode 1, a.k.a. Alone in the Dark.
Appendix A: Breaking the Mirrors
An account of what befalls those who fail to appreciate mirrors.
Appendix A: Blind Man's Buff
Zombies' peripheral vision is honestly rather poor.

Prologue: Alpha Waves
Bouncing away from Gargamel's evil plot to turn crystals into double buffering.
Chapter 2: Quaint and Curious Volumes
As the story continues, Emily discovers just what sort of literature her dear old uncle had been getting into.
Epilogue: Call of Cthulhu (part 2)
The second installment of the Joystick article, in which we learn about the software used to make Alone in the Dark and are fed lie after lie about the game mechanics.
Appendix B: The Front Door
In the next game, Emily will find herself battling mediæval Deadites.
Appendix B: Revenge of the Happy Little Trees
Between the hatchet and the arrow falls the Player.
Appendix B: Disturbing the Dead
Emily demonstrates why one should never rouse a ghost from its reverie.
Appendix B: Erring Among the Books
Wherein Emily tries to kill the Vagabond who never dies.
Appendix B: Terrible and Forbidden Books
Unhappy is she whose eyes alight upon the foulest of texts.
Appendix B: Edward Carnby, PI
A tale from the life of a lowly private detective just trying to fit in.

Prologue: 7 Colors
A networkable block-based puzzle game that comes with fun, from Russia.
Chapter 3: Adjourn to the Smoking-Room
The plot thickens as Emily learns more about the strange man who built Derceto.
Epilogue: Over There
The inauspicious first mention of Alone in the Dark in an American gaming magazine.
Appendix C: A Public Service Announcement
In this very special episode of Alone in the Dark, Emily teaches us the dangers of second hand smoke.
Appendix C: Party Pooper
In this very special episode of Alone in the Dark, Jeremy learns that a shoebox under some coal is not a safe place to store a gun.
Appendix C: Zombie Baiting
And in the most special episode of all, we witness first-hand the devastation wrought by zombie on zombie violence.

Prologue: Shadow of the Comet Demo
The game that lent Alone in the Dark its story, if not its license to it.
Chapter 4: Find the Well
Emily finds where her uncle had been hiding and makes a shocking discovery as to what he had been hiding from.
Epilogue: Alone in the Dark
Raynal speaks about the game just after its release and speculates about the future of the series.
Appendix D: A Devilish Enchantment
Emily attempts to break the knight's spell with a poker and a kick to the rear.
Appendix D: Zig et Zig et Zag
Ghosts have quite specific musical tastes.
Appendix D: Pied Piper of Louisiana
Exciting times for all to be had in the Turnspit Pub basement.
Appendix D: The Burrower Beneath
The Chthonians aren't sure if they're in league with Derceto's builder, and they definitely don't know how to keep to the right.

Prologue: Alone in the Dark
Everything can be reduced to an allegory for the Odyssey. Jeremy taught me that much.
Chapter 5: To Kill What Will Never Die
Our story ends with Emily attempting to finish the work her uncle was unable to do.
Epilogue: The Shape of Things to Come
Computer Gaming World considers what the future holds in the light of games like Alone in the Dark and The 7th Guest.
Appendix E: Breaking Blade
Not shown: reforging the pieces into the Andúril.
Appendix E: Hop! Hop!
There's more than one way to negotiate a perilous crossing.
Appendix E: The Pillar Not Taken
Luckily, Emily has her pointe shoes on backwards.
Appendix E: The Spider's Dismal Den
...whence Emily ne'er came out again!
Appendix E: De Vermis Mysteriis
The worm is freaked out by Emily and crashes the game. It is unfazed by Carnby.
Appendix E: Peak Oil
Emily's disregard for finite resources leaves her alone in the dark.
Appendix E: The Shoulders of Giants
Few know the simple joys of standing on a Deep One's head.
Appendix E: Pregzt Fights Back
The flammability of trees is highly dependent on the presence or absence of a bit of stone on a bigger bit of stone.
Appendix E: The Shortcut
Follow along with Emily as she seeks an alternate route home after a long day's work.
Appendix E: Requiescat in Pace
Thrill as Emily snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.
Appendix E: Yahoo!
In his first post-adventure interview, the detective offered only these enigmatic words: "It's-a me, Carnby!"

Addendum: Dark the Alone
An exercise in sequence breaking, told in a choose your own adventure style.
Addendum: Musical Score
All of the game's music in its various formats, now in one convenient location.
Addendum: Errata
Correcting that which needs to be corrected before concluding that which is overdue for conclusion.

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