Alone in the Dark: Rebooted horror classic lands to mixed reviews

A computer generated image of a man and a woman dressed in 1920s attire against a dark background with faint clouds of fog/smoke creating an eerie backdrop. The woman has her blonde hair tied back and wears a smart tan jacket as she grips a leather strap slung over her shoulder. Her eyes are focused on something off to the side and she looks nervous or uncertain. The man, who wears a brown waistcoat and matching trilby hat, suggesting he's some sort of detective, looks in the same direction, his expression stern, as he reaches for a pistol in an over-the-shoulder holster.
Jodie Comer and David Harbour both star in the rebooted version of 1992 horror game Alone in the Dark

Terrifying. Creepy. Haunting. All words you'd probably want to be associated with your newly released horror game.

But series reboot Alone in the Dark - starring Jodie Comer and David Harbour - has received mixed reviews from critics.

And the word lots have used is "jank" - questionable quality all round, with bugs, glitches and clunky combat.

But not all reviewers were put off by the game's rough edges, and there was plenty of praise for the two leads.

The title, developed by small Swedish studio Pieces Interactive, is a new version of the classic series hailed as the "original survival horror".

First released in 1992, it paved the way for others - most notably Resident Evil and Silent Hill - in one of the most popular and influential genres of the past 30 years.

Alone in the Dark's own history has been troubled, and the previous release 2015's Illumination, was slammed by critics.

The remake goes back to the original's roots - there are two playable characters, and the action again centres around Derceto Manor, a creepy care home deep in 1920s Louisiana.

Prior to release, BBC Newsbeat spoke to creative director Mikael Hedberg, who's been dubbed "the Stephen King of video games", and producer Andreas Schmiedecker from publisher THQ.

Mikael was responsible for Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Soma - two games that regularly appear on "scariest ever" lists.

He told Newsbeat that Alone in the Dark was more of a "chilling haunted house experience" and much gentler than his previous works.

On that point reviewers seemed to agree. Most - including Metro, which gave the game seven out of ten - said it wasn't especially scary.

But others, such as Push Square, which awarded six out of ten, said its sound design and atmosphere - leaning more towards psychological scares than outright horror - were creepy and unsettling.

A blonde woman with her hair tied back in a neat bun wears a smart tan jacket over an off-white blouse in this computer-generated portrait. She's looking at the viewer, smiling slightly. She's in an old-fashioned looking study or library - behind her are shelves stocked with volumes of books, all with matching spines and neatly arranged to signal where one collection ends and another begins.
Emily Hartwood, played by Jodie Comer, is one of two playable characters in the game

There was broad praise for Jodie Comer and David Harbour's performances as main characters Edward Carnby and Emily Hartwood, even if the script they were working from wasn't so kindly received.

Some outlets suggested the two had been brought in for their star power, such as GameSpot, which accused the makers of "stunt-casting" in its four out of ten review.

The game's producer Andreas told Newsbeat using the two actors wasn't a "gimmick", but did admit having the two Hollywood stars on board helped the game "to reach more people".

David Harbour's performance has been a source of debate since he was quoted last August telling the Happy Sad Confused podcast that recording for Alone in the Dark was "limited in scope".

He spoke about recording his lines using facial capture techniques, rather than a full-body motion capture set up.

Many took this to mean he was unhappy with how things had gone, but Mikael insisted this wasn't the case.

"The stuff that I heard felt like he wanted to really do more, and not in a bitter way, but more 'I wish I could have done all of this stuff'."

A painterly image of a man and a woman, backs to the viewer, looking up as they stand in the gateway to the grounds of a large mansion-style house. A lightning storm rages above the building, bathing it in an eerie light which is accentuated by an orange glow coming from the home's tall windows. Above the man and women a wrought-iron arch/sign spells out the word "DERCETO [pronounced Der-setto]" in large block capitals, and to the side a spiked iron fence marks the perimeter. Vines or moss grow on the metal, suggesting decay or neglect.
The new game is set in Derceto Manor - the haunted house seen in the original game

The other point both developers mentioned to Newsbeat was their desire to do justice to the original game and the legacy of the series.

Mikael said: "It was important that we tried to do something that can stand by itself but also truly pay homage to the original."

Critics had very mixed takes on how well the game did this.

Eurogamer's Vikki Blake, in her two-star review, said "bugs and glitches" reminded her of old-school horror games, but not necessarily in a good way.

And while she praised the "thoughtful design" of parts of the game she said the overall delivery was "unpolished".

But for others, such as GamingBible's Richard Lee Breslin, who gave a seven out of ten review, for those who can look past the lack of gloss there's fun to be had.

He wrote: "If you love old-school horror games, then Alone in the Dark could be your surprise contender for 2024."

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