Alone in the Dark is a 1992 survival horror game developed by Infogrames. The game has spawned several sequels, as part of the Alone in the Dark series, and was one of the first survival horror games, after the 1989 Capcom game, Sweet Home. Alone in the Dark set the standard for later rival popular survival horror games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill.
This game is known to take place in the same continuity as Infogrames's slightly later game Shadow of the Comet, as a book located in the game makes explicit reference to elements of Shadow of the Comet's backstory.
In 1925, Jeremy Hartwood, a noted artist and the owner of the Louisiana mansion Derceto, has committed suicide by hanging himself. His death appears suspicious yet seems to surprise no-one, for Derceto is widely reputed to be haunted by an evil power. The case is quickly dealt with by the police and soon forgotten by the public. The player assumes the role of either Edward Carnby - a private investigator who is sent to find a piano in the loft for an antique dealer - or Emily Hartwood, Jeremy's niece, who is also interested in finding the piano because she believes a secret drawer in it has a note in which Jeremy explains his suicide. The player, either as Carnby or Hartwood, goes to the mansion to investigate. As the player enters the house, the doors mysteriously slam shut behind him or her. Reluctantly, he or she continues up to the attic. In that room, the action begins.
Seconds after the game allows the player to take control of their character, monsters will make their first attack. The player must then progress back down through the house, fighting off various creatures and other hazards in the house, including a whole staff of staggering zombies and various monsters (not all of which can be killed), booby-traps and arcane books, in order to solve the mystery of Derceto and find a way out.
It is eventually explained through documents found throughout the game that the house was built by an occultist pirate named Ezechiel Pregzt, and beneath the house are caverns that were used for dark rituals and other occult doings. The overall goal of these rituals was to increase his fortunes and unnaturally extend his life. Pregzt's original body was incapacitated after he was shot and Derceto was burned down by encamped Union soldiers during the American Civil War. However, Pregzt's spirit lived on within his dried-up corpse, and had been placed by his servants in an old tree in the caverns underneath Derceto (which is, as Pregzt explains in one of many books lying around the house, an alternate name for Astarte or Shub-Niggurath). It would be possible for him to regenerate himself, though that requires a living body. Jeremy Hartwood committed suicide to prevent being used for this purpose; so Pregzt now focuses his energies on the player.
A supernatural private investigator who is sent to a Louisana mansion to find a Piano which Jeremy Hartwood's niece is eager to find as she believe it to hold his suicide note. As soon as Edward enters the house, the doors slam shut but persistent Edward continues his search and battles several paranormal apparitions in the process.
A niece of Derceto's last owner: alternative protagonist to Carnby, she goes on to become an actress and appears in the third game.
Last owner of Derceto mansion. Professional artist. Horrified by nightmares, which were in fact Pregzt's attempts to possess him, hanged himself in the loft. Jeremy's father, Howard Hartwood, bought Derceto's ruins in 1875, rebuilt it as it had been before fire, and later unearthed and explored its underground tunnels.
Given name Bloody Ezech. Reportedly the bloodiest pirate in all the Seven Seas. Anchored his ship Astarte near New Orleans, Louisiana. Made a hideout in a swamp, but ultimately was hanged in 1620 by Welsh Naval conscripts. Was reborn as Eliah Pickford. Now, his spirit lives underneath the Derceto Mansion, waiting to live again by possessing a living, human host and unleash darkness upon the world.
Players are given the option of choosing between a male or female protagonist (Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood respectively), and are then trapped inside the haunted mansion of Derceto after dark. The player character starts in the attic (the place of Jeremy's suicide by hanging), having ascended to the top of the mansion without incident, and is then tasked with exploring the mansion in order to find a way out while avoiding, outsmarting or defeating various supernatural enemies including slave zombies, giant bipedal rat-like creatures, and other even more bizarre foes. Though starting with no weapons except fists and feet, the player character can find, and utilise, weapons such as firearms, kitchen knives, and swords.
However, combat only plays a partial role in the gameplay. For example, the total number of slave zombies throughout the entire game is only about a dozen, and many opponents can be beaten by solving a particular puzzle rather than a straight fight - indeed, a significant number of opponents cannot be killed. Much of the game involves exploration and puzzle-solving, and searching the house for clues to advance the story and learn more about what happened before the player's arrival.
The story is revealed to the player through an extensive series of books and notes found throughout the game, and is heavily influenced by the works of H. P. Lovecraft. Grimoires found in the mansion's library include the Necronomicon and De Vermis Mysteriis, both taken from Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. Other Mythos references include books that feature the narrated history of Lord Boleskine, a direct reference to another Infogrames Cthulhu Mythos-based game, Shadow of the Comet, and the last name of player character Edward Carnby, a reference to John Carnby, a character in the mythos tale Return of the Sorcerer by Clark Ashton Smith. Several of the supernatural opponents are recognisable creatures from the Mythos, including Deep Ones, Nightgaunts and a Chthonian.
Items and characters in Alone in the Dark are three-dimensional, rendered upon a two-dimensional fixed background. Mixing polygons and 2D prerendered background images required a fixed camera angle, which designers used to their advantage to create dramatic scene setups appropriate for a horror-themed game.
The game was followed by several sequels:
- Alone in the Dark 2 (1993)
- Alone in the Dark 3 (1994)
- Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (2001)
- Alone in the Dark (2008)