Saturday, August 2, 2014

VGR Alone in the Dark 2 One-Eyed Jack's Revenge

VGR: Alone in the Dark 2 also known as Alone in the Dark: Jack is Back in Europe or Alone in the Dark: One-Eyed Jack's Revenge in the US or simply AitD2 or Alone 2
From Infogrames/Interplay/Electronic Arts
Played on Sega Saturn
Also available on PC, Mac, 3DO & PSX

Type Action/Survival horror
Year 1993/1996

The 1993 sequel to the first survival horror classic that created an entire genre on its own!

At the time the likes of Doom were starting to get big and popular, so obviously Infogrames wanted to cash-in on that. They wanted a sequel to their 1992 surprise "3-D" hit as soon as possible.

But the problem is a lot of the original team had left Infogrames by then, along Alone in the Dark creator Frédéric Raynal. His assistant programmer on the first game, Franck De Girolami, was instead put in charge of a new team and this entire sequel. The game would be basically using the same engine, due to a lack of time, but took the opportunity to upgrade little details here and there.

Alone in the Dark 2 was released in two versions for PC DOS at the time, like the first game there was one simpler release of the game available as floppy disks, stripped down to the bare minimum. And an enhanced CD-Rom release with a better complete soundtrack and fully-voiced speaches like the first game. The entire game voiced, including enemies grunts, in-texts, books, etc. And it also included an extended bonus segment for the second character you get to play as, cut short on the floppies.

Interplay was put in charge of a later 1995 3DO for this second installement like the original. It was basically the same original DOS CD release. And it was followed by a Sega Saturn and Playstation port in 1996, retitled Alone in the Dark: Jack is Back in Europe Alone in the Dark: One-Eyed Jack's Revenge for North America (which makes more sense than the confusing Pal "Jack is Back" subtitle in my eyes.. who is this Jack? The main character? Nope, the villain, who isn't the same as the first game's! So he's really not "back"...). That later 32-bit port featured reworked backgrounds, sporting some minor edits, as well as fully textured  tweaked character models and adding a couple of cinematic cutscenes. The real main downside being our hero losing his moustache in the process for some reason...

Only one of the two main characters from the original game returned, but there were still two playable characters only this time the game made you switch protagonists during the story...

We find our detective Edward Carnby, back in a new setting!

The story takes place three month following the original AitD game.

It is now Christmas, 1924. Edward Carnby is now a self-titled supernatural private detective!

His partner Ted Stryker, an old college friend, has gone missing after going on an investigation on his own regarding the disappearance of a young girl named Grace Saunders.

The clues led him to an old mansion in Hell's Kitchen, supposedly run by a bootlegger named One-Eyed Jack.

After an explosive entrance through the gates of the mansion, Carnby arrives there to find gun-toting gangster-zombies like the kind he fought in the mansion in the previous game!

Miles from the subtle calm and dark mood of the original first game...

Edward picks up the mystery where his friend Ted left it. He quickly finds his missing friend dead! Murdered!

You get the plot through some in-game dialogues, and all the necessary backstory through the various documents you can find lying here and there once more.

But there are more surprises in store as Carnby soon finds out the gangsters running amok around this mansion turn out to be... actually 15th Century immortal pirates possessing these bodies! You fight a couple of those, including the Music Man and the Cook, only to get them bonded back to the very shipped that carried them over there centuries ago!

The pirates tale in the past picks up roughly were the story set in the pass in the original game left, mirroring what is happening to Carnby "in the present". Leaving the HP Lovecraft-ian tale of the first game for a story about a pirate ship hidden beneath the cliff where the house is built upon! Turns out this One-Eyed Jack was actually the captain of The Flying Dutchman, an actual legendary ghost ship, once a British ship that got hijacked by One-Eyed Jack and his crew when he found out this woman named Elizabeth Jarret. This Voodoo witch gave him and his crew immortality in change for their protection.

The objective is to save Grace, who is about to be offered as human sacrifice to Elizabeth, and defeat the pirates while locating the source of all this bad Voodoo! But Grace will also get the chance to help out our hero in turn!

Let's start with the good.

Alone in the Dark 2 features some good writing and decent voice acting. But it feels a lot more wacky compared to the first game this time. They also used some great comic book-style artworks to depict flashback sequences such as One-Eyed Jack's tale.

A lot of work was put into designing all these little details, you'll even find backstory for every single foe on One-Eyed Jack's crew you'll encounter.

Ditching the lore of HP Lovecraft for pirates was a pretty strange move. And kinda risky. Losing the best and most original aspect of Alone in the Dark for the tale of The Flying Dutchman was kind of a bold move... and I'm not sure it that was all that entirely necessary.

Once more the game is an "action adventure game" or a survival horror as it is nowadays called. Featuring classic tank controls and cinematic perspectives.

There's less focus on surviving actual horror and the game is instead this time more action-oriented - long before Capcom made the Resident Evil series focused on action as well, which seems to be a recurrent problem in long-running horror franchises. But this was just the 2nd game at the time!

The focus on combat made the team streamline the actions to only Fight and Push now. Most of the game is spent fighting hordes of enemies which you need to fight your way through (you can only cleverly avoid a couple of those fights this time).

They were preoccupied with rushing this game for the release date, and not maintaining the same quality level of the first episode. And it shows. The environments while colorful feel less inspired than the confined setting of the house in the first game!

The settings comprise one entire new mansion along its surrounding gardens as well the pirate ship hidden deep beneath the house, in the caverns in the cliff. But you go through all of it pretty quickly.

Combat is a bit more developed (despite being confined to these "tank controls"). Using all four directions as buttons for different actions (an uppercut, a right, etc. the same goes for handing a sword). 

The game has some great animations, from the people that used to work at the classic French developer Delphine (behind the likes of Another World and Flashback) who  joined Infogrames at the time.

The game still keeps the same core gameplay of the first episode and early PC adventure games, with early attempts at blending 3D environment structure and 3D character models on 2-dimensional backgrounds.

2D background could this time be animated, which gives the game some well needed life. The 2D/3D hybrid art direction works great. Fighting hordes of fast-paced zombie-pirate-gangsters does less than that. There are still some clever tricks to defeat a couple of enemies, but to a lesser extend than the first game.

There's a lot of puzzles to solve, but they're more naturally implemented and severely hinted in the documents you find.

At one point Carnby gets captured in a little twist of the situation. And you get to control Grace Saunders for a little change of pace! She cannot fight and can be captured if an enemy touches here. So instead you'll have to sneak around and rely on clever makeshift traps with common items you find around. It's cute and a fun little change for a while.

While trying to still retain the same on-going sub-plot of people playing with dark magic centuries ago, leaving the creepy mysterious supernatural occurrences for this time gangsters possessed by deadite-like pirates and not the mindless zombie corpses from the first game was a bit much to do in the first sequel. It works with Alone in the Dark, but the game really starts right away with the heavy action and forcing you to combat way too many enemies.

The thing is to be patient, take a trial and error approach and allow yourself to be defeated a couple of times to find the better paths.

Still, a labyrinth on the first couple of minutes of gameplay wasn't maybe the best approach to start of the sequel...

As you try to walk around, you get attacked by these tommy guns and swords-armed talking zombies!

It's a bigger game but yet it also feels kinda shorter, everything moves on way too fast, or maybe since there are less actions to perform and you spend your time fighting, less time is spent trying to interact with the environment.

One of the most memorable scenes from this game is maybe running around, gunning colorful zombies of all kinds and sorts, dressed as Santa Claus! (I've never been sure if it serves actually anything really in the game itself..)

The soundtrack is a strange mix of Christmas-like songs and old school pirate tunes. Sounds are still very important to the atmosphere, from the creaks of the ground to the stomping of your feet on wooden planks. Great work all over this aspect like the previous title. 

Overall, Alone in the Dark 2 is not bad, but it really doesn't compare much to the original title. Ditching most of its mysterious and creepy atmosphere for this wacky adventure against gangsters & pirates, heavily action-oriented.

The "Metal Gear Grace" segments are pretty fun and a nice change from the rest of the action-heavy parts of the game. Specially the final act game which is basically you fighting your way through several pirates and previously defeated bosses with all kinds of swords and guns.

The Saturn port I played stays relatively the same game overall. While it looks a bit better in some parts, it also looks strangely detracting in others. The PSX/Saturn versions were fully textured, which means the characters looked less abstract. But they were also slightly redesigned, most of all making Edward loses his moustache for some strange reason! The rest was ok, the newly-added FMV scenes were nice if disposable. But there also were some minor loading times not present in the PC original!

Sure it might look a bit dated nowadays, and it wasn't as good as the first game, but it still is a pretty fun title, Recommended for fans of the genre!

I give it:
2 / 3 Invaders!

VGR: Jack in the Dark 
By Infogrames/Interplay
Type Standalone episode
Year 1993

Released during the production of Alone in the Dark 2, Jack in the Dark is a short promotional game during released for Christmas 1993, before the release of the actual game.

It was just a single floppy, and acts as a sort of teaser and demo for the actual AitD2.

The game is a short spin-off tale from Grace's perspective.

The story takes place during Halloween, and its set in a toy store where she ends up locked in at night. The toys come to life and start attacking her! She finds Santa Claus trapped in the back of store!? And the Jack-in-the-box on the counter seems to be the one responsible for all of this!

Jack in the Dark is more of an adventure game, the entire gameplay focused on solving a couple of puzzles to get out of the toy store. And since you play as Grace again, there's no combat!

Jack in the Dark is included on most CD releases of the original Alone in the Dark and Alone in the Dark 2 (and usually always packaged with the entire Trilogy).

Overall: It's a fun little game demo. Original and more fun than your plain regular demo disc.

It actually ends up as this strange little prequel tale telling how Grace was captured by the pirates!

There's only one real song played through the entire episode on repeat, setting the mood perfectly.

It's a short and creepy Christmas tale, mixing elements from Halloween as well.

Easy but fun.

Fighting these living toys will make you think since this is all puzzle solving without any combat. Sure it's pretty short, and should only take you about 15 minute to go through really.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score! 

No comments:

Post a Comment