Version tested: Wii
We hear you! We know you want Wii reviews of multiformat games. The problem is that publishers are often unwilling or unable to provide them. That was the case with Alone in the Dark - with Atari's usually helpful staff for once unable to assist us in our search - so in the end we gave up asking and bought it ourselves. We're going to look pretty silly if it turns out you're not interested. Not as silly as Alone in the Dark looks, sounds and feels on the Wii, mind you, despite developer Hydravision's valiant attempts to wrestle Eden Studios' ambitious Xbox 360 design into the constraints of the Wii's relatively underpowered hardware.
Credit to whoever worked on the first-person controls, though, because the combination of nunchuk analogue movement and Wii remote aiming is one of the few highlights. Point to the edge of the screen and the responsive Wiimote controls steer player-character Edward Carnby in that direction with a sensible degree of acceleration. You can only look so far up or down, which is a problem in a game where you spend a lot of time picking things up or examining your surroundings, but it's forgivable, and the way your viewpoint re-centres is intuitive and unintrusive.
Those of you with a working knowledge of the Xbox 360 version will know that first-person is only part of the view, though, because Alone in the Dark is a survival-horror game that switches you between third- and first-person depending on the scenario you face as you fight zombies and solve puzzles to uncover the truth about your past. And actually, the other controls aren't so bad in some respects either.
You open your inventory (the inside of your jacket, lined with pockets) by rotating the nunchuk and Wiimote away from each other as though you're opening a book, and then point to what you want on your body with the Wiimote. Healing involves pointing at a wound with the Wiimote, applying a spray with the nunchuk and then bandaging with the Wiimote. If you think you've already got the right item equipped, you can make a gesture with either hand as though you're reaching inside your coat to quickly equip or un-equip, and most of your environmental interaction is handled by sidling up to objects and hitting A when prompted. Smashing down doors or whacking enemies involves picking up an object and then waving the Wiimote, although this isn't one-to-one replication of your movement. To reload your gun, you twist the Wiimote to the right to check the clip and then hit a button to swap it out.
It might sound like a lot to remember, but gestures come to mind more readily than the complex network of button-presses the 360 expected. Sadly though it's let down by clumsy third-person movement and camerawork, the need to position yourself just so to pick up objects, and the constant back and forth between third- and first-person. Quite how anyone's Gran is supposed to grasp all this is beyond me, although the constant effing and blinding will probably put them off just as quickly. Speaking of which, the mainstream-friendly, DVD-style chapter-navigation system is now gone, replaced by standard checkpoints and save-game files.
For all that though, Alone in the Dark for Wii is actually let down by things that have nothing to do with the game's ambitious design. It's just badly put-together in standard ways. With a more limited repertoire of MacGuyver-esque actions at your disposal than you have on other systems, puzzles are often different, and often solved by a frustrating process of trying everything on everything. You won't realise you can shoot the lock off a door, or that you have to move the analogue stick in the direction of the object flashing an A-button prompt during a Quick Time Event. The gameplay parameters aren't set clearly enough.
Not that this really matters because after a couple of hours you're simply bewildered that the game was released at all. It's as ragged as a tramp's hat. Cut-scenes are video-captured versions of the in-engine sequences from the 360, which breaks the continuity with the lower-resolution character models - but hardly as much as having a completely different-looking heroine and, for some reason, a different (annoyingly garrulous) script and cast of voice actors. Scenes from the other game are dubbed. The story sequences are spliced abruptly into gameplay, where the cracks and seams are just as evident: objects flicker in and out of view, enemies are found running on the spot, there are missing button prompts, fire graphics that don't move with the object that's meant to be on fire, and clipping issues galore.
Then there are the things that are just awful. Driving the car involves holding the Wiimote and nunchuk up like a knife and fork and twisting them in your hands like a steering wheel (although the game's only measuring the tilt on the Wiimote, despite its instruction), and this is so awkward to use that it's a relief to find the previously frustrating New York driving sequence is now just a straight road with some explosions and falling debris flobbed into your peripheral vision as the engine descends into a low-teens frame-rate, presumably to avoid your having to use the steering almost at all. Strange, because the nunchuk analogue stick would have been available for this.
Meanwhile, the absence of visual information during the rope-climbing bits means you have to take regular leaps of faith or double back on yourself against the game's logic, too. Perhaps aware that you're hamstrung by the controls, bugs and frame-rate, the developer's also lobotomised most of the enemies, who just lurch around unthreateningly at slow speed and vanish after a couple of whacks from a heavy object. There's no longer any need to set fire to them, or even really pay attention to them if you're in a hurry.
Visuals and audio are mostly terrible. The graphics are like a bad, coffee-stained fax version of the 360 game, with dodgy character models (the gap between Edward Carnby's legs, which you spend a lot of the game staring at, begins halfway into his bowel), glued-on hair and textures that would shame a puddle of vomit. Elaborate lighting effects have been removed almost entirely. Complicated sequences are clearly beyond the engine or at least the hardware - ropes appear to be made of lengths of wood tied together, and Carnby does a sort of mad diagonal spasm as he swings left and right - and the fire, such a highlight in the full-fat version, is an apologetic orange fog of Vaseline and cotton wool.
To try and disguise some of this, it looks as though Hydravision has drained some of the colour from what you're seeing (noticeable when the game suddenly burns brightly for an instant as you enter or exit the pause menu), but this mainly just makes it look even duller. Elsewhere the audio splutters and stops all over the place.
For everything else in its amazing catalogue of flaws, errors and catastrophes, though, the biggest problem is that the game just stops whenever you can't work out what to do. During supposedly urgent scenes in the car park beneath the starting level, you get scooped up by a demonic fissure and have to escape by grabbing at something when prompted then shaking the nunchuk (not that you're told half of this, but I digress).
Once you've broken free, you're meant to get into a car at the end of the area and then climb through and get out the other side. You don't realise this though because no one's told you, so you just get into a cycle of running up to everything and hitting A, then getting scooped up by the fissure and escaping again, then running around hitting A, then getting scooped up, and so on. Without the constant threat of deadly enemies, what little suspension of disbelief there was doesn't so much snap like overstretched elastic, as we said of the 360 game, as whip you repeatedly in the face shouting, "Game! Rubbish, broken game! Idiot! Idiot who bought it!"
That's certainly how you'll feel if you pay for this, although there is an odd sense of wonderment at just how broken and unfinished it is. Alone in the Dark on Xbox 360 was a noble failure, just about clawing respectability from the jaws of disaster thanks to some interesting puzzles and mechanics, but forgetting to make the basic controls work in the process. Alone in the Dark on Wii is a broken adaptation of that borked premise, which leaps into the jaws of disaster, hauls them closed afterwards, and starts stabbing itself in the face with the nearest fang. At times you really wish it worked, because the threat of a good idea or two remains, but it doesn't.
So yes, we bought this. Fortunately we kept the receipt.
3 / 10