Monday, February 3, 2014

Diary Entry #3: Flipping Off My Dreamcast and Handheld Survival Horror

                Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare stinks on Dreamcast. My second disc kept having problems, dropping back to the Dreamcast menu after five to ten minutes of play. Additionally, I wasn't able to pick up several items, including some rare save items. I've had enough. I'm going to play the real grand-daddy of the New Nightmare ports: the Game Boy Color version.

                How could such a grand 3D game, complete with dynamic flashlight effects, be translated to the Game Boy Color? Well, it looks like this:

The main character sort of looks like ET.
Or like he's from the Planet of the Apes.

This is the first surival horror game
to ever attempt to rationalize why
random ammunition was all over the place.

                Eddie Carnby and Aline are now on an island looking for Edward's friend, Fiske. Everything seems normal enough, communicating between each other with walkie-talkies, just like in the Dreamcast version! Aline assures me that this should be a routine rescue mission.

The irony of it all!

                Unfortunately, Aline couldn't be any more wrong! Almost immediately, I'm attacked by beasts! As I mentioned in my previous posts, these sections recall the battles from Parasite Eve, but they're much more straightforward. All you do is wander around, blasting enemies with little fanfare before they reach you. I do like the way it's done, but it leads to you killing twenty times the enemies you would have in the Dreamcast port.

Desperately trying to escape a spider.

                After walking through several boring path screens, I eventually reach the Manor.

Carnby decides to break the fourth wall
to inform me that one of the Game Boy
Color's two buttons does something.

                I then enter the house itself. It's layout is strikingly similar to the Dreamcast version, featuring many of the same rooms and corridors. The library, the dungeon, and the main floor are all very faithful to the original game. It amounts to very little, as there's ultimately little interactivity with my surroundings, but hey, it's a nice touch. Most of the puzzles, however banal they originally were, are now missing. One example is a panel in which you need to enter a series of numbers to open a secret door. In the Game Boy Color port, all you have to do is simply push B near the panel and voila, the door opens.

                 One of the nice touches in the game are journal entries sprinkled throughout the house,  just like every other survival horror game in existence. There's only four of them, but they're pretty cool.

This game just got real.

                 As time goes on, Aline gets attacked by spiders. I guess enormous, hairy spiders are the main enemy of the New Nightmare, not vicious shadow creatures. I find a shotgun lying around.

                 Fiske's ghost starts talking to me through a mirror, a rather trippy plot device that greatly alters the storyline of the game. He tells me I need to go find a mechanism for the broken shotgun I have, which seems like a rather silly concern for a dead dude. Final boss aside, I was killing virtually everything with a pistol the entire game. The pistol shoots much faster than the shotgun, too, making it a much more useful weapon when I'm being swarmed by enemies.

                 After I get the shotgun mechanism, Fiske just starts talking to me any damn time he feels like. He tells me I need to open the door...

Fiske just keeps gabbing my ear off.

...which I manage to do with this random door knob I found in the attic.

                 In the cellar, I get this really awesome game over screen. If you touch one of the tentacles in the sewers below the house, instant death results. It reminds me a little of a death featured in the Blair Witch Project Volume 1: Rustin Parr. Every time you walk near the lake, a giant hand reaches up and snatches you into the water, resulting in an instant game over.

                 Eventually, I reach the swamps, which I have a few screenshots of. At this point in the game, all you really do is walk in a linear path and occasionally get into battles. There's about four puzzles in between, and two of them simply involve using a crowbar on stuff.

                 I'll focus on some highlights. At one point, Morton, the game's main enemy, jumps out and attacks me. Frankly, he's pissed, and yells at me for awhile about how he's going to beat me up. After shooting him a few times however, he runs away crying like a little girl. 

                 Later on, I have to climb some dangerously thorny vines to enter a huge fortress. Thinking I have to cut the thorns off or something, I desperately search my inventory for something that will help me. Imagine my horror when I discovered the real solution: thick gardening gloves. Evidently those gloves your grandma uses while tending her garden can help you scale fortress walls. What really left bothered me about this was that I had this item since the beginning of the game; I got them at the same time I received the crowbar that I needed to break into the mansion. No clever lateral thinking, just use the dumb thing you've randomly been carrying around for half the game. What would have compelled Carnby to pick up those gardening gloves anyway? Unless his plan was to smack his enemies around with a thick glove, there's little rationale behind it. Dumb puzzlery at its lowest.

                 I eventually reach a Giger-inspired series of maze-like corridors. They're a nice change of pace from all the swamps, but things take a turn for the hilarious after I find a sparkly gem. The ground turns into a glossy yellow brick road, giving you yet another linear path to follow. Never did I think that imagery from Aliens and the Wizard of Oz would collide in such spectacular fashion.

                 I reach a giant totem pole with a rather grim demeanor. I decide to blow him up, hoping for a huge explosion with a ton of pizzazz. Instead of any visual representation, Carnby makes a passing comment about how the dynamite blew up. With all of this focus on graphics, you'd think the developer would throw in a crappy explosion, but I guess I'll live without it.

Thanks for sharing.
                 I destroy Morton's precious statue, get teleported back to the house, and get another text from Fiske about how I have to kill Morton. After wandering all the way back to the very beginning of the game, Morton pops out, gets all huffy at me, and attacks me. Shooting him with my recently acquired crossbow makes quick work of his butt.

Sweet pixelated victory!

                 Rent or buy: I'd say that Alone in the Dark: the New Nightmare is definitely worth a good rent or four dollars at a flea market. After one time through, you probably won't need to play it again, but it's fun to see all my favorite survival horror tropes stuffed into one little cartridge. It probably can be completed in about an hour, which is a definite plus if I ever need a quick survival horror fix some day. I like it more than the Dreamcast version because it doesn't drop back to the system menu randomly.

                 The only thing that that could better pacified your handheld horror needs is probably Resident Evil 2 for the, but I'm the only person I know of that has one. There also is a Resident Evil 1 Game Boy Color port that was cancelled, but two incomplete builds of these have been made available thanks to some online fundraising. 

                 I'm going to start playing Alone in the Dark: One Eyed Jack's Revenge right now. My expectations are high and I can't wait to try out my new PS2 controller extension cable.

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