Needs More Cowbell

Needs More Cowbell
The Tragedy of Alone in the Dark

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 9 Mar 2010 13:34
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The Puzzles

The main problem with point-and-click adventure games like Monkey Island is that the puzzles only ever follow one particular thread of logic; a cooking pot could be used as a crash helmet, for example, but not to hammer in a nail. The only way to bring inventory puzzles up to date would be to create a game where you can pick up and use every single loose object and tool, and any solution that would conceivably work in the real world is allowed for. Obviously, this is a bit beyond the reach of human technology short of inventing the fucking Holodeck, but Alone in the Dark attempts it in a smaller, more manageable way wherein all the puzzles just require you to light stuff on fire.

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Thankfully, the fire mechanics are seriously amazing. Virtually anything made of wood, cloth or any real-world flammable material can be lit up, at which point the fire gradually spreads across the surface, eventually reducing it to brittle charcoal - an effective way to remove wooden doors and blockades. You can also transfer fire from any flammable thing to any other flammable thing. And then there's the inventory management: You can root through every dumpster in the game to find bits of paper, petrol, aerosol cans, duct tape and glass bottles to combine into improvised Molotov cocktails, sticky bombs and flamethrowers. You can also use petrol on your gun to make incendiary bullets, but if you tried that in real life you'd probably end up with shredded red cabbage where your hand used to be.

Unfortunately: Every single enemy can only be killed by fire. Bombs are single-use and aerosol flamethrowers last about one second (which may explain why the aerosols were in the trash bin in the first place), so if you run out of stuff to make fire, you get to rummage through the bins again while the baddies stand around and take turns kicking you in the nuts. Also, the game doesn't pause while your inventory is open, so the baddies get to continue kicking you in the nuts while you figure out which bottle the hanky goes in.

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