The grand-daddy of survival horror - it's just not very scary.
It's all there; obscure camera angles, claustrophobic environments, monsters that pop out behind you. Alone in the Dark has them all in a primitive form. Plus it tries to be an adventure game on top.
The story is an exaggeration of the haunted house idea, adding a touch of Lovecraft too. You play as either the niece of an eccentric reclusive come to investigate his suicide, or the more famous Edward Carnaby, detective for hire. Your task is to recover something from Hartwood's (the uncle's) attic. As soon as you enter you're trapped and prey to the monstrous hordes as you must solve the mansions many puzzles and defeat the evil spirit within to escape.
The details of Hartwood and the secret of the mansion unfolds in the game through various note pads, books and journals left lying around the mansion, which range from Jeremy hartwood's own raving scribblings to mysterious books on the occult. These books also give you clues on how to defeat some of the horrors lurking, but some you'll have to solve on your own. Throughout the mansion there are various special ghouls who can only be beaten by a specific action. This gives the game it's puzzle edge like an adventure game. I did find it frustrating trying to work out exactly what I should do, allowing the game to suffer from the classic adventure flaw of trying everything on everyone.
The game-play is good and solid, you must spend time searching and manipulating items, which the engine handles very well. The controls are slow to respond, but that adds to the creepy effect of the game and I never felt frustrated. The music is sparse and helps to notify you of any dangers which is handy even if not very original. The graphics are fairly poor though, the 3D characters are all blocky whilst the pre-rendered backgrounds aren't very detailed, though they never leave you confused.
For a horror game, it's just not that scary. The clean and simple graphics and lumbering beasts mean you can always see the danger, and frankly the monsters just don't look scary.
The puzzles can also be mystifying and often unclear as to what you should do to overcome an obstacle. As in any game illogical puzzles become it's undoing as they destroy the atmosphere.
The Bottom Line
Alone in the Dark has gone on to become a highly successful franchise and this game set the tone for survival horror games to come. It's still approachable and easy to play today, though hardly a game to leave you on the edge of your seat as perhaps it was intended. Especially after you've died for the fifteenth time attempting puzzle.