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Alone in the Dark

aka: AITD, Call of Cthulhu: Doom of Derceto, In the Dark, Screams in the Dark
Moby ID: 325
DOS Specs
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Description official descriptions

Jeremy Hartwood has committed suicide in his Louisiana mansion, Derceto. You take the role of either Edward Carnby, a private investigator, or Emily Hartwood, Jeremy's niece, and investigate the suspicious death. The three-floor mansion is reputed to be haunted by its eccentric past owner. Very quickly, you realise that it is. Warped rats, zombies, and giant worms are among the foes who are after you, and you must somehow escape.

Alone in the Dark is an action-adventure survival horror game. The action is displayed from a number of fixed viewpoints. The backgrounds are 2D painted images, while the player character, all items, and monsters are rendered as 3D models.

To escape the mansion, you'll have to solve a number of puzzles. They usually involve finding an item and using it in a proper place. Apart from items necessary for the puzzles, you can also find books and documents that can be read, healing items which can be consumed to restore hit points, and weapons.

Weapons come in handy since Derceto is full of various monsters. Some monsters can be killed with weapons, but others are either impossible to kill or require a bit of thinking to take down. Note also that you have limited amounts of ammunition, so you have to use firearms carefully.


  • アローン・イン・ザ・ダーク - Japanese spelling
  • 鬼屋魔影 - Chinese spelling (simplified)

Groups +



Credits (DOS version)

39 People (35 developers, 4 thanks) · View all

Realized & Directed by
First Assistant
Production Designer (2D Graphics)
3D Modeling & Animation
Original Music & Sound FX
Mixed by
  • Sequence Coda
Product Manager (US)
Product Manager (EU)
Best Boys
Special Thanks To
JACK IN THE DARK and the CD-ROM conversions
[ full credits ]



Average score: 76% (based on 49 ratings)


Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 200 ratings with 14 reviews)

The grand-daddy of survival horror

The Good
This is a great game, better than it's two sequels and still comparable to the many 3D adventure games it has inspired.

Firstly, the graphics are great considering the time it was made. The hand-drawn backgrounds are very atmospheric, and although skins and true color palette didn't exist back then the polygon characters still look good. The movement (animation) is also very fluid although the gameplay itself has a few quarks (mentioned later).

The "horror" atmosphere is done very well, with a dark, muted graphics palette and suitably chilling music (as well as classic horror movie jump music whenever a monster pops into view). The monsters themselves are a nice variety ranging from classic zombies and hellhound-rats, to more surreal Lovecraftian horrors such as a 100 foot worm that fills the entire screen. Some monsters can even move through walls to chase you to your death.

The combat is implemented splendidly in this game, much better than in its sequels. The swings, punchs, and kicks performed by the main characters actually look real and connect with the various monsters quite satisfactory, unlike the sequels where the main character made dainty little jabs which made it difficult to see if you were hitting the monsters or not. There's also quite a nice variety of weapons lying around, ranging from swords, rifles, and even a bow & arrow set.

One of the best aspects of this game is that it's very much open-ended. You can explore all three floors of the house from almost the very beginning , and if you are having trouble with one puzzle you can always move on to another one without feeling blocked. In fact most of the puzzles aren't neccesary to finish the game, but can help you tremendously (for example if you figure out how to defeat the suit of armor, you get a nice sword which doesn't break like the old cutlass you start out with).

One final thing which must be mentioned is the large amount of text in this game, in the form of various books lying around the house. These books are great to read, providing much background information about the story and also providing some vital hints to solving various puzzles. Unfortunately in the CD-ROM version of the game the voice-overs are dry and uninteresting (with the exception of the deceased owner's suicide note and diary, which are laugh-out-loud over-the-top cheesy).

The ending to the game is short but nice and fitting, and does kind of surprise you. However because of it's nature it might leave you wondering if you've forgotten to do something and that there's a better ending somewhere (there isn't).

The Bad
One major grip I have about this game was the trouble I had getting it to run. It was buggy on my 486 (Music switched on and off, I had to re-install the game every time I wanted to play it) and doesn't run on my Pentium.

I had some rather large issues with a few aspects of the controls. For example, in order to run you have to tap the forward key twice. Unfortunately it's hard to tap the key in such a way that the program recognizes it, making it difficult to get your character to run(this was especially a problem when being chased by something nasty). It would have been simpler had they made you run by holding down a key (like shift).

Another problem is that it's very difficult to aim your weapons such as the pistol and the rifle, because the 3D third person perspective makes it difficult to see if you're aiming at the monsters or to their left/right. This results in many misses while you readjust your aim (ammo is also scarce). Fortunately, this isn't a major problem since many of the monsters are relatively slow moving, and close combat (especially with something sharp in your hand) is well implemented enough to make guns not necessary for survival.

Most of the puzzles are generally intuitive, and while they might take some thinking (or browsing the books for hints) none of them are totally obscure, and can be solved without too much frustration. I must mention that one exception to this is the very last puzzle. In order to defeat the mummified sorceror Pregzt two actions are required, one of which is fairly obvious (and specifically explained in several books) and the other one is totally obscure. In fact I quit playing several times over it, and only solved it by lugging every item in the game down to the last room and messing around with each and every one of them. Of course once I did perform the necessary action, I did realize it was somewhat logical (if a bit obscure and never mentioned anywhere else in the game).

The Bottom Line
Alone in the Dark is essentially the game which inspired the 3D adventure/survival horror genre. If you enjoyed Resident Evil, Nocturne, Ecstatica, or Bioforge, you might want to play this game to see where it all started. And its a damn good game in its own right, too.

DOS · by Alan Chan (3610) · 2000

Horror, Cthulhiana and great fun

The Good
The Alone in the Dark games are some of my favourite games from the early to mid-nineties. Carnby was sort of a hero for me, and I've spent hours and hours playing the games...more than once. The first game was, as I recall, one of the first (if not the first) Infogrames games to take advantage of the Cthulhu license. Yes, the game is in fact set in the universe of H.P. Lovecraft, where ancient horrors once ruled the world and man lives in blissful ignorance of the truth. The game doesn't reveal much about the Cthulhu mythos though, choosing instead to be more of a haunted house story. The interface is similar to that of the more recent Resident Evil games, as are the graphics. The camera angles are what you can expect from a horror game - creepy and suggestive. If you play this at night with headphones and all the lights turned out, don't be surprised if you feel more than a little edgy. Another high point of the game is the sound (not to mention the music). I'm not sure if there's a disk version of the game, but if there is, it must be vastly inferior to the CD version, which has CD audio not only for music, but also for the incredible speech in the game (which you only hear when reading books/letters).

The Bad
The game may be a bit too hard for some. I don't believe there are any difficulty settings, so if you're looking for a straight adventure game, Alone in the Dark is not for you.

It's also not as good as the second game :).

The Bottom Line
An excellent survival-horror game with excellent production values. Although one would expect so, it still holds up to the expectations of the modern games player ;).

DOS · by Christian Svindseth (2) · 2001

An excellent classic game. Period.

The Good
Alone in the Dark has so many good points it's hard not to forget some. Let's see :

The story is really good, it respects well the style of Lovecraft's work. OK, the monsters aren't "real" Lovecraft creatures, but the way you discover darker secrets at every step, as well as the main plot line are quite faithful. The use of various in-game books that the the player needs to read to understand it is a nice idea.

Sounds and music were simply fantastic for the time... With very good hardware, it was really frightening (I still remember the effect it had on me after having played it on a computer with Roland MT 32 compatible card), and it was way superior to any title (and still is, I think) if you didn't have any sound hardware but your basic PC speaker. Choose it in the setup menu, and then just listen to the sound when you drink water for example.

Ok, let's look at the graphics : well, simply put, Alone in the Dark was one of the first game ever using real-time flat 3D graphics. With a few other titles such as Strike Commander & Ultima Underworld, it has initiated the evolution which led the video gaming industry where it is now. Sure, the 3D is quite outdated now but still acceptable. What's more, it goes well with the beautiful 2D backgrounds, and the use of dramatic camera angles is really great.

Finally, the gameplay, that is puzzles and fights, is ok but not extraordinary. Note though that there are a few different ways to resolve some problems. Yes, the game seems really short compared to recent games, but first this is true for lots of old games, and second if you really try to do it only by yourself, it's not that easy. And take time to immerse yourself !

The Bad
There are in my opinion a few difficult moments. Do not hesitate to backup old saves while playing, for you can pretty easily get stuck forever (if you play without walkthrough, that is).

A real problem when playing it now is that the controls don't always work correctly on recent PCs. I've tried it on many different hardware configurations, using Ms-Dos booting disks as well as Windows Dos Boxes... Well sometimes, running in the game is, as a fact, very difficult, no matter what you do (I even changed the BIOS keyboard speed settings). And running is VERY important in this game :-\

The automatic camera switching may definitely be irritating when you are in the middle of a fight :-)

I suggest using a software to make it run slower (I don't have any name in mind right now, sorry). You can't really appreciate the introduction, for example, if you run it on a high-speed PC. Remember it was supposed to run on a 386 or 486...

The Bottom Line
A great action/adventure game with a nice story and, most of all, a wonderful atmosphere. Atmosphere clearly makes it all, if you don't appreciate it, you can stop playing. One of the two games I ever played which made me scream (ok, I doubt anyone playing it now would scream, but at the time it seemed much realistic ;-)

DOS · by Yeba (48) · 2001

[ View all 14 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Crime doesn't pay chirinea (47064) Nov 8th, 2011


1001 Video Games

Alone in the Dark appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


All backgrounds were rendered in 3D via multiple camera angles, then converted to 2D.


Alone in the Dark was made with a budget of US $400,000.

Christmas CD re-release

There was a Christmas CD re-release with all the patches and Jack in the Dark.


According to the French book La saga des Jeux Videos, by Daniel Ichbiah, the original title would have been In the Dark. The idea came from the Infogrames' PDG, Bruno Bonnell, and one of his collaborators, Eric Motet. The player would have been constantly in the dark, having only 3 matches he could use to progress.

Frederic Raynal, an Infogrames coder who was working on a 3D engine in his free time, tried to integrate the project very soon, but he didn't succeeded in convincing Eric Motet. He then finished his 3D engine and made a demo with an Infogrames artist Didier Chanfray. The result was shown to the managers in 1991 and it was judged so good Raynal became the project leader.

After a first attempt by the team itself, the scenario was written by Hubert Chardot, an independent writer who had worked for the 20th Century Fox and was a real Lovecraft fan. The definitive version was finished in only 3 afternoons, the whole team participating. Chaosium, judging it was unfaithful to Lovecraft's work, refused to validate it, thus losing any right to perceive royalties on it. It's also at this moment that the definitive title was chosen.

Last but not least.. when the project was in its early stage, Frederic Raynal met Yael Barroz, an Infogrames artist which integrated the team. They married very soon.

More details can be found in the book already mentioned; this is just a partial summary.

Inspiration to other games

Besides the obvious sequels, this game also "inspired" two other Infogrames Cthulu games, Shadow of the Comet and Prisoner of Ice. Two books in the game refer to Lord Boleskine and his ill-fated expedition to Illsmouth, which was later used as the basis for Shadow of the Comet's plot. Another book refers to the Prisoners of Ice who are featured in the Infogrames game of the same name.

This game is widely reported as being the inspiration for the Resident Evil series for both its graphical innovation and "survival horror" plot. But in terms of the graphic engine, a similar approach was used in Cruise for a Corpse.


The story was inspired by a supposedly true event. A man by the name of Edward Carnby spent a night in an old house by the name of Decerto to prove that it wasn't haunted. The following morning it is reported that Carnby used a pay phone to call someone called Gloria Allen and according to a witness he looked like "he'd been fighting 'gators all night."

Virtual Dreams

Before its release, Infogrames announced that Alone in the Dark would be the first in a new series of games; The "Virtual Dreams" series. Each game would have a totally different plot and setting, but they would all use the same engine. The original Alone in the Dark box (at least, in Europe) had different cover art, and featured the "Virtual Dreams" title. The game was later re-issued in its current box design, and there was no further mention, from Infogrames, of the "Virtual Dreams" series.


  • Computer Gaming World
    • February 1996 (Issue #139) – Introduced into the Hall of Fame
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) - #88 on the 150 Best Games of All Time list
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #14 Best Way To Die In Computer Gaming (being dragged into the underworld and sacrificed after)
  • GameFan
    • Vol.3, Iss. 1 - Best 3DO Action/Adventure Game of the Year in 1994
  • Game Informer
    • October 2005 (issue #136) - one of the Top 25 Most Influential Games of All Time
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 12/1999 - #34 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking
  • ECTS Awards 1993
    • Most original game
    • Game of the year France
    • Best graphics

Information also contributed by Alan Chan, Andrew Grasmeder, Big John WV, hydra9, Joshua Dove, Karthik KANE, Sycada and Yeba

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Related Sites +

  • Postmortem Video - How the game was crafted
    A video featuring <i>Alone in the Dark</i> designer <moby developer="Frédérick Raynal">Frédérick Raynal</moby> discussing in depth the creation of Alone in the Dark on it's twentieth anniversary. Video is about an hour long, taken on March 9, 2012 at GDC 2012. Content starts at time index 13:32 in the video.
  • Walkthrough on GameFAQs

Identifiers +


Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history!

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Brian Hirt.

FM Towns added by Sciere. iPhone, Acorn 32-bit, iPad added by Kabushi. PC-98 added by Terok Nor. Macintosh added by Scaryfun. 3DO added by Indra was here.

Additional contributors: Matthew Bailey, Xantheous, Brolin Empey, Unicorn Lynx, Sciere, Pirou Julien, Patrick Bregger, Rik Hideto, li zhen, FatherJack, BlaringCoder, Johny Barreau.

Game added October 25th, 1999. Last modified November 27th, 2023.