Usually, when I review a game it is wishy-washy. I’ll say “Well it’s not bad, but…”, maybe add some “hard to recommend”s here and there and maybe a spot of “roughen gem”. It’ll technically be okay, so gravitating towards 5s or 6s. It gets admittedly a bit tiresome to do the same song and dance. So here we’re trying something different: Flogging.
“Alone?”, besides a title that makes Google/Youtube searching a pain, is a horror title by Deceptive Games. Atmospheric in nature, you walk around a house in search for your sister. Except something lurks in the shadows, the dimensions are all wrong and overall things are just off.
Let’s get my main sweet-talking compliment out the way. Alone (ditching that question mark) did manage to freak me out pretty hard. Although I should emphasis it wasn’t the feeling of vulnerability. Sadly using my character’s death as a scripted ending spoiled I probably wasn’t going to suddenly get my ankles cut and then choked with piano wire.
Instead, it was the frustration of not wanting to be jump-scared. Something that does happen every so often frustratingly. Although fortunately it did lend a creepiness when it wasn’t relying on stingers-and-suddenness, like the rooms suddenly changing out of view. In the end, I actually had to play the game with the headphones off to see it to the end.
Although I use the word “play” in the way purists would frown at. Sadly, Alone takes a page from every other horror title in the genre. You walk about, prod things, pick things up and put things into the correctly shaped peg. You’re not even tasked to know which thing goes into what. Instead the game just sighs and declares “UGH, I’LL PUT THE RIGHT KEY IN THE DOOR FOR YOU THEN” if you poke the right object if your inventory contains the correct item.
There is some fortune though: There are puzzles. Rather, there is at least one puzzle. Although it feels so token and basic I think it says troubling things about the developer. A piano with four keys, with a note nearby of the sheet music to play, along with another note of how to read sheet music. I half wonder if the developer at one point thought to automate playing the piano, worried players would get stuck with the “vague” hints set out.
Then again, I half wonder if there were more puzzles. Layers upon layers of conundrums to test the player’s mind if they wish to progress deeper into unpleasant unwanted territory. That this piano “puzzle” was just the start. The truth is I got stuck.
Not the type of stuck where a thorough search will fix it though. The type born of glitches. Alone is a wondrous museum of glitches. While normally I’d hand-wave off examples, Alone is so extraordinary about it it is worth a list:
Triggers either not happening or happening multiple times
Items unable to be picked up or magically reappearing.
Being able to walk through walls.
Saves being deleted.
Getting stuck in the in-game option setting.
Camera sensitivity so appallingly high that a simple scroll from left to right will lead to a nausea-inducing up-and-down shakiness.
Those are the ones I remember, there may be more. I originally had planned to do a First Impressions Review, just a video showing the first half an hour, and the game became unplayable under the load. Not even the laughter-inducing unplayable, like Slain was on release, the type I can’t even edit due to how shockingly bad it was.
This perhaps would have been forgiveable if the writing was even approaching decent. Most of the narrative waddles around mediocrity, as though its trousers are around its ankles. “Your sister is lost! You must find her! Your uncle, who used to own the house, was an abusive bastard who played your supple arse-cheeks like a pair of bongo drums!”. It is humdrum to its core. If it develops into something more is something unknown because Alone broke hard.
What soured the story experience were the endings. With four endings, you’d hope for diversity. While I can not comment on the fourth ending (see above), the three endings are pretty appalling. If, for whatever reason, you don’t want spoilers then do not look at the next paragraph.
One is you get your head caved in for looking at a door too soon. The other two has you leaving with the story shrugging and saying “well, you didn’t find out what happened to your sister”. One of which your character decides “let’s go back in there”; almost with the sheepish attitude one has when realising you have to go back to the supermarket because you forgot the milk. Naturally, not through the door you came through but back at the start and all from scratch. It is as though the game demanding is demanding “NO, DO IT RIGHT THIS TIME”.
Nothing was gained from the inclusion of the endings above. If anything, time and resources were wasted as writing wise they just don’t have enough quality. Ending 3 in particular felt rushed, never quite completing the thought presented. If Ending 4 is a masterpiece, well, who knows?
The final score of Alone is a 3 out of 10. “But it is £2.50, you get what you pay for” is an excuse I can see coming, but there’s something else I pay with: Time. 2 to 3 hours I spent on it, plus more wrestling with glitches. I can’t say the experience was enjoyable or memorable. All the price tag saves Alone from is getting an even lower score. Simply a broken experience, where even if fixed it’d make for a pretty boring one. Halloween is coming. Save your fright-night for something better and fufilling than empty scares and glitches.