Jack in the Dark

Posted by John Lopez.
First posted on 22 August 2001. Last updated on 09 August 2009.
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Jack in the Dark
Grace stands in the toy store.
Jack in the Dark
The main room is where most of the actions happen.
Jack in the Dark
Grace encounters Jack-in-the-Dark.
Jack in the Dark
Is this a room with a view?
Jack in the Dark
Grace wanders into the storage room.

Between the original Alone in the Dark and its sequel, Infogrames has released a small, almost unknown teaser game called Jack in the Dark. Unlike the rest of the titles in the series, this game does not feature Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood. Rather, this game stars Grace Saunders, the girl who is kidnapped in Alone in the Dark 2. Absolutely no trace of the previous game exists in this pintsized adventure, yet it measures up quite nicely when put to the test.

When little Grace is trick-or-treating on Halloween night, she comes across an old toy store. As she goes through the door, the door slams closed, and she cannot get out. She has heard rumors that the place is haunted, but she has not listened, and now she is trapped inside! Soon Grace realizes that her goal there is much greater than getting out alive. Something truly sinister is going on around her, and she must do something about it.

The engine used in Jack in the Dark is a cut down version of the engine used in the rest of the series. Pre-rendered scenes are used as the environment, and polygonal models are used for characters and objects. As with all the games in the Alone in the Dark series, there must be a mention of the graphics—whereas the backgrounds are beautifully done, the polygons are somewhat pointed and unrealistic. Grace's face is very disfigured, looking as if her face has been smashed in with a baseball bat. If it is not for the broomstick, you may not be able to tell she is dressed up as a witch.

The trademark cinematic camera angles are present, but are not as pervasive as in the other games. An example is when Grace goes to the right-hand side of the store, the view is from the outside, looking through the window. It looks just as if the scene is taken out of a movie. It is also worth mentioning that the camera angles help to exhibit the game's atmospheric details—when Grace has her back to the toys, they move, but once she faces them, they stop.

Jack in the Dark is the only game in the Alone in the Dark series to not feature combat, at least not directly. There are some "baddies" in the game, but Grace does not rely on whacking them with her broomstick. As her only commands are Search and Close, she must use her wit to defeat the villain. Clues are dispersed throughout the game, just as in the rest of the series.

This game is a very straightforward adventure. The puzzles are not as esoteric as some of the puzzles in the other games of the series. The story, though small, is interesting, and there is even a bit of a clever twist at the end. On the other hand, character controls remain to be an annoying issue. As the engine used in the different games of the series is essentially the same, running still requires quickly pressing the up-arrow key twice. Users of higher end computers may not be able to use the run feature without using a program to slow down the computer. Luckily, running is not essential, since it just takes longer to move about otherwise. With the perspectives that have been chosen for the game, it is difficult to discern depth, which is necessary in order to accomplish certain tasks. The game is disappointingly short, clocking in at less than 10 minutes of play. With Jack in the Dark, Infogrames has a great premise for a game, so it can easily squeeze in a bit more gameplay without making it tedious.

Originally, Infogrames has made Jack in the Dark a free download as a Christmas time promotion. The game is later included in the re-release CD-ROM version of Alone in the Dark. Although the gameplay of this mini adventure lasts only minutes, it is still a great little diversion suitable for any level of gaming experience and it is certainly a "cannot miss title" for fans of the series.

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