Alone: The Horror Begins Hands-On

We go bump in the night with Centerscore's new survival horror extravaganza.

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After years of neglect, the survival horror genre is suddenly receiving a lot of attention on mobile. First, we previewed Rovio Mobile's Darkest Fear a few months ago; now, we've played a ways into Centerscore's Alone: The Horror Begins, a spooky action adventure that'll be out in time for Halloween. From what we can tell so far, this game has all the ingredients of an awesome survival horror game: large environments, lots of darkness, frightening enemies...and a flashlight.

BOO!
BOO!

Unlike the slower, puzzle-oriented Darkest Fear, Alone: The Horror Begins concentrates more on the action aspect of monster disposal. After surviving a plane crash into thick woods and encountering a dying victim of roving ghosts (called "howlers") and zombies, your nameless hero sets out in search of help. At the beginning of the game, all he has to his name are a flashlight, a cattle prod, and a busted-up cell phone, which will occasionally receive text messages from nonplayer characters.

The interplay between the flashlight, the cattle prod, and the ever-encroaching darkness has been cleverly conceived; it's the catch that makes the game more interesting than a simple overhead exploration game. The flashlight is good for lighting your way and killing howlers, but it'll also attract zombies; the cattle prod, on the other hand, works wonders on zombies, but leaves you vulnerable to howlers. Both devices run off of the same power source: batteries that you can find scattered around the levels, in crates or lying on the ground. You can only carry three of these batteries at a time, so conservation becomes a factor on the later of the 17 levels--and on the harder of the three difficulty levels.

Alone's look and feel support the game's terrifying premise. The outdoor areas are huge, and you'll spend a lot of time wandering around them blind, and almost insensitive to the many threats that surround you. When your flashlight's off, you'll still get a small pool of visibility around your character, but you'll end up blundering into zombies pretty regularly. On the other hand, even when your flashlight's on, you've got to stay alert. The game uses tank-style controls, much like the original Resident Evil, so you can swing your light in an arc in forty-five-degree increments; this is the same way you advance or backpedal along forest trails or through passageways. The control scheme takes some getting used to, but it's workable after a while--plus, the game offers three different control styles to experiment with, if you're so inclined.

 Using your cattle prod and flashlight at the same time eats up your batteries in a hurry.
Using your cattle prod and flashlight at the same time eats up your batteries in a hurry.

While you're making your way through the haunted forest and solving the mystery, you'll also be enjoying the game's presentation, which is pretty interesting on our test Motorola V710. Flurries of scary organ music will surprise you at odd turns, as you're ambushed in an abandoned barn or discover some new horror. It's simple stuff, but effective. The same goes for the graphics; they aren't necessarily hugely detailed, but the game produces some neat effects when called upon--such as the acrid, skull-shaped clouds of green gas that dying enemies produce. We also think the cell phone is a great touch. When you get a text message, the screen will switch to a faux cell phone display, complete with battery and reception gauges and a nasty crack in the window.

Although we haven't played much of Alone: The Horror Begins just yet, we're looking forward to delving deeper into this long, secret-ridden adventure...and hopefully, getting out alive. We've got the retail version of the game on hand, and our full review will coincide with the game's mid-to-late-October release. Better stock up on batteries before then.

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