Imagine, if you will, a bygone era when Infogrames' Alone in the Dark was one of the most groundbreaking games around. At the time, its shortcomings were easily overlooked because of its ingenuity. The game did have numerous shortcomings, however - many of which were linked directly to the features that made it so awe-inspiring in the first place. Sure, the rapidly switching camera angles added a decidedly cinematic aspect to the game - but these same varied angles made combat tremendously difficult, not to mention that simply finding your way around was a confusing mess. By the time that Alone in the Dark III appeared, the series' age spots were becoming all-too apparent. Several games had used the ideas presented in the original in a more palatable fashion (Relentless: Twinsen's Adventure, Ecstatica and, more recently, Fade to Black, to name but a few), while the Alone series stayed true to its blueprint; formula for confusion and frustration intact.
Knight's Chase, the newest action-adventure game from Infogrames, is the first entry in a new series entitled Time Gate. But "new" is relative in this case, and the game may as well be dubbed Alone in the Dark IV. The developers have done a tremendous amount of re-design in the areas of sound and graphics, but beneath all the gleam and glimmer lies the same old game.
Okay, okay, maybe not exactly the same. Gone are the gothic horror setting and the ghost-chasing Edward Carnby. Our hero is William Tibbs, an American in Paris (so to speak), whose girlfriend is kidnapped and taken through time to the 14th century. As Tibbs, you must travel to medieval France, rescue the damsel, and discover your link to the Knights Templar. The story line is somewhat interesting, but it's never fully developed. You simply get a general idea of what's going on from the introduction sequence; that idea is then reinforced by vague explanations scattered throughout the game.
Which brings us to the main problem with Knight's Chase: The whole thing just seems so vague. The puzzles are challenging, but most of the time you have no idea where you are or what you're even supposed to be doing. Perhaps something was lost in the translation from the French. When you do solve a little mystery, it's usually a result of some happy accident. The controls, like those of Alone in the Dark, are an obtuse mess. And combat is once again made ridiculously hard because of the constantly shifting angles - which seem even more frenetic this time around.
Infogrames has done a major visual overhaul of the game, and the results are quite impressive. In the new SVGA mode, the characters look stunning and realistic - even against the standard hand-painting backgrounds. This new graphics resolution also fixed one major problem: Objects are much easier to spot against the 2-D background, making crucial elements of the game less easily overlooked. In the end, however, this is only a minor improvement. Die-hard fans of the Alone in the Dark series will undoubtedly want to check it out, and those looking for a challenge will certainly find one here. Those looking for a great adventure, however, should step through the Time Gate with trepidation.