Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare 1
Image: Atari SA

Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they've been chewing over. Today, Ollie sits down with the least loved entry in the current Nintendo Switch Online Game Boy library and finds an odd, twisted version of a game he loves...

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare for the PlayStation is no masterpiece.

It's one of those survival horror games that arrived after the gargantuan success of Resident Evil and Silent Hill, though the Alone in the Dark franchise itself preceded both by a number of years. The New Nightmare stood as the first reboot of the series (with the second reboot currently in the works at Pieces Interactive and THQ Nordic) launching in 2001, seven years after Alone in the Dark 3.

Critics at the time were mostly positive in their assessment of the game, with many praising its visuals and atmosphere, while also criticising the script and puzzle elements. With 15 critic reviews available, the PlayStation version now sits at a more-than-respectable 77 on Metacritic. All in all, the general consensus with players seemed to be, "yep, great effort, but not as good as RE or Silent Hill."

Me personally, though? I absolutely adored Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare.

I loved the grim, gothic nature of the game: the dark forest surrounding a vast, creepy manor on Shadow Island; the way it puts emphasis on using a torch as both a navigation tool and a weapon against the supernatural creatures; the over-the-top 'B movie' voiceover work that would make the creators of Resident Evil immensely proud. It was wonderful.

It wasn't perfect though, by any means, and I imagine that if the game were to come out today, the vast number of alternatives available — coupled with the fact that I now have my own disposable income — might mean that it would fall by the wayside. But as a child with only a small handful of games to call my own, it kept me hooked from start to finish.

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare 2
Image: Nintendo Life

The New Nightmare launched on multiple consoles back in 2001: PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast, Windows, and Game Boy. The first four platforms received more or less the same experience bar a number of minor graphical differences, but the Game Boy Color version was drastically altered in order to accommodate the experience for handheld gamers.

I'm also impressed at how well the essence of the game translated to such a different piece of hardware

I knew, of course, that Pocket Studio's Game Boy version of The New Nightmare existed, but it wasn't until its recent addition to the Nintendo Switch Online service that I actually played it for the first time.

Frankly, I'm shocked at just how different the experience is and how much has been cut and changed, but at the same time, I'm also impressed at how well the essence of the game translated to such a different piece of hardware. It is, in my opinion, a very bizarre addition to the Nintendo Switch Online service, but one I would urge you to try out. If nothing else, it will satisfy your morbid curiosity.

Looking at the narrative differences between the Game Boy version and home consoles first, these are actually quite stark. In the full version of the game, you have the option to play as one of two protagonists: Edward Carnby, the main character of the entire franchise, and Aline Cedrac, a young University professor who has her own vested interest in the overarching mystery. On their approach to Shadow Island, their plane is attacked, forcing the two to jump out in midair, ultimately landing in separate spots on Shadow Island. It's this approach that lets you experience the game from completely unique points of view, and it works pretty well for the most part.

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Image: Nintendo Life

The GBC version, however, ditches this entirely, focusing the experience squarely on Edward Carnby alone. In fact, any sense of danger in the opening cutscene is completely neutered. While the plane effectively crashed in the home console version, it lands safely on Shadow Island on Game Boy. Not only that, but Carby instructs Cedrac to wait by the plane like a good little sidekick while he goes off on his spooky adventure. The two remain in communication via walkie-talkie, but Cedrac's involvement in the story is minimal, at best.

You could argue that the narrative changes make for a more streamlined experience; this is the Game Boy we're talking about after all, and there's only so much you can fit into the little thing. The bigger changes, however, come with the gameplay.

Navigating Shadow Island and its manor is actually quite similar to the bigger version. You've got pre-rendered backgrounds that cut between various camera angles, showcasing just enough of your surroundings while blocking off certain key visuals. For an 8-bit Game Boy title, the environments do look quite impressive, but areas from the home console version have been cut entirely, resulting in dead ends and blocked doorways that would have otherwise been open, leading to a great deal of confusion on my part.

But that's not all that's been changed. The main differences actually come into play when you go into combat, and this is handled in a remarkably similar way to Capcom's GBC survival horror offering, Resident Evil Gaiden.

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Image: Nintendo Life

Rather than taking on enemies directly within the environment, the game cuts to a brief dialogue scene in which Carnby notifies the player of impending danger. Afterwards, you'll shift over to an isometric viewpoint (Gaiden's is first-person, but still involves a perspective switch) where you can aim your gun and fire at incoming enemies. Given the more action-orientated gameplay here, the visuals are drastically different to the pre-rendered backgrounds, dialing down the detail while ramping up the colour and animation. You also get a boatload of bullets and can pick up more on the ground as you go, so there's rarely any danger of running out or even dying. So much for 'survival horror', then.

It's an odd experience, to be sure, and it's not one that we can hand-on-heart say is particularly good, especially if you're coming to it completely fresh in 2023. When you've got titles like Link's Awakening DX, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, and Tetris available, Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare is seemingly destined to sit unplayed for the duration of its availability on the service (which will definitely, positively be forever, of course). Nonetheless, it's unlike any of the other NSO GB(C) games on offer, and I applaud its inclusion. It's refreshing to have such easy access to a flawed curio like this. Go on, give it a try.

Have you checked out Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare on the Nintendo Switch Online service yet? What do you make of it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.