PAX 2014: Atari Comes Out Swinging

This year Atari brought a number of games to PAX Prime, all of which seem to not only be a lot of fun but also have a lot of potential.

Alone in the Dark: Illumination's atmosphere is amazing, and the monsters are certainly creepy!
Alone in the Dark: Illumination’s atmosphere is amazing, and the monsters are certainly creepy!

First on the roster was Alone in the Dark: Illumination produced by Pure FPS. The game, as one of the developers put it, is a “survival action game with emphasis on the action”. The idea behind the game, in addition to solving objectives, is that you will constantly be facing down enemies that can only be damaged when they are in some sort of light. If they are in the darkness or shadows, they’re invulnerable. You’ll probably survive, as you’ll have plenty of places to find light sources; or, if you play the Hunter, you’ll have a flamethrower which is both a weapon and a light source. However, since the enemies are creatures of the darkness, they can absorb light sources: you can’t just sit and camp on the same light source forever. Each map is generated randomly, so memorizing the path you took during your first play through won’t prove very helpful. A lot of combat seems either to be stunning the monsters so you can run past them, or pulling them into the light so you can take them out with your normal weapons.

There are multiple characters to choose from – the Witch, the Priest, the Engineer, and the Hunter – and each play-through will net you around three and a half hours on one difficulty setting in the single player mode. In co-op, each person could play different characters or all the same. You could all play Witches if you wanted to. Many of the monsters are inspired by the H.P. Lovecraft stories, and they tried to take the series back to the original Alone in the Dark from 1992. The game seems difficult and challenging, but thankfully Alone in the Dark: Illumination doesn’t punish you with perma-death. If you do die, you simply start that level over again and keep plowing forward. As someone who never played the old Alone in the Dark, and is only familiar with the 2008 version and the movie, it was interesting to see the new game in development and how it differed so drastically from what I had come to expect. If you like zombie type end of the world shooters, you should definitely keep your eye on this one! Alone in the Dark: Illumination is expected to release around the third week of November.

Mascots that actually MEAN something! Look at those rides!
Mascots that actually MEAN something! Look at those rides!

RollerCoaster Tycoon World – in development from Pipeworks – is another game they were highlighting at PAX this year, and the game is currently only in pre-alpha stages. As someone who loves simulation style games, I’m very excited about this one. There are large plots connected by a giant monorail so you can build a park by yourself, or you could enter co-op mode to work together to build the best park that you can. Online and offline play will be available from day one, and you won’t be punished for playing offline. Remember, though, that if you’re offline, you can’t play with other people or visit their parks. A new thing they’ve introduced in this iteration of RollerCoaster Tycoon is the idea of blueprints. If you are visiting a park and you see a coaster that someone has built that you absolutely love, you can click to download a blueprint of that coaster so you can build it back at your own park. Don’t worry if you don’t have enough money for all the parts: that blueprint will stay in your inventory as long as you want it to. Once you build the coaster, you can continue to edit it to bring it up to the design you want. Instead of only having set pieces you can snap into place, now you have the ability to grab your track and drag it as far as you want, or twist it into whatever shape your heart desires. Your imagination seems to be the only limit when it comes to building coasters now. In addition to that, there are now four landscapes to choose from – forest, canyon, adventure and sci-fi – and each one actually plays into the various themes.

The development team has tried hard to make enough of everything so that each theme could stand on its own if you want to. If you want to build an entirely sci-fi themed park of the future, you can do that without crippling your park. Each ride and shop has sounds and animations unique to them. For example, the sushi shop has a giant chef’s knife cutting a slab of tuna on the roof and it makes a slicing noise when it does. They have also created stories and background for all the mascots in each theme and you can see the love of the characters carried through in the game. There are rides based on famous movies they were in, and the souvenir shop will sell balloons and shirts with the characters faces on them. There are decorations that also tie in your mascots to make them seem more real and three dimensional, and you’ll find everything from statues to their likenesses front and center on some rides. The music in RollerCoaster Tycoon World is brilliantly composed so far, and it certainly gives you that deep down major theme park feeling. The “peeps” — the people who wander your park — are also getting an upgrade in this game. Not only are they more expressive than their blocky counterparts, but they shift fluidly from one emotional state to another as they wander your park. The little details in the shops are wonderful too, from the roof decorations to being able to see the people manning your stands. It’s clear that the new RollerCoaster Tycoon World is a labor of love from its development team and I can’t wait to see where it’s headed. I know it’s one I’m definitely going to be picking up! Expected release is early 2015.

Concept art for the Haunted House showing the killer (perhaps literally?) maze!
Concept art for the Haunted House showing the killer (perhaps literally?) maze!

Lastly I got to see the new version of Atari’s game Haunted House, in development from Dreampainters. This version of Haunted House is best described as a puzzle, exploration and adventure game with a familiar beginning. You play as the protagonist Anya Graves who has just inherited a house from her deceased relative, but the one caveat to actually inheriting the house is that she must spend one night inside it. Though you have a friend there who is a paranormal investigator, Anya is special in her own right. Anya has the unique ability of second sight that allows her to see things into the supernatural that normally would be invisible to anyone else. There’s a lot of emphasis on exploring the manor through visual clues and hidden secrets to find out why the manor is haunted and scary.

Haunted House is not a combat game; instead, the focus is on avoiding combat, finding ways to make creatures run away, or hiding. It reminds me a lot of the old Myst games, but unlike Myst, you won’t spend six hours doing absolutely nothing and wondering how to start over. There is also an interesting crafting system that allows you to make new spells from things you find in various places throughout the manor, but again they’re not combat spells. The one I saw crafted was called Luminous: it’s a simple light spell that you could use later to scare away creatures that may chase you. When going from full light to darkness, the screen takes a few seconds to adjust which is a small detail that really helps the immersion of the game. As you progress through the game you aren’t stuck just inside the house, you also get to explore the maze, crypt and cemetery that are on the grounds as well. As someone who’s always hungry for more puzzle oriented games, this is another one on my list to get. If you want a game that will challenge your mind more than your twitch reflexes, I highly recommend you check this one out. Haunted House is expected to be available in October 2014.

Overall, I was very impressed with Atari’s PAX Prime showcase and I’m excited to see what the future holds for them. What do you think of what Atari has to offer? Are you excited about any of the games mentioned? Let us know what you think below!

Gwynn Hamilton

Gwynn lives in Beaverton, Oregon under the keen scrutiny of 3 cats with no hope of escape. Her mother handed her a controller before she could read and she never once looked back.

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