My favorite game on Gamecube, and my second favorite game of all time (next to Mario 64), Eternal Darkness really got everything right.
The opening scene really sets the tone for the entire game. "Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering... fearing... doubting..", which is a haunting quote by Edgar Allen Poe. That's one of the small things you begin to appreciate later in the game. Now, on to the story. The story is absolutely mind blowing. It may take quite a while to understand it, but once you do, you'll be hooked. It starts off with Alexandra Roivas (main character) who gets a call from the local police that her grandfather, Edward, has been murdered. When she gets there to identify the body, she finds he's nothing but an incinerated corpse. You may notice something strange about the detective after your first playthrough. The detectives are really no help, so Alex decides to search Edward's mansion for an answer to her grandfather's death. She soon finds the book "The Eternal Darkness" made of nothing but flesh and bone. She finds that her grandfather was into some downright weird things. The book tells the story of several people; however, she must search the mansion for the hidden chapters to the book. Then the story really takes off; however I will not spoil anything. I'll just say that it continues to get better until the thrilling climax of the game. The mansion has great atmosphere. Very spooky.
Gameplay. Nothing can make or break a game like gameplay. It is more than likely, the most important aspect of any game. Eternal Darkness delivers this in a big way. The game has variety. You play from the perspective of 12 different people, including the hero and villain. It is, by definition, an action/adventure game. Combat, which is always fun, is a thrill. You target specific body parts to kill a zombie or whatever you may be fighting. You may chop off a zombie's head, but he's still alive. Playing with Alex (in between chapters) you get a nice dose of exploration as you delve deeper and deeper into the mansion. Then comes the sanity effects, one of the most talked about aspects of the game. It can be explained like this: you have a sanity meter, and when your sanity meter gets low, crazy things start happening. You may find your GC mysteriously turning off, or the color, contrast, etc. on your TV rapidly going up or down. You may see a cutscene of your Eternal Darkness save file being deleted, or walk into a room where you are the size of an ant. Very freaky stuff. The sanity effects are not a gimmick, as many would have you believe. They end after only a few seconds and do not detract from gameplay. They are merely a way to surprise you. The magic system in Eternal Darkness is also really cool. It is definitely one of my favorite things about the game. You'll use different "elements" to create different spells. Spells include healing, reveal invisible, shield, etc. It is certainly a wonderful addition to the game.
Replay value. This is an aspect of many games that can be overlooked, but not in Eternal Darkness. In the beginning you play a short level with Pious Augustus, the soon to be villain. You get to the end of the level and there are 3 different stones you can pick up: Blue, Red, Green. Each path differs from the other one. For each path, there are different enemies, and the story is somewhat different. Which one you choose is completely up to you; however, I must urge you to beat all 3, because there is a secret ending that is only unlocked when all 3 paths are completed. And let me tell you, it is definitely worth it.
The controls are spot on. The Gamecube controller is perfect for playing this. There's really not much else to say about it other than you'll pick up on it in no time. Also, the camera is definitely a good one. Usually the only time a camera is discussed in a review is to criticize it, however I think Silicon Knights did a fantastic job with this one.
All in all, this game was definitely one of the most underappreciated games on Gamecube. It sold meagerly, and I can't think of another game that deserves good sales numbers more than Eternal Darkness. It can be found most places for $15-$20 new; however, it was worth the $50 I paid for it the day it came out. Please, do yourself a favor and play this magnificent game.