Last week, Microsoft courteously sent me a copy of the Xbox 360 game Alan Wake, which I’ve had a vested interest in ever since the golden days when I used to write about such products. The game, developed by the Finnish powerhouse Remedy, took over five years to finish, and draws its inspiration from sources like Stephen King, Lost, Twin Peaks and innumerable other beacons of popular culture.
The story sees its titular hero, who is a thriller writer, take a trip to the very Twin Peaks-like town of Bright Falls with his wife, Alice. His mind ruptured by writer’s block, his wife soon reveals that she actually brought him to Bright Falls to help him beat it, something that Alan reacts badly to. He walks out on her, but she soon vanishes – meanwhile, Alan’s written work is coming to life around him, and the citizens of Bright Falls are soon revealed to be an untrustworthy bunch beneath the seemingly idyllic veneer.
Playing Alan Wake will be a bit of a headrush for Twin Peaks fans. The story doesn’t take itself too seriously, with OTT dialogue and blatant movie references dropped constantly with tongue firmly in cheek. I find this side of the game enriching, however – it even has in-game TV shows that players watch within the experience, including a wonderful Twilight Zone parody called Night Springs, which recreates the atmosphere of its source material with more than a hint of irony.
The best touch, however, is its episodic structure. Each episode of Alan Wake lasts for about an hour or two, but always ends with a cliffhanger and begins with a ‘Previously on Alan Wake’ montage. I think genre fans will get a lot out of it – I certainly have.
Alan Wake is released on Friday.