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A Retro Review...Kinda

Hola Game Fans, Old Friends, and hopefully Newcomers! My apologies for being MIA for so long. There is no excuse, though I will say that between RP guild drama-don't ask; I probably will write some kind of article about it soon anyway-and actually being productive on my art and fiction writing front, I have been a bit tied up to say the least. However, though I have several reviews/articles unfinished, I decided as I was finishing this game, (see picture above) that I would start back up my writings on here with this interesting game I recently snagged through a Humble Bundle special that gave me both Alan Wake and Alan Wake: American Nightmare. I must say, this game was quite intriguing, and I am still processing all I experienced.

Because honestly, that is what it was, an experience. If I personally, were to throw this in a game genre though that would definitely not be easy. My best stab would be some mix of adventure, survival horror, with a touch of action along with a little bit of the feel Quantic Dream's games like Heavy Rain give you.


For my review, going to start with some technical things. For a four-year-old game, the graphics are decent, cutscenes look good and run smoothly for the most part. However, something that I don't think I will ever understand-though I know I'm no developer or anything-is how a game from 2005 can nail lip syncing and mouth movement perfectly in game while other games made much later, this one for example, does quite a mediocre job even in its cutscenes. The character models even looked not incredibly impressive, though again, I have to remember it was 2010 and I was playing a PC port from an original Xbox 360. The gameplay was solid though, and smooth; everything responded well and timely, the camera angles and shots were very complimentary to adding suspense and the element of surprise when an enemy would attack from either behind or the side. Basically it followed the Resident Evil 4 behind the shoulder approach, matching the story quite well. Also, the game did utilize light reflections and shadows quite nicely, as the game centered around the theme of Light and Darkness.

Now, for the story. I have to say I really have not played anything quite like Alan Wake. Sure, I've played Adventure games in the spirit of The Longest Journey and Syberia where the more you discover the more of the story and world you uncover. I have also played Survival Horror of the likes of Resident Evil-Resident Evil 4 especially-where the game's setting and lighting put you always on edge as enemies can appear any time out of nowhere. But they seemed to mesh these elements along with an Inception sort of feel; a dream within a dream, a story within a story where elements of plot are disjointedly thrown at you in pieces-they come in the form of collected Manuscript Pages.


You play as the protagonist, Alan Wake, a once super successful writer who goes on vacation to a remote town in the mountains from the urging of his wife after a two-year dry spell and dealing with personal issues. I know what those of you who have not played the game might be thinking, "Oh! How cliche for a Thriller/Horror game can you get? A small town in the mountains where a Thriller writer goes and bad stuff happens! Come on!" The greatest part about it, though, is that the writer of this game knows that, and exploits it, even makes fun of it during your playthrough, while quite cleverly weaving a tale/book/story, what have you, that you personally experience along with Wake, each episode sometimes throwing you into two-year-old flashbacks while also utilizing pretty much everything in that small town as an interactive story device, from radios you find in random places that play clips of one of the NPC character's radio shows to old TV's that will either flash on themselves showing a scene of yourself doing something your character at the time doesn't remember or you turn it on to a fictitious "Twilight Zone" type show that you want to pay attention to because there is always something in there that gives you some clue, some element that either helps you understand the story better, or even helps you figure something out in the game itself.


When all is said and done, in brilliant thriller fashion, I was left scratching my head trying to make sense of it all. Also, since it is part adventure game, you have to find all the manuscript pages, some of which demand extra exploring along detours, and at night, this becomes problematic as of course walking around in the darkness isn't safe, and also a few of the pages can only be found playing Nightmare Difficulty Mode. Though, I must, say, I would play it again just for the experience and to better understand what.just.happened!


Overall, since I tend not to give number ratings myself-I try to let my writing itself give you a good idea as to where each game would fall on any particular scale, I will say that I enjoyed Alan Wake thoroughly, feeling like it was just the right length to keep me engaged, wanting to continue to play with a sort of obsession to discover what the crap was going on and how Wake would figure it all out. The blend of his own thought narration-this can be toggled on or off-and the game's music as well as the music played from the radios you find and the particular chosen songs that accompany the Episode End screens add an extra touch of immersion that continue to further prove my point that Video Games can be and are a form of Literature in their own right. Now, please, I'd love to hear your all's thoughts, from those who have and have not played the game.

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