There’s a sense of constant foreboding in Alan Wake

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      Alan Wake (Microsoft; Xbox 360; rated teen)

      If nothing else, the developers at Remedy Entertainment are experts at establishing mood and setting. In Alan Wake, there’s a sense of constant foreboding. Even the beautifully rendered sunset over a mountain lake that occurs early in the game is ominous. Light permeates every aspect of Alan Wake: it’s the atmosphere, it’s a gameplay mechanic, it’s a plot device, it’s a metaphor.

      The title character is a novelist troubled by nightmares and writer’s block. He and his wife have travelled to the small Pacific Northwest town of Bright Falls for a holiday. The fictitious place is suitably quaint and isolated, and borrows heavily from Twin Peaks. (There’s even an eccentric Lamp Lady.)

      As Wake progresses through the story, trying to illuminate the various types of darkness, he finds pages from a manuscript he doesn’t remember writing. The events of that story seem to be coming true, so reading the pages can give you hints as to the dangers ahead.

      But if there was ever an example of an unreliable narrator, it’s Wake. You’re never sure what’s a dream, what’s a hallucination, and what’s reality.

      Structured like a TV series—right down to the previous-episode recaps—the game tells a perfectly eerie story, but not much is expected of the player. You’ll run through the levels, getting startled by things that jump out of the shadows and pointing your flashlight at enemies to destroy them. It all gets a bit tedious after a while.

      Despite that, though, Alan Wake is an achievement in storytelling.

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