A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Alan Wake is a supernatural-themed action-adventure game. Players will face human characters possessed by dark forces and fight them off with a combination of light sources and various firearms. Although the enemies disintegrate after being defeated, parents should still understand that players will be shooting realistic weapons at humanlike creatures. The game's characters make occasional use of profanity, with some also shown smoking and drinking. Product placement is integrated throughout the game, advertising things such as Energizer batteries and Verizon Wireless services.
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What's it about?
In ALAN WAKE, the main character is a talented, best-selling author whose success has come with a price. After letting his success go to his head, alienating his friends and his wife, Wake is now suffering from writer's block. In an effort to help Alan reconnect with his creativity, his wife books a getaway to the small town of Bright Falls. But Bright Falls is not as peaceful as it seems. Just beneath its quaint and quirky facade, a dark presence is growing, looking to spread its evil influence -- and it wants to use Alan Wake to do so. To save his wife and the world, Wake must rewrite his story, fighting against the dark forces affecting the world around him and confronting his own darkness within.
Is it any good?
If you're going to cast a writer as the main character in a video game, you'd better make sure that the story is at least as compelling as anything he might create; thankfully, this adventure crafts an engaging plot that keeps the player on the edge of his seat. One of the more unique ways Alan Wake grabs hold of the playe''s attention is in its episodic construction. Each chapter is presented as if it's an episode of a TV show, complete with chapter credits and "Previously On" opening highlights. This narrative framing gives the player a constant sense of accomplishment after completing each chapter, while also dropping regular cliffhanger bread crumbs that keep the player eager to discover what happens next.
Ironically, the best things about the game also works against it, and, because the rest of the game is so thematically good, it's an extremely jarring experience when it falters. For example, there are two collectibles that players search for in the game: manuscript pages and coffee thermoses. The first actually makes sense in the context of the game's story, and each page gives insight not only into Alan Wake's past but also a glimpse into future events in the plot. Those coffee thermoses, though, serve no purpose whatsoever, other than to give completists something to look for. But this pulls the player out of the narrative completely. And since the story is a straightforward narrative, once it's over, it's over. Much like a really good book or a great movie, once you see it through to the end, you'll probably only go back from time to time to relive the experience, even though the surprises have lost their edge.
Talk to your kids about ...
Talk about violence in media. Does it change the impact of violence when realistic weapons are used against supernatural enemies vs. regular humans? Does it lessen that impact when enemies simply dissolve and fade away versus having a more realistic death?
Families can talk about finding ways to use creativity and imagination. Alan Wake's titular hero found success as a best-selling author, but who are some real-life authors you admire, and what makes their stories so compelling?
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