It was a short experience, as far as games go. Even more the pity given that it took four years to make, and was done in probably about 12 or so hours. Ah, but what a 12 hours it was. It will cement Bright Falls in my mind forever, I think.
From the get go, it was a game that I found myself playing rather unlike any other game I have played. It’s TV show format really had me taking it all in differently from other games. I wasn’t so much sitting down to play some more Alan Wake, I was sitting down to watch another episode. That’s ultimately how I took this on, and it felt all too natural in that format too.
And weird too. While it was part of what make the experience so unique.
In terms of the gameplay, yes, it did feel a little like I was sitting through something, rather than really playing it. It wasn’t a hard game. Some parts of it had me just wishing I could get to the next part of the plot. Because really, that’s what the action and the piecemeal puzzles felt like. Ways to keep the plot at pace.
Too often, the game felt stuck in the regular and the inevitable. Day followed by night. Night bringing the inevitable combat sequences. Not all the episodes followed this format, but it came often enough to feel predictable.
And ultimately, isn’t the games format going to be what gets it the same criticisms as Heavy Rain? That we are sitting through something with a token interaction to draw us in? Who cares. I didn’t. Yes, it felt a little that way sometimes, but the plot was capital, and ultimately drew me in, hook, line and sinker.
Other than the format, which makes me wish there were more games formatted like TV series, the plot is what kept me going. The pacing was perfect. Other than the impatience of yet another run from point A to B through a sea of Taken, this was only a complaint because I wanted to find out where the plot was going.
I loved how the episodes climaxed, and the ‘credits’ rolled. I loved the ‘previously, on Alan Wake’. I just rather wished that there was a way to smoothly save off between episodes.
Plot and format aside, I think the one thing that will forever stick with me about this game is its setting. Sure, the graphics might be a little dated, but that was nothing compared to the sense of place and the attention of detail. My only gripe is that we didn’t get enough time in the place. It was always one place to the next, and pity that we never revisited.
The diner rocked. The ride in on the ferry and just the landscape of the place rocked. The sight of the radio towers blinking away in the dark. The isolated radio studio. It really felt like a place that people lived in and visited. It felt like a place that I wanted to see myself. Again, the only lament is that we were rushed through it, and almost never came back to the same place twice.
I’m going to have to go back and listen to the probably hours worth of talk radio, and the countless episodes of Night Springs that we came across in the came.
Finally, the nods to Twin Peaks were subtle and not so. From the ‘damn fine cup of coffee’ to the Log Lady, aka, the Lamp Lady, there were so many nods in Twin Peaks direction that it make an old time fan like me smile. Realising that I was standing in pretty much exactly the same police board room that Agent Cooper had in the series was freaky in how it looked, and how it was revealed.
Although not Twin Peaks, but entirely Lynch, hearing episode one close with Candy Coated Clown was chilling.
As a survival horror, it did well enough. I found myself low on ammo, but never really truly panicking. The times that I beat a fighting withdraw, I was glad how the game handled it. It was cool that you could scramble backwards, flare held aloft, firing madly, and it still worked. The Taken would only follow so far.
So what’s next? Who knows. I can say that the last five minutes of the game raised more questions than the whole game itself. Maybe the answer is buried in the rest of the game, or maybe there are no answers (yet) to the rather cruel cliffhanger we were left with. DLC isn’t going to finish this story.
All in all, a thoroughly cool experience. One better watched, or played than read about. Part game perhaps, but entirely an experience.