Alan Wake 2 has been out for over a week now, and it’s already become the topic of many a watercooler conversation here at Polygon. The long-anticipated follow-up is a top-to-bottom redesign of Remedy Entertainment’s 2010 action-horror game, introducing new puzzle and combat conceits and the parallel campaigns of protagonists Saga Anderson and Alan Wake.
One of the boldest new mechanics the game introduces is Saga’s “Mind Place,” an interactive 3D space that allows you to look over clues (in the form of photos and flash cards you acquire throughout the game) and assemble them into maps of connections on a wall called the case board. Doing so advances the story. And aside from being a novel means of immersing the player in the evolving narrative of the game’s mystery, Alan Wake 2’s case board is the latest example of the detective story trope of the so-called conspiracy board, in which a collage of media from different sources is connected by lines of red string.
The conspiracy board can be seen in multiple TV shows and movies, from True Detective and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to The Silence of the Lambs and The Usual Suspects. It was even present in 2007’s BioShock. If you’re looking for a mystery to dive into after you’re done trudging through the dark woods and even darker alternate dimensions of Alan Wake 2, you should play A Hand with Many Fingers, an investigative thriller game in which you connect the dots behind a real-life Cold War conspiracy involving the CIA. Yes, I’m being serious!
Created by David Cribb, a Canberra-based developer who makes politically focused games under the pseudonym “Colestia,” A Hand with Many Fingers places players in the role of a grad student who is sent to a CIA archive in order to conduct research for their professor. Opening a box filled with newspaper clippings, audio transcripts, and photographs, your task is to comb through the archives and literally draw connections between different key events and players in order to unravel the mystery behind the death of a prominent Australian banker. As you progress through the game, you find more and more clues that help you to untangle the web of association between a defunct merchant bank, a global drug trafficking network, and the American government. But be careful: You might not be the only person in the archive this late at night.
A Hand with Many Fingers feels like the closest video game equivalent to an interactive version of All the President’s Men. The game equips players with the tools to assemble the clues by prompting them to ask the essential questions behind any investigation: who, what, where, and why? The answer to each of these questions is color-coded across the various documents you comb through over the course of the game — these, in turn, lead you to flip through index cards in search of a new box of clues that must be retrieved from the archive’s basement.
A Hand with Many Fingers’ equivalent of the case board is far more open-ended than that in Alan Wake 2, as you yourself will draw the lines between clues as your investigation gradually balloons in scope. If you’re looking for a tense, engrossing detective game that substitutes the supernatural horror elements of Remedy Entertainment’s latest game with a riveting sense of paranoia and tension, you should definitely give this game a shot. With an average run time of around an hour and a half, it’s the perfect game to play after you’ve wrapped up Alan Wake 2.
A Hand with Many Fingers is available to purchase on Steam and Itch.io.