Published by: Microsoft
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Play it if: You want a good, cheesy scare
Skip it if: You want multiplayer
Perhaps it’s fitting that Alan Wake’s titular character is a writer because the original game often felt like it was lost in the exposition of the story. For the Xbox Live followup though, the folks at Remedy Games have gone a completely different route — and the result is Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, a slightly beefed up and better paced adventure title than what came before it. It may not convince those who weren’t fans of the first game, but Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is pulp adventure at it’s finest, and worth a night with the lights off.
First things first, American Nightmare is not a sequel. This is not the Alan Wake 2 you’ve all been waiting for. It’s merely a continuation of the original story — it makes sense if you don’t think about it too hard. The story picks up after the original game and after it’s two DLC chapters with Alan Wake in the middle of the Arizona dessert trying to chase his evil doppleganger Mr. Scratch, who has been causing trouble and growing even more powerful. What does that mean for you? Well, a lot of flashlights and bullets for one.
The whole thing is presented as an episode of Night Springs, a Twilight Zone esque show, complete with Rod Sterling like narrator. This new style gives American Nightmare a cool, pulp style reminiscent of shows like the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. It becomes apparent through the narrations that the developers know that while their game is full of tension, it’s also a bit silly (early on in the game, you’re chased by a diner sign possessed by a poltergeist). Alan Wake’s American Nightmare strikes the right chord in between camp and thriller that keeps it interesting throughout most of it.
American Nightmare wastes almost no time getting you into the action, a definite change from the last go-round. It won’t be long after the intro movie that you’ll be taking part in the game’s trademark mechanic — weakening enemies with your flashlight and doing away with them with your weaponry. Mechanically speaking, American Nightmare is almost identical to its predecessor, but everything feels a lot tighter and more responsive this go-round. It feels a lot smoother to do everything from switching between weapons to running through open fields in fear of your life.
All of it comes together to form a surprisingly well paced tale. It may be silly at times, but Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is not to be taken lightly. It’s one of those games that’s at its best when played with the lights off, as there are times when you’re running for dear life through an open field as enemies form out of the darkness all around you. Wake gains health when staying in well light areas, and they’re few and far between during most of the game.
One of the new mechanics in American Nightmare is the ability to rewrite events so they’re different than the way Mr. Scratch originally planned them. In theory, it’s a cool idea, but in practice, it never fully reaches it’s potential. The mechanic gives you the illusion that you’ll have some sort of control over your destiny, but in reality, you’re just going to be following along with a scripted series of events that move the story on in the only direction it can.
There are other small nitpicks through the game, like a few continuity issues that pop up throughout certain sections of the game. Take one section for instance where you find an entire ring of keys to the diner, but apparently not all of them. So you’ll only be able to get into certain rooms. There are also smaller mechanical and visual issues, but they’re few and far between.
The Blast factor:Alan Wake’s second adventure is a much more focused and action driven experience than it’s predecessor, but that doesn’t mean everything has changed. American Nightmare is still chock full of what made the original so inventive to begin with. Alan Wake fans will love American Nightmare, but much like the first game, there will be plenty who just don’t get it.
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