Alan Wake’s nightmare continues – and this time it’s American.
The successful action adventure from Remedy Entertainment has sidestepped a sequel, instead offering a more bite-sized episode in the form of the downloadable Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, available on XBLA as part of the House Party promotion. The best selling thriller novelist Alan Wake returns, trapped in an episode of “Night Springs”, a Twilight Zone style show that just so happens to have been written by him earlier in his career.
The game is set in a desolate Arizona setting, gone are the creepy forests of the original title, with only a handful of locations to visit more than once throughout the story. As the player begins, the neon sign of the Desert Shore motel and a petrol station are visible, providing light and, as anyone who played the original game will know, safety from the dark and the evil which is trying to stop him. The evil is provided by the wonderfully entertaining Mr. Scratch, a dark alternative Alan who is intent on taking over Alan’s life. This menacing character is built upon through FMVs which can be watched on the televisions that are found throughout the game.
The gameplay is more or less the same this time around, with perhaps a bit more emphasis on action and a little less suspense. Armed with his torch and whatever weapon he happens to be carrying, Alan will be confronted by “Taken”, townsfolk possessed by the darkness, and will have to shine the torch on them first in order to make them vulnerable to physical harm. There are a few new enemies to deal with, including shadowy spiders, a “Taken” whose exposure to light results in him replicating, rather than becoming vulnerable and even one who throws grenades towards Alan.
To compliment the more action-based gameplay, weapons and ammunition are more readily available, with a nice selection of weapons that can be found. The more impressive weapons need to be collected from special weapon drops that are unlocked by finding glowing manuscript pages, which also serve to fill in the events between the last game and this one.
Once you have finished the main story, which will likely take around five hours, you can try your hand at the Fight ‘Til Dawn arcade mode, where you will have to survive against wave after wave of ever increasingly powerful enemies until the sun comes up. With even more emphasis on the action side of Alan Wake gameplay, this mode is quite enjoyable, but the single-player nature leaves what is usually co-op fun in most games, feeling rather lonely. It is a nice addition to the core game, but will only ever be a short-lived distraction.
Visually, the barren and deserted environment looks great at first glance. But a closer inspection will see objects looking faded and textures looking unnatural, likely due to the constraints of being a downloadable arcade title. This is not to say that American Nightmare looks bad, it just isn’t as polished as the original game.
And the size constraints of being an arcade title are likely responsible for the lack of exploration available. Whilst the first game was much more open, this time around, with only three main locations to visit, things feel much more limited. Frustrating, but something that can be forgiven for an arcade title.
The tone and setting for Alan Wake’s American Nightmare feels a lot more light hearted than the original game, with the “psychological thriller” aspect being replaced by pure, simple action, which may have been one of the weaker points of Alan Wake. It is a solid arcade title, and one which builds on Alan’s story, making it an essential purchase for Alan Wake fans and a game that should be considered by anyone who enjoys third-person action.