We find ourselves at a special place during a special time. Night Springs, a town known for its bizarre occurrences and strange inhabitants, has suddenly sprung up in the real world. Tonight it is located in Arizona where we find our Champion of Light, Alan Wake, desperately fighting to end his nightmare. He’s been lost in the darkness for two years, and in that time much has changed. His evil half, Mr. Scratch, has grown increasingly more powerful and tonight will prove to be a final showdown between Wake and the evil that surrounds him.
Alan Wake returns in Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, the recent addition and sequel to 2009’s Alan Wake. Following where the events of the original left off, American Nightmare has the titular hero making his way through the dark place, so full of creative energies, that it has suddenly manifested itself back in the real world somewhere in the middle of Arizona as the fictional town of “Night Springs.” Wake is once again dealing with Mr. Scratch, the two of them trapped within a story of his own creation that he cannot remember (seems a little redundant, right?).
I really do not want to give away any story details, but let’s just say Alan gets to live this treacherous “night” in a variety of ways as he travels the across Arizona and the world ofNight Springs.
The game has a lot of returning features from the previous installment, including the collectibles. The neatest one of these in my opinion are the tv shows. Alan Wake included episodes of “Night Springs,” a show that Alan once wrote for and is itself an imitation of the classic The Twilight Zone. American Nightmare goes a slightly different route, using real world footage of Ilkka Villi (the actor and character model for Alan Wake) playing Mr. Scratch and doing some very sick and twisted things. It was a great way to expand upon the character of Mr. Scratch, someone who was so easily forgotten about in the last game. There are also pages to find once again, and as always these are nice finds as they often give clues about upcoming challenges or enemies. Beyond these cool pieces, it’s still a pain in the ass at times to find these things. Remedy made it a bit easier with the addition of a compass that would point out missing pages or the next objective, but it doesn’t show the other easily missable items.
Speaking of enemies – there are a slew of new ones to contend with within the game. Anything from the basic light and fast attackers to ones that split apart as you shine your light upon them. There are even creepy spiders that will emerge from the ground that proceed to chase Alan around. They’re explained in the game that now that the darkness is becoming stronger and Night Springs is located at a thin point between worlds, other creatures from the dark place are able to squeeze through and be used against Alan. There are a few in particular that are pretty dangerous, including (in Alan’s own words) the “King of the Hillbillies.”
With these new enemies, there are also a slew of new weapons to take them on with. No longer just the standard one revolver and choice between three heavy weapons; Alan now has an arsenal. There is a magnum available, a combat shotgun, and even a crossbow. Keep your eyes peeled for the rest – they have to be both unlocked and found within the game. Players can unlock them by collecting pages of the story Alan has worked on for this iteration, but finding them can be a different issue. It took me a whole playthrough before I actually found the magnum on the second run.
This new iteration also brings in some new gameplay for Alan Wake enthusiasts to enjoy after finishing the game. There is an arcade mode (think Horde Mode) where you play as Wake and try to survive against wave after wave of enemies in an effort to see the sun rise once again. During the course of your dangerous nightcap, you’re given points and with successful kills without damage, players are given combos to further boost those points. Scoring well on each map unlocks the next map(s), and there are ones that must be completed on Nightmare mode. They provide quite a challenge, especially when the enemies can be so damn silent.
As beautiful as the previous title was with its lush landscapes and beautiful lighting effects, American Nightmare does a simultaneous step forward and a step back. Graphically, the game is just as beautiful as the previous entry, if not even more. The character models and the landscape just look fantastic, even if it is just a desert. The step back occurs in the lighting effects – with the game mechanics’ heavy reliance on light and darkness, the first one more than nailed it with the lighting effects. With how this title is set up and its constant darkness, a lot of the neat lighting effects from the last game are absent. It’s a sad change, but understandable when going from a disc-based release to a downloadable title.
Overall the game was an awesome return to the Alan Wake universe. Unlike its predecessor, this game cuts out some of the neater aspects to make a much more scaled down, yet still solid experience. I highly recommend it to be people who want to simultaneously enjoy a good story and some good gameplay. And for those who really enjoyed the last game, this one will be perfect. There is even a brand new Poets of the Fall song for the game that is pretty epic and an awesome addition. It was more than a lake of possibilities, for this ocean of darkness still holds so much more.
Note: The Alan Wake’s American Nightmare review was written based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.