There is no secret that I have an affinity for survival horror games, the very short Alan Wake series is one of my favorites. However, I found out after playing the stand-alone American Nightmare, that most of my love is for the original game and its DLC. The first Alan Wake surprised all 360 owners in 2010 with its supernatural feel and overall creepiness in Bright Falls. The DLC was also amazing and really fit in well with the main game. In 2012 Remedy released American Nightmare as an Xbox Live Arcade game which I finally purchased during one of their big online sales. I’m kind of glad that I didn’t pay full price because this game left a bad taste in my mouth, not because it is a bad game per say, but due to the fact it didn’t FEEL like the original title at all.
This time around our protagonist, Alan Wake isn’t trapped in some rainy wooded party of Washington, he is trapped in Night Springs Arizona. Now let me tell you something, Arizona sucks and is a terrible place to live, just having this setting in the game made me dislike it a tad more. I’m one of those people who plays games to escape, not to have reality thrown in my face as I hold a controller. What makes this game pretty unique for the classic television nerd is the fact that it is narrated like an old Twilight Zone episode. The voice actor almost sounds exactly like Rod Serling and I loved it anytime he chimed in to let me know what was going on. In this story Alan is still hunting his doppelganger, Mr. Scratch. Both Wake and Scratch are trying to get a full signal that is coming from space, this signal could alter reality completely, hence the reason they both want it so bad. Who ever gets the entire signal basically gets to go back to Alice and live their life the way they see fit.
One thing I noticed right off the bat when I started playing this game was the fact that the graphics were just not as good as the first one. I don’t know if this is due to nostalgia on my part for the first game or the fact that this is an Arcade title. The monsters weren’t as spooky, sure Remedy beefed some of them up a bit to make them harder to kill, but I wasn’t scared. There was too much light all around and that’s what made the first game so damn suspenseful. Was I going to have enough light to get out of this pitch black forest? In American Nightmare you’re in the desert so it seemed there always some light to save your ass, and you always had ten batteries on you so there was nothing to fear. No item management to really make you ponder how to get from point A to point B, there were ammo caches all over the place. I know Arizona is the Wild West, but we keep our ammo locked up inside, no just randomly on the sides of buildings.
The controls are pulled over from the first game, which is great if you decided to play all of the games and DLC in a row. LB is dodge and run, but dodge doesn’t work all the time. There were time when I would hit LB and Alan would just stand there and watch the axe insert his chest with no reaction at all. LT is aim and burn the taken with the flashlight, RT is fire and X is reload. RB is your secondary weapon which can be a flare or a flash bang, both are very useful when taking on big enemies or groups of enemies. You can only care two main weapons and a Flare Gun, keep as much Flare Gun ammo as you can, you’ll need it near the end of the game, it’ll make it so much easier. You find most of your weapons along the way, but as you collect missing manuscript pages you can unlock cases in the world for better and more powerful weapons. I really wanted to get the combat shotgun, but I didn’t have the patience to find forty pages, I found 33 I believe and that’s pretty good for me.
I love the Alan Wake concept and the series, but American Nightmare just did not do it for me. I don’t know if it was the setting, the graphics or the fact that Alan was dressed like Beetlejuice that ruined this game for me. All I know is that I didn’t fall in love with it as I had the other game and DLC. There isn’t a lot to replay here, sure you have Arcade Mode but that is only fun for a few turns. The first Alan Wake I played about three times, and I never felt bored or that the game was a chore. With American Nightmare, even though it is maybe one third the length of the first game, I just wanted it to end so that I could knock it off my list and move onto the next title. The final act made the game a little bit more unbearable, let’s just say there is a Time Loop you have to get through, and it isn’t fun. If you are a hardcore Alan Wake fan like myself you should play this game just to say you’ve played them all, but if you’re looking for a real Alan Wake adventure, grab the first game.