Alan Wake: American Nightmare

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In the desert…no one can hear you scream.

This sequel to Alan Wake has been much anticipated by me, since I was enthralled with the first game. Even though this is an XBLA title, it has all the bells and whistles of a full game. The storyline is in perfect sync with the previous game and it is quite enjoyable to play.

Back to square one

One thing I need to quickly strike down on, is that the atmosphere of the home screen is very cheesy. I don’t know if it’s the yellow colors for the menu or the “over the top” imagery of Mr. Wake standing with a nailgun. It just rubbed me the wrong way and I really didn’t anticipate the game would have the same kind of spooky atmosphere as the first game. I can tell you honestly, that the game didn’t disappoint as I thought.

The most interesting gameplay addition is (without revealing too much of the plot) that you have to play the scenarios through a number of times to get the whole picture. Plus, every time this happens, you also make a difference on the world around you. At first I thought it was a cheap ploy to get the play time to be longer, but as I progressed I could tell there was a reason for this procedure. Especially when interacting with NPC’s in the game, you get more and more of the story. This is a bold move, because some players might be deterred by the game since you’re basically replaying the game and the areas. I think they’ve done their best though, to change up the course of action so it doesn’t feel like it’s the same scenario.

The NPC’s are really well done. You feel like you’re actually making a difference for them when you interact and try to figure out what’s been done to them. Which brings me to the next point.

Mr. Scratch

Without revealing too much about this character, he’s the antagonist in the game. Through the torn manuscript pages you realize that Mr. Scratch has developed a void in the world, in which Wake is trapped. Wake is confronted with a side of himself that he has tried to forget about but it manifested itself when Wake dealt with the darkness in the first game. I feel that this is the most interesting development in the game, because it deals with a lot of interesting plot lines.

I feel the manuscript pages are better incorporated, because you got a sense of what really has happened in the aftermath of the first game. There’s a point where you realize that this is a fight you have to win because otherwise everything you hold dear will be lost forever.

You’re in my way!

I gotta be honest and say that there’s still problems with controls of the game. And if you play on the normal setting it feels like the Taken foes of Alan Wake are incredibly overpowered. It’s not a fight that can be dealt with, without a lot of running away because they surround you immediately and when hit, you’re incapacitated for a little bit. It makes it incredibly annoying when every time you’re hit by a Taken you’re stunned for a few seconds. This is a problem the first game had as well. The foes are too powerful even when you’re playing on the easiest level. This is something they will have to change for the future games if this becomes a longer series, which the ending implies.

Interestingly enough, the story line sort of trips you up as well. It’s not as engaging or fun as the first game was. With this being an XBLA game I can sort of forgive them for not going into depth with the story, and it does serve as a good appetizer to the next adventure of Mr. Wake. The good parts of the story line is the TV episodes you watch on your quest. Because they are real time movies, it gives the game an interesting twist. The designers also chose to give the climactic ending a chance, when they filmed it with real actors. It gives the game a lot more expression, because even though everyone involved with the voice acting are on par, facial expressions are best captured by actors.

Weapons arsenal

As the previous game, you have to find your means of fighting back around the place. Whether it’s a shotgun or a nail gun, the array of weapons is pretty well developed. I would’ve loved to see more ingenious weapons, as seen in the game “Condemned” where almost every part of the environment can be used. Of course, the Taken respond best to bullets, melee weapons are not a priority in this. There are more interesting things you could do that would enhance the game. For example combining weapons in the same way that “Dead Island” does. It would certainly be a talking point if the weaponry was a little more intelligent.

But what you are left with, is certainly fine enough, but there’s not much difference between the different guns for example. The only weapon that stands out amongst the others, is the nail gun. It’s pretty effective and fun to use. Worth to mention is the save points which cleverly both serve as checkpoints and healing light which is similar to the first game. Only in this they recharge over time, whereas in the first, if you’ve used one it will never work again. I still love the precipice of using light as a major factor in the game. It’s what makes it interesting and different from the rest. You’re not “just” using a flashlight to see where you’re going, you’re using it as a weapon and a means to defend yourself!

Final comments

It’s a good XBLA title, and it’s worth paying for. The story could have been better, but as I imagine they’re saving a lot of stuff for the coming sequel/s I have enjoyed playing this. It sadly didn’t bring the same suspense as the first game did. The open desert is not a place where you feel the bad guys will come out of the shadows of the trees. It’s more of a thrilling game than it is suspenseful or scary. In the end, it’s up to you if you want to play it. If you’re a fan of Alan Wake, you’ll like it a lot! If you have no idea what the story is like, I think you’ll be intrigued by the game.

Hit; The story-line might not be as suspenseful as the first game, but it certainly delivers a well enough plot to keep you interested.

Miss; The mechanics still leaves a lot to be desired.

Needed; CREEPY atmosphere, think less Little house on the prairie and more Hitchcock and suspense.

If you liked Alan Wake: American Nightmare, you might like Alan Wake and Uncharted 3.

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26, gamer and all around fun loving girl. Freelance video game reviewer and lover of everything nerdy. Currently getting a Master's Degree in Experience Design and my free moments are spent on gaming, having fun, traveling and loving life! Stay Nerd people!
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