Entertaining and memorable, American Nightmare is an XBLA title that plays and feels like a full retail release.

User Rating: 9 | Alan Wake's American Nightmare X360
Back in 2010, one of my favorite games was Alan Wake. It was a psychological thriller, centering about horror writer, Alan Wake, and his quest to find his wife Alice who disappeared during her and Alan's vacation at Bright Falls. It had a refreshing concept, and a really interesting storyline that compelled players though the entire game. 2 years later, Remedy (the creators of Max Payne) has created Alan Wake's American Nightmare. While it isn't DLC, or a sequel, American Nightmare is a Xbox Live Arcade title that seeks to keep fans entertained while we're waiting for a true sequel.

Story
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Alan Wake's American Nightmare takes place 2 years after the first game. Alan Wake is trapped in the darkness, trying to kill Mr. Scratch, an evil doppelganger who is keeping him trapped, while running around posing as him in real life. The only way Alan can escape and finally get rid of Mr. Scratch, is by rewriting reality.

The story is short and a lot simpler than the original Alan Wake. Anyone who's going into the game without playing the first game can go hunt manuscript pages which slowly, and sporadically, explains what happened prior to the game.

Beyond that though, the story is pretty entertaining. It's told like an episode of Night Springs (The Alan Wake equivalent of the Twilight Zone), and the story's pacing and atmosphere fits the concept rather well. The story is best when you're watching TV clips of Mr. Scratch, who's charming and disturbing nature makes every encounter with him memorable. The other characters however, aren't faring so well. They are a bit generic and doesn't really contribute anything special or memorable. For the most part, the writing is solid, though there are a few odd lines here and there. Despite of this, the story is a typical psychological thriller story, but it's also very refreshing and memorable.

8.5

Gameplay
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The game plays out similarly to the original Alan Wake. It's a third person action game where the only way to fight back, is with your flashlight. As in the original, the enemies you encounter are The Taken, who have to be exposed to lightning in order to be hurt. The game focuses more on action this time around, than the previous game, so while it does have a dark and almost scary atmosphere, the game rather wants you to shoot every Taken that comes at you. This also limits the exploration somewhat, though there are those manuscript pages, that I've mentioned earlier. That's all there is to the campaign though, so once it's finished, there isn't much insentive to return.

There are a few small changes though. American Nightmare thankfully address some the variation issue, and actually introduces some new enemy types. Everything from a Taken that throws grenades, to a Taken that multiplies if light is shined on them. There's also more weapons this time, with rifles and machine guns being thrown into the mix.

While the gameplay is fun, the game can feel a bit repetitive. This is mostly because the game's story demands that you retreat familiar ground and objectives more than once. This is however forgiven by the game and its characters well aware of this.

The campaign is around 5 hours long, with the only replay value being harder difficulties and hunting down manuscripts. But that's actually far from the only thing. There's also an arcade action mode, which is basically horde mode, where you survive from dusk till dawn. It's a lot of fun to play and it even has online leader boards. Unfortunately, there's no co-op in this mode, but it's only a minor complaint.

9.0

Graphics & Sound
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Alan Wake wasn't the best looking game back in 2010, and it doesn't look any better in 2012. The environments looks great and oozes of atmosphere, but the characters looks a bit odd, and the facial animation could be a lot better. Especially the other characters (outside of Alan & Mr. Scratch) appears to be given the basic graphic character designed, and then called it a day. The game also makes use live-action cut-scenes for some of the major events, as well as the TV sequences. These looks great and oozes of charm.

The voice acting is great, but like the original game, it does have a few moments of oddly delivered lines here and there. The music is pretty good, ranging from original compositions to licensed music. The production values for this game is as high as those seen in full retail games, and that's pretty damn impressive.

9.0

Overall
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The best thing that can be said about Alan Wake's American Nightmare, is that it makes you forget that you're playing an Xbox Live Arcade game. The production values in this game are so good, that you'd swear you just bought this for full price, in your local retail store. The game has a lot of content to justify the price. While we may be far from a sequel, Alan Wake's American Nightmare is an entertaining and memorable detour that's well worth the asking price.

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