If Alan Wake, developer of Remedy’s 2010 long gestating third person shooter, was an homage to the misty surrealism of Twin Peaks and suburban horror of Stephen King, then the follow up Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is pure B movie schlock. And all the better for it. 

After five years in development and a mixed reception, the original Alan Wake was not a huge commercial success and aside from some decent extra downloadable stories, a sequel looked unlikely. Then the idea of releasing a purely downloadable sequel was touted to Remedy and thus American Nightmare went into development.  

…doppelgangers, evil twins, time loops, giant spiders, dangerous rednecks living in the hills all make an appearance.

Set at some indeterminate time after the first game, American Nightmare relocates our gloomy eponymous hero from the damp and misty Bright Falls, Washington to the deserts of Arizona and gleefully plays with the movie clichés associated with such an area.

Playing with the idea that Wake is stuck in the Twilight Zone-esque TV series Night Springs, which he himself wrote, allows the developers so explore further the idea that reality can be warped and moulded by Wake’s use of story and metaphor. This just gives the designers an excuse for all sorts of cheesy B-movie lunacy; doppelgangers, evil twins, time loops, giant spiders, dangerous rednecks living in the hills all make an appearance. It shouldn’t work, it should be a massive mess but it’s not, and anyone with a vague interest in films like The Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Night of the Living Dead will smile at the knowing little nods to a genre that revels in the normal turned threatening.

…there’s always enough variation to make sure the revisits don’t become a laboured trudge.

The action takes place around three locations; a run down motel, an Observatory and a drive in movie lot. You revisit these several time but as this is a budget release you can’t blame the developers for reusing areas plus the story neatly explains this away, and there’s always enough variation to make sure the revisits don’t become a laboured trudge.

The sound design is once again excellent with the slight susurrations of the wind through the desert brush and the sound of distant wolves howling in the darkness enough to make you shiver.

You can see your evil doppelganger, Mr. Scratch, taunt you…

American Nightmare reuses the solid combat mechanics of the previous title. Your enemies, The Taken, are protected by a shield of darkness which you need to strip away with your boosted torch beam before you can destroy them with your gun. Wake’s arsenal gets an update with the addition of a nail gun and crossbow in keeping with the straight-to-video pulp horror it’s trying to emulate. The flare gun makes a welcome return as does the deliciously punchy shotgun.

Also making a reappearance are the collectable manuscript pages which provide information about what Wake and characters from the first game have been up to. You can see your evil doppelganger, Mr. Scratch, taunt you via watchable TVs and listen in to local radio on the sets dotted about the areas.

…the Alan Wake story better suits the bats arse crazy ideas behind this likable character…

All these are optional but fun diversions that pad out the game to around five to six hours of gameplay which considering the game costs just £10.20 is excellent value. Add to this the Arcade mode which allows the player to take on wave after wave of The Taken in a ten minute ‘fight till dawn!’ and you have additional replay value. Ultimately this shorter, punchier and, dare I say it, sillier chapter in the Alan Wake story better suits the bats arse crazy ideas behind this likable character’s story and I really hope it sells well enough to justify another instalment.

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is available on the Xbox Live arcade for 1200 Microsoft point or £10.20 in Earth coinage.     

4 Stars

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