Monday, April 30, 2012

Alan Wake's American Nightmare review


    Alan Wake was a game which didn't require a sequel. Its DLCs, however, provided enough story hooks  there's ample room to expand the franchise. American Nightmare isn't a sequel, per se, but a side-story like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or Portrait of Ruin. It's unimportant to the larger narrative but deals with a minor villain from the original game and sets things up for the actual sequel.

    American Nightmare is set in the town of Night Springs, a Arizona town which shares its name with a fictional Twilight Zone-esque show in the Alan Wake universe. Alan, fresh from the events of the first game, is chasing after his homicidal doppleganger, Mister Scratch.

    There's not much else to the plot, though there's some interesting twists and turns. Because this is a Xbox Live Arcade game as opposed to a full release, it's fairly short and can be completed in a single evening. This is consistent with the game's price and I consider my money well spent.

    The first game deliberately invoked Stephen King, showing the protagonist's sense of reality breaking down as things grew progressively stranger. American Nightmare is closer to Rod Sterling's work and makes repeated nods to the Twilight Zone.

    The difference between these two styles is considerable and those expecting a game exactly like Alan Wake will feel something is off. Stephen King's work is surreal and otherworldly while Rod Sterling's work is grounded in an off-kilter but recognizable 1950s American morality.

    The game's facial graphics are a huge  improvement over the original. American Nightmare has character who almost look real and I hope the sequel's graphics are just as good. For those who are slightly piggish like me, the three main female characters are very attractive. For the opposite gender's tastes, the protagonist looks very good. The game even makes reference to his beautiful face during one of the game's songs.

    The game's enemies aren't quite as enjoyable as the original. I missed the ravens and the hillbilly giants are nowhere near as interesting as the regular Taken. Still, I had no complaints about the combat and the addition of machine guns sped up the gameplay tremendously. On two occasion, the music during combat switches to Poets of the Fall songs, "Balance Slays the Demon" and "The Happy Song."

    Which has no complaints from me.

    The best part of the game is undoubtedly Ilkka Villi's performance as Mister Scratch. While his portrayal of Alan Wake is excellent, it's blown away by his psycho double. Mister Scratch is pure evil and does his murders for fun but that doesn't keep him from being likeable. You don't have to be a three-dimensional character to be enjoyable and the fact Mister Scratch was made from Alan Wake's 
imagination justifies his cartoonish levels of evil.




     In conclusion, this is a great game and I heartily recommend it.

8/10

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