If you're looking for a video game with a spooky vibe along the same lines as "The X-Files" or "The Twilight Zone," then look no further than Remedy Entertainment's "Alan Wake." Originally released for Xbox 360 in 2010 and released last week for PC, this survival horror adventure tells the tale of an author visiting the small town of Bright Falls, Washington in an attempt to cure his two year long writer's block. Along with his wife Alice, Wake arrives at a cabin right next to Cauldron Lake. An argument ensues soon after they settle in, and Alan goes off to clear his head. However, upon hearing screams from Alice, he races back…only to find her missing. What follows in "Alan Wake" is a bizarre story, one broken up into chapters along the same lines as "The Walking Dead" complete with event recaps and cliffhangers.
After releasing the main game and two accompanying pieces of downloadable content ("The Signal" and "The Writer") Remedy Entertainment stated it "wasn't quite done with 'Alan Wake,'" but stopped just short of announcing a sequel. However, Xbox 360 owners will be able to see Alan Wake's return this week with a completely new downloadable prequel called "American Nightmare."
Unlike the original, which had more of a Stephen King approach, the prequel takes place in a Southern town and has a slightly warm sunny glow, even though the Taken and their darkness-propelled kin are still as powerful as ever. This time, Alan finds himself trapped in an episode of a TV series known as "Night Springs," inspired by the old Rod Serling-produced "Twilight Zone." Alan finds himself struggling to figure out what's real and what's in his head -- a task returning from the "Alan Wake" -- while fending off against dark forces using his flashlight and other weapons.
Although it's a downloadable game (compared to the full retail release of the original "Alan Wake"), "American Nightmare" does have quite the story to tell and is good for a few hours of deep gameplay. To keep things interesting, Remedy has introduced new factors including a rapid firing nail gun and an enemy who actually splits in two when exposed to the flashlight's beam. Alan can also engage more deeply in conversation -- whether it's with a girl running the local garage who may (or may not) have the answers he seeks or one of the returning characters from the original game.
As the story progresses, bits and pieces of the plot fall into place between Wake's conversations with people and switching on local electronics. Flipping on a TV switch, for instance, could show bits and pieces of Wake's past. As a downloadable game, Remedy's focus for "American Nightmare" more action-oriented. To further drive the point home, once players beat the main Story Mode, Arcade Action is unlocked. This is a survival mode where you have to stay alive for ten minutes, using weapons and whatever other means necessary to avoid incoming waves of enemies.
Both the original "Alan Wake" and "American Nightmare" are inspired as most good science fiction/horror television today thanks to sharply written dialogue, plenty of "jolt" moments (the camera occasionally pans back to reveal a Taken member jumping up right behind you) and entertaining gameplay, mixing between shooting and properly using items. With the PC version selling significantly well within its first few days (it's already made back its production and advertising budget) and "American Nightmare" getting big buzz with its downloadable release this week, you can be sure that Alan's story isn't done yet.
"Alan Wake's American Nightmare" is available on Xbox Live for 1200 Microsoft points ($15). The original "Alan Wake" is available for Steam, PC and Xbox 360.