Gores Truly is femme-driven but certainly not man-hating. Occasionally, we want to give our readers a chance to contribute to the horror-fest that we all adore – including those wielding the Y-Chromosome. The following article has been Murder-Her approved. Watch out! It’s an Invasion of the Y-Chromosome!
It’s funny how things work out in the land of video games. When Alan Wake, the next major release by Finnish studio Remedy (Max Payne), debuted in 2010 as a psychological thriller 3rd person shooter, it was met with mostly positive approval by critics and actually did fairly well in sales. However, Wake got a reputation as a flop and failed to reach the expectations many had put forth on a game that spent five long years in development as well as the numerous iterations that confused people on what the actual game would be like. What Alan Wake ended up being was a fun suspenseful/action romp with survival horror elements and a style heavily influenced by the works of Stephen King and the TV shows Lost & Twin Peaks. Sadly, by the time Wake had been released into the wild it was as though it had been hit by a random van and left for dead by the side of the road.
Enter Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, an Xbox Live Arcade follow up to the original Alan Wake. Not quite a full-fledged sequel, American Nightmare strives to be a sort of gateway drug into the Alan Wake world. American Nightmare is set in the world of “Night Springs,” a sort of Twilight Zone-like alternate dimension where weird shit happens. In the context of the game lore, “Night Springs” was a television show that the character of Alan Wake worked on before he became a millionaire successful writer. Through a series of events from the original game, Wake has found himself locked in this alternate shadowy world for two years and is trying to make a desperate escape back to the real world to save those he holds dear, but a dark passenger stands in Wake’s way.
American Nightmare features characters from the original Alan Wake as well as the tangible main protagonist Alan Wake himself. However, hold onto your seats ladies and gents, I’d like to introduce you to the psycho in the room – a man by the name of Mr. Scratch. Wake describes Mr. Scratch as the malevolent half of himself made whole, he is the sum of every dark thing that Wake has said, thought, done, or that has been even falsely rumored about him. In short, a total psycho. While Wake is the Champion of Light, Mr. Scratch is the Herald of Darkness. There’s something entirely endearing and enticing about Mr. Scratch as the antagonist. Maybe it’s his American Psycho/Patrick Bateman monologues you watch on the in-game TVs throughout the story, maybe it’s the idea that all the twisted demented things he represents is really inside Wake somewhere, or maybe it’s the funky dancing he does at one point. I loved every second Mr. Scratch was on screen. The same cannot be said about every other character Wake encounters in his dusty Arizona adventure from dusk till dawn. There’s just no personality to them. Even their dialogue is strange. Generally, they are just there to serve the purpose of getting Wake to his next waypoint. Wake himself shows maturation as a character as well, reflecting and meditating on just what an ass he was and how he took his previous life for granted. The bottom line is that the two main characters get it right and it makes the game worth your time just for them alone. One more side note I’d like throw is a flash bang at is how awesome and well done the live action movie sequences are that are spliced into the game. They’re not mind-blowing on their own but they’re shot very well and perfectly fit the mood and vibe of the game. You’ll also get to see the real Alan Wake himself, Finnish actor Iikka Villi. Fun fact, before Villi was used for Wake’s likeness and on-screen portrayal, he was a writer himself.
Gameplay is basically a third-person shooting affair very reminiscent of Max Payne. You use a flashlight to burn off the darkness shields from “The Taken” (mostly human type enemies) and various firearms to dispatch your foes. In American Nightmare, Wake packs some serious firepower like an M16, Magnum, or an AA-12 looking combat shotgun. These badass guns sure are a far cry from the shotguns and hunting rifles of the original game. Still, it’s all very simple and basic, and a helpful dodge button mechanic helps you evade the baddies when all they want to do is give you a hug and knife to the throat. A big complaint from the original game was a lack of both action in the game and variety of enemy types, which American Nightmare does its best to give you more action and greater diversity in adversity.
As for the horror/suspense factor, Remedy has often stated in interviews and press releases that if the original Alan Wake was Lost meets Stephen King then American Nightmare is Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn meets Quentin Tarantino. The analogy more or less holds its own weight (I personally felt a little Evil Dead in the mix as well), but there’s still a room for some shocks. At this point it probably sounds like I have a bit of a man-crush on Mr. Scratch but even in the horror department he steals the show. In one of the many vignettes into his frenzied world, he goes over various kill tools that Dexter would be envious. Even explicitly stating a fondness for a type of folding knife and how impersonal he feels guns are when it comes to the kill. Gamers seeking a more horrific scenario might want to sojourn somewhere in Silent Hill or check out Dead Space but Night Springs is no Mayberry. The original Alan Wake was more rooted in suspense and punctuated by moments of horror. American Nightmare is much the same, just with more of an emphasis on fighting this time around than running away.
So at this point you might be asking, “Is Alan Wake’s American Nightmare for me?”. I’d say yes even if you haven’t played the original. The manuscript pages you pick up through the game help fill you in on the world of Alan Wake so you won’t feel entirely out of the loop and the game itself doesn’t take too long to get through. After the story mode, you can also get a lot of game and fun out of the “Fight Till Dawn” survival mode. Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is worthy of your 1200 ($15 USD) MS-Xbox pretend money points and I had a real blast with it. It wasn’t too long and it wasn’t too short for me, a perfect example of a focused and AAA title available on XBLA. After finishing the game I noticed this phrase at the credits roll, “Alan Wake’s journey through the night will continue.” I’d shine a light on that!
Horror has been in Alcades aka Andrew’s veins since he was 5 years old when he was kicked out of a cousin’s room for trying to watch Alien. They told him it was, “Too scary” and he was ejected into the cold vacuum of space… or maybe it was just another room. Either way, he was disappointed he didn’t get to see more of it. Books like Dracula and various other horror movies, comics, and video games further cemented his love of horror and the rest is history.
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