The new Alan Wake title, American Nightmare, is not so much a sequel as a "stand-alone spinoff." In the first game, novelist Alan Wake narrated his attempts to locate his missing wife in a world populated by characters he created - and didn't remember creating. Alan Wake's American Nightmare sees Wake caught in an episode of "Night Springs," a Twilight Zone-style TV series that Wake wrote a few episodes for early in his career. He must battle his evil double, Mr. Scratch.
"Wake is a champion of light, while Scratch is a herald of darkness," says Ozz Hakkinen, head of franchise development at Remedy Games, the company behind Alan Wake. "Mr. Scratch is darkness shaped in Wake's image. He is the classic idea of a boogeyman; say his name too many times and you invoke him. He's a supernatural serial killer on his way to do horrible things to Wake's wife."
"Mr. Scratch has created an opening in supernatural darkness, and enemies keep pouring out," says Matias Myllyrinne, the CEO of Remedy Games. "In Wake's world, fiction can become real and he has learned to rewrite reality. It's a new kind of story puzzle."
Like the original, there is a story mode, but Ozz says it is not the main focus. "It's a cool and intriguing story. Very pulp fiction." In story mode, Ozz tells me there is about five hours of gameplay for the average user. "For fans, there is a huge amount of optional content, so they can dig further, find out more about the fiction and how it connects with the first game."
But the standout feature of Alan Wake's American Nightmare is the arcade play. After all, this is an XBLA game. Called "Fight ‘Til Dawn," the object of the game is to kill hordes of baddies and survive until dawn. "There are wilder enemies, wilder weapons, scoreboards, and tons of unlockable items," Ozz promises. If that isn't hard enough for you, there is a Nightmare mode for the hardcore players. Average players? Matias promises the difficulty is auto-tuned. "If you are not doing terribly well, the game will ease up on you a little. If you are a ninja and doing really well, it rises to the challenge. It keeps you in that sweet spot where it is rewarding but still challenging."
Alan Wake's American Nightmare is exclusive to XBLA. Expect it in the first quarter of 2012.