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General Description

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is a third-person action game developed by Remedy Entertainment and released for Xbox Live Arcade in March 2012. It is a sort of side-story to 2011’s original Alan Wake. It finds novelist Alan in a strange nightmare world, where a dark version of himself is threatening to eliminate Alan while using dark powers to terrorize a group of people in a sparsely populated, dream-town. Alan works to erase the darkness from a handful of landmarks, and finds himself repeating the same few days in order to discover the truth about his doppleganger.


The game’s mechanics revolve around combat. At its heart it’s a straightforward, over-the-shoulder shooter. Players use shotguns, pistols and flares to defeat enemies, and the central gimmick is that the enemies attack shrouded in a shield of darkness; Alan has to blast them with a flashlight for a few seconds to make them vulnerable.


The game’s biggest educational strength is in problem solving. The combat mechanics are simple but they each have a distinct strategic weight when players begin handling multiple enemies at once.

Grade by Game Type Overall Grade
D+ D+
Ratings at a Glance
Creativity: 5 Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Business: 0 Developer: Remedy Entertainment
People: 0 Year: 2012
Problem: 4 Genre: 3rd & 1st Person Shooter/Action
Simulation: 0 Strengths: popularity, creativity, problem
Popularity: 8 Platforms: Xbox Live
Extra: 0  
Rating Details

Classroom Facts


American Nightmare doesn’t focus on classroom facts.


Creativity & Imagination


By the Player:


Players are rewarded for exploring the game’s three main areas, each of which contains hidden manuscript pages, which can unlock powerful weapons for Alan. This is particularly interesting as players revisit each area during each of the plot’s cycles, with new areas becoming accessible each time.


Players also have room to experiment in combat, where the exact choice of weapons and items affects the flow of battle directly.


By the Developer:


American Nightmare follows a story set outside of the original game, and it makes the decision to focus a little more on action. The vague survival-horror feeling of the original is still around, but it’s buried underneath a more arcade-style experience. The combat mechanics are solid if not revolutionary, and the handful of more creative ideas all prove to be significant.


That said, the story does assert itself through the game’s structure. Alan finds himself getting sucked back into the beginning of the story every time he reaches the end, and his ultimate goal is to work with the game’s cast to figure a way to break out of it. Alan solves the same problems repeatedly, but can skip more steps each time as he and the other characters collect new clues during each cycle.


The soundtrack makes a couple unique choices, and the cutscenes in particular - most of which are live-action, and several of which focus on the game’s menacing villain as he dances around in TV screens - lend the game a distinct style.


Business Skills


Business skills are not a factor, outside of conservation of ammo during combat.


People Skills


American Nightmare is a single-player title. Chunks of the game’s plot focus on helping people, but players don’t have any direct control on the interactions between Alan and the various tonwspeople found in the game.


Problem Solving


American Nightmare is an action game, but the action moves at a deliberate pace. The challenge is usually managing various types of ammunition while handling multiple enemy types. Players need to use their flashlight beams to stun enemies before firing their weapons, and the flashlight’s battery needs to either be recharged or fed manually after only a few seconds. Between the flashlight battery and the weapons’ reload times, even a small group of enemies becomes a test of multitasking and crowd control.


There are some light puzzle ideas floating around the game too, though they mostly involve collecting items whose locations are spelled out and act more as instruments to move the plot forward than anything else.


There is also an arcade mode, which sticks Alan in various arenas and challenges him to survive for a certain amount of time against waves of foes. Its pretty tightly constructed, and a combo-based high score counter makes playing well pretty rewarding.




Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is not a simulation game.




American Nightmare was fairly well received. Many reviews praised it particularly for its high production values, more on par with full retail games than with the typically smaller Xbox Live titles. Its tightened focus on action and its dark story were also praised.


Controls & Options

Standard options are available. More difficult levels of the arcade mode are unlocked as players reach certain high score marks.




Alan Wake’s American Nightmare was rated Teen by the ESRB with descriptors for Suggestive Themes, Violence, Blood and Language.