How does a developer follow up a game like 2023’s Alan Wake 2? How do you follow a survival horror game steeped in meta-textual commentary on art and its own troubled road to release, with incredibly bold themes and genre-bending moments that earned it several major game awards? If you are developer Remedy, then you do a complete 180, which is what Night Springs, a Twilight Zone parody of three anthology stories loosely tied to the base game and the first of two pieces of DLC for Alan Wake 2, is. And it’s an absolute joy. Even when a story falls flat, Night Springs is a great argument for studios to make shorter, but still high-quality, experiences at the AAA level.

I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of Night Springs when it was first announced. The three anthology episodes the DLC contains are essentially non-canon to the rest of the Remedy Connected Universe (which includes both Alan Wake games and 2019’s Control), and even though it stars familiar characters from the base game it doesn’t really continue or elaborate on their stories. After the tour de force that was Alan Wake 2 (my favorite game of 2023) I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of diving back into something that doesn’t advance that story. And I wasn’t entirely wrong. By and large Night Springs doesn’t build on the base game’s narrative threads (with one major exception that I’ll get to) but I was wrong in assuming that such an approach would be boring. Night Springs is a much-needed breather from the weighty base game, a perfect palette cleanser.

A pink-clad waitress walks through a street under a banner that reads "1 Waitress + 1 Writer = 4Ever"

Image: Remedy Entertainment

That is best exemplified by the DLC’s first chapter “Number One Fan,” which follows the Oh Deer Diner’s waitress Rose. Of course, in the context of the in-game show Night Springs, this isn’t exactly Rose, rather she is just The Waitress. After doing the rounds at her diner, during which she pours coffee, serves her award-winning pie, and offers tough but fair life advice to strangers, she makes contact with The Writer, with whom she is romantically involved. She needs to save him from his evil twin, The Writer informs her via talking fish wall decoration, so she picks up an automatic shotgun and sets out. The Waitresses’ attitude is filled with outlandish pep that you can’t help but laugh at, and this absurdity extends to all corners of the DLC—even its loading screens, which will change based on what episode you are playing. In “Number One Fan,” the loading screens promise you that with the power of love, anything is possible! That, mixed with the literal rose-tinted hue of the world around you are a stark contrast to the dark and gritty base game. The fully automatic shotgun only adds to the absurdist vibes, as it makes all combat so trivial but also laughably gory. Remedy is telling you that this shouldn’t be as hard or stressful as the base game. Have fun! Fight the guy who turns into a wolf and rides a motorcycle (that also turns into a wolf). Before you know it the 30-45 minute experience is over.

All of Night Springs episodes have a similarly short runtime—the entire thing can be beaten in one brisk evening if you want. They all still have the same high-production value as the base game but take a fraction of the time. It’s another signal from Remedy that these are just supposed to be small, fun adventures to tackle at your leisure. It makes me wish more AAA games would make smaller experiences that looked and played this good.

Jesse Faden walks towards a coffee warehouse and looks at a sign that reads "join us, make the world coffee"

Image: Remedy Entertainment

While “Number One Fan” swings far away from Alan Wake 2 in its tone, the second episode hews closer to the base game, to its detriment. “North Star” puts players in the shoes of Control’s Jesse Faden, or rather a character called The Sibling who looks like her. She’s hunting down a coffee cult in the base game’s Coffee World map. The Sibling lacks any of the powers her Control look-alike wields and instead uses an automatic pistol and a flashlight. The gameplay loop here is fairly similar to the base game, as is the horror-tinged tone. Because of this, “North Star ‘’ is pretty forgettable, but mercifully short—I only had to play for about half an hour before credits rolled and the DLC’s sick theme song played.

The final episode of Night Springs is called “Time Breaker” and it is some of Remedy’s best work. It follows the base game’s Sheriff Tim Breaker, but as you might suspect by now it isn’t really Tim Breaker. Though Time Breaker is even more complex than the first two episodes of Night Springs. This isn’t a version of Tim Breaker, rather this is a version of Shawn Ashmore, the actor who portrays the character, aptly called The Actor in the episode’s credits. The episode begins on a film set with The Actor discussing the concept of the multiverse with The Director (Remedy’s creative director Sam Lake hamming it up as a cartoonish version of himself). Before long, The Actor finds himself traveling through alternate dimensions just like the character he’s portraying on film.

Tim Breaker sits inside a comic panel with a thought box that reads "something was different"

Image: Remedy Entertainment

“Time Breaker” starts closer to Alan Wake 2 in visual presentation but soon, through that aforementioned dimension hopping, the episode turns into a shifting prism of game genres. While Alan Wake 2 isn’t afraid to shift mediums and bend genres, it mostly played with the uncanny valley between reality and fiction by swapping between gameplay and live-action sequences. In “Time Breaker” Remedy explores the multitude of forms games have taken over the years, turning the AAA third-person game into, at times, a retro 2D side-scroller, an interactive comic book, and even a text adventure. The best compliment I can give “Time Breaker” is that it reminded me of Yoko Taro’s games (I say this as a massive Yoko Taro sicko, I played NieR: Reincarnation). But more than just a chance for Remedy to try something fresh, “Time Breaker” gives lore hounds something to chew on. The entirety of Night Springs is hosted by the base game’s mysterious Mr. Door, and the final episode digs deep into the character. While we can’t quite tell what is or isn’t true about what the episode reveals about him, it plays within the bigger RCU in ways the rest of the expansion doesn’t to great success. “Time Breaker” only leaves the audience wanting more.

Thankfully more is coming. Lake House will be the second piece of DLC coming to the game this October and looks to pick up the threads of Alan Wake 2 more directly while also likely leading into Control 2. Lake House’s more serious tone furthers the notion that Night Springs is meant to act as a break for the player, a chance to do something different and fun before getting back into the main event. Even with Lake House on the horizon, I think I’m already itching to go back to Night Springs.


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