Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Your spine shakes with chills as your heart begins to race. Your mind wanders with the fear of the unknown, and just when you think you were safe from whatever hunts you, you feel it’s grip across your throat. It’s almost Halloween, and you know what that means, a series of reviews on some of the scariest horror themed games out there today! Welcome to my 13 days of horror reviews, where we honor the creepy, the kooky, the mysterious and spooky side of video games, both past and present. Today, we look at Nightmare Creatures.
While “Nightmare Creatures 2” was a travesty on earth that should never be seen again, the first “Nightmare Creatures” was a passable experience, at best. It took a rather unfortunate event with the fire of London in the 19th century, and turned it into a gothic horror themed game akin to Resident evil, only cheaper in design and terribly half-baked in execution.
The game stars either the ninja priest Ignatius, or the fencer chick Nadia, to stop the mad doctor Adam Crowley, who has let loose horrors into the city of London in the 1800’s. Nadia and Ignatius, devoid of any character and only have palpable reasons to go after Crowley, set forth on the dark streets of London, fighting through hordes of mutated townsfolk to destroy the good doctor for the sake of humanity.
While the story is simple, the gameplay is anything but. True, it’s a hack and slash game with a combo system that allows your characters to level and become powerful as the game progresses. It also has a ton of pick up goodies, from bombs to flintlock pistols to throwing stars and the like, which add dimensions to the combat. But the combat is so mired by bad controls that it makes the game too frustrating.
The biggest problem is the hit detection and the button detection. Hitting enemies only happens when they jump back, making a quick grunt or howl or whatever that indicates they took damage. The problem is you can do a flurry of five shots, and have only one or two hit the character properly. And there is also a delay when pressing buttons, which essentially means it’s easier just to mash buttons as fast as possible to take out multiple foes at once. The combat is at best mediocre and at worst annoying.
It also doesn’t help much that you need to use the combos to actually survive the game, because as you progress, so do the number of monsters you fight on screen. Taking down one or two enemies at once is not too bad, but when fighting three or four, even five at later levels, it becomes almost impossible because of the control scheme. Thankfully bombs and guns even the odds, but using those breaks up the action terribly, and can cause more damage to your character over the monsters themselves.
Another odd feature is the “adrenaline” system, which basically acts as a timer for the entire game. If your adrenaline meter reaches zero, you basically die. So to keep it up, you need to actively seek out combat or find special items to raise your adrenaline. It’s an interesting idea, but it also breaks the flow of the game, essentially making you rush through the London streets fighting mutated hordes with broken combat just so you can keep playing, although by this point, I am not sure why you would.
The game is also mixed in terms of graphical quality. On the one hand, the backgrounds are really detailed and actually look great. They also are fairly interactive, with secret doors and pathways littered throughout that add a sense of exploration in an otherwise linear game. On the other hand, the characters and monsters look laughably bad. Oh they are drawn well, and have a nice amount of detail on them, but they also have low polygon counts, which leads to blocky, rather obtuse shaped enemies. Plus since the game is noted for dismembering enemies, sometimes it becomes laughable to see a polygon arm ripped off a monsters torso, suddenly sticking through the torso for no apparent reason. This makes the game laughable almost.
Perhaps the only real bright spot is the sound. The music, while totally repetitive, sets an ominous mood, and off screen screams and groans also chills the spine every now and again. The combat sounds are kind of funny though, and the overall sound effects are decent, but in the end it really is little to write home about.
Overall, playing this game is more of a nightmare than the nightmare it tries to represent. “Nightmare Creatures” feels like a half-baked game rushed to completion rather than a decent hack and slash driven horror game. It’s presentation is crappy, it’s graphics range from good to laughable, and it’s combat is slow, sticky, and unresponsive at times, leading to too many frustrations to really enjoy the game. Like the abdominal “Nightmare Creatures 2,” it’s best to forget this bad dream existed, out of being too painful rather than scary.