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to mark this year's Hallowe'en i treated myself to a festival of horror stories, movies and games, the eerie creeping, delicious jumps and gruesome oozes of many of which are still fresh in my psyche. alas, my task here is to tell tale of one of the more forgettable experiences of the season.
on release, Rise of Nightmares had the distinction of being the first 18/M rated game made for Kinect. as far as i can see, that is pretty much where the distinctiveness and innovation ends. I am struggling to recall a more generic gaming experience than slashing my way through the endless gormless hordes of abominable folk that Rise of Nightmares monotonously ushered my way, whilst enduring the banal, predictable meanderings of its parchment-thin narrative.
I can only assume that this game was the result of the feeding of eight of each of the most well established horror and gaming clichés to some sort of malevolent algorithm that then assumed a terrible corporeal form, took control of the dark basement of the SEGA headquarters, and demanded, in return for spared lives, to be able to design its own releases.
the 'plot' involves a troubled (of course) white, heterosexual American couple (of course) on a trip to Romania (of course) who fall into the clutches of an evil scientist (of course) named Viktor (of course) who is (of course) experimenting with corpse manipulation and reanimation. we play as Josh and we're trying to save our wife Kate from Viktor. i hate Kate. and i hate Josh. Kate has an annoying voice and face. Josh has stupid hair and stupid outstretched, 1996 hands. Viktor i'm nonplussed by.
to walk Josh forward we stride (once) forward. to make him turn, we turn (our shoulders). to make him walk a titchy bit faster, we lengthen our stride. NB he will not run, however, even if we do the splits. for figh'in' we put our hands up like a boxer, then, upon engagement, fling our arms around causing Josh to punch, slash, club or chainsaw our zombie foe depending on which of the several, relatively unimaginative weapons he is currently lugging around.
RLUES OF COMBAT: 1. if something approaches you -- kill it. 2. if something speaks foreign -- kill it. 3. if something is -- kill it.
given all the killing required, it's lucky that the distinctly inflexible nature of the control mechanism is offset by the ease at which slaughter is achieved (these guys thought it through). very occasionally Josh will encounter an adversary who gives cause for him to do something other than the flailing motion that has already racked him up a bajillion kills. for example, in order to overcome one particular type of zombie opponent, zomponent, we must defend Josh's ears from their sonic attack by putting our hands over our/his ears. however, while such occasional moments half-interrupt the monotony, the relief invoked swiftly gives way to frustration as it becomes clear how easy it would have been for far more variation to have been included.
now I'd never really considered walking around to be part of the challenge of this sort of game before.
following a similar theme, what the infrequent encounters with boss-baddies give with one hand, they then snatch away with the other. sure, you get to perform a more interesting array of movements in response to a slightly more interesting range of attacks, but these exchanges are managed by means of a series of quick time events which drain off all spontaneity and make the whole process feel like you're stuck in the training level at the beginning of a different and almost certainly better game.
then, between the long phases of repetitive slaying, come the movement sections. now I'd never really considered walking around to be part of the challenge of this sort of game before, but here, let alone avoiding the harmful pitfalls that line your way, simply getting efficiently from one place to another becomes part of the 'fun'. it's sort of like a kind of full-body-trauma rehab simulator.
usually in human vs. zombie scenarios, the chief weapon the human possesses against the shuffling undead is an increased level of agility, but in Rise of Nightmares, i regularly got the sense that any zomponents watching Josh clumsily traverse the hallways would have likely been moved to pity. in another feature that does little other than highlight an area in which the game fails, you can automate a lot of the walking by putting up your hand to request an exeat from an invisible teacher.
however, trading off one weakness against another, you can't auto-lurch past traps, which you learn by being maimed by one. these traps also, as is the way with pretty much each 'feature' of Rise of Nightmares, reveal further flaws in the design, given that, despite several of them involving things falling on him from above, Josh, like dogs, cannot look up.
ultimately self-destructive and more than a touch wobbly on its mismatched feet.
visually, there is little to counteract the limping genericism of the plot and gameplay, with the combat sections being far more reminiscent of FPSs of yesterdecade than they should be, and sadly the numerous and accidentally comical cut scenes fare only slightly better. all in all it occurs to me that the masterplan of the aforementioned malevolent, embodied algorithm must be the universal promulgation of cliché. as such, not only is the game chock full of it, but the confluence of its competence with its content fair begs for the most obvious of review-ending analogies.
so, are you ready? here we go...
just like the produce of the monstrous reanimation experiments undertaken by the game's twisted antagonist, this creation is both ultimately self-destructive and more than a touch wobbly on its mismatched feet.
checkmate to you, you monstrous, basement-bound mathematical function.
[if you'd like to see more of the weird and wonderful world of reallyquitetired then the door is always open at his semi-detached house/blog]
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