IT’S A MONSTER!!!!!
Decades of cinema has made even the dumbest of movie-goers aware of the cast of stereotypes that have charmed and plagued their way into our minds. In the conventional horror, you have loads to choose from, from the braveish and slightly lucky protagonist to the jail-bait who’s just asking for phallic weaponry through the waist. Unfortunately, Rise Of Nightmares puts you in the shoes of the moron whom you find yourself constantly shouting such things at as “Don’t go into the haunted mansion alone!” and “Don’t eat the exploding candy floss! It explodes and is clearly sign-posted as a potential hazard!”, quickly making you the laughing stock of your living room.
Stuck on a train somewhere in the cloudiest part of Europe, you’re thrown into the body of a jobless alcoholic in the middle of a nagging competition with his wife to which he is sorely losing (A missed opportunity for the Kinect’s voice recognition system). With her storming off at the worst possible time, the train derails and crashes near a clearly ominous castle built on cursed ground according to your supporting cast, and seems to be the perfect place for a significant other to be taken in times of peril. Unfortunately, said castle is filled with undead, massive saw blades, humorously over-sized guillotines and mad scientists who have a thing for body swapping.
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the plot isn’t exactly fresh in this day and age, and so Rise Of Nightmares tries to make itself unique in other ways, namely its control system. The game has bragged that its the first truly Kinect title for adults, and although the faux pas writing and bizarre characters may not totally convince you, the copious amounts of gore you and chopped limbs certainly will. Those faint-hearted to decapitation and buckets of blood should probably look away, although it can be argued that those who are impatient would just walk away altogether.
Rise Of Nightmares prides itself on not being an on-rails flail-’em-up, rather giving you control of where you go and making it more of an ‘Look like a 3 year old who doesn’t understand the concept of walking too well trying to do the Safety Dance’ flail-’em up. Placing one foot forwards allows you to walk, and shifting your shoulders rigidly to the left and right allow you to turn in the desired direction. Holding out your hand allows you to interact with the surrounding and holding your fists up puts you in an attack stance. The transition into these three stances is actually respectively smooth and responsive, and won’t make fatal blunders like think you’re trying to inspect the area whilst the undead effectively dry hump you to death, and nice little touches such as having to motion opening doors and climbing ladders is, although sometimes vague, still appreciated.
Going mano-on-deado was actually quite fun for a bit as well. Punching and kicking through shuffling rotters made me glad I’ve been taking advantage of UFC Personal Trainer in recent months. Kung-Fu (or something very much like it) perhaps hasn’t been so fun as it has here. Picking up a weapon and shedding a few pounds off enemies is also pretty fun…yet it doesn’t last. Not every swing of the arm will register, and it’s just law that during one of these frequent cock-ups that something will take a chunk out of you. It’s forgiveable to start off with, as you can simply cut of heads for revenge, yet as the game progresses and the hoards grow larger, patience wears thinner as unfair deaths just pile up.
I also wasn’t exactly expecting to act like a hat stand to avoid the grasp of death
Walking around, however, is slurred by many problems. You’ll occasionally finding yourself veering waaaaaay off path which isn’t helpful when surrounded by deadly traps and progression is so slow that you just wish there was a motion for running. Rise Of Nightmares certainly screams the broken control scheme from mountains when it offers up an ‘Auto’ function. Holding your right hand in the air will smack your protagonists wonky direction perception into place and strap you to a pre-made track to the next destination…sort of ruining the whole ‘Move freely’ aspect it tried to kick off in lack of confidence, but quite rightly so.
I guess part of this problem also comes from the overall lack of imagination in the game design. Slow progression is one thing, but combined with backtracking through previous levels, constant ‘Locked door with door lever next to it’ puzzles and long hallway after long hallway after long hallway at such a dreary place will leave you too dreary to care about what’s going on. You’ll be so tired of moving that you’ll just stick your arm up in the air in the hopes of automatically getting to destination as quickly as possible. Christ, it’s the closest thing you’ll get to a commuting on the Underground simulator as you’ll ever get.
For all the cons of the gameplay, it doesn’t dampen the mood of the overall game, seeing as the fearful atmosphere is 6 feet under in slurry to begin with. Yes, the cast is directly ripped from any petty horror film, F-ing this and stupidly questioning that, but I would’ve liked to have seen them attempt to do something interesting in the plot before prematurely dying. Predictable scares also don’t exactly help its cause, and Rise Of Nightmares attempts to play the golden ‘Pyramid Head’ card famously played in Silent Hill 2, chucking in a seemingly invincible super-being into proceedings. To be honest, castle bodyguard ‘Ernst’ is a brooding, intimidating monstrosity in a blood covered trench-coat who shuffles the hallways inducing panic…until the game tells you he can’t see very well…and he has a tendency to avoid victims staying static. Whenever you encounter him, bright ‘STOP!’ signs will attempt to panic you, flashing until you pause enough for him to simply wander past. I wasn’t expecting heart-attack worthy chills thanks to the fairly abysmal writing…but I also wasn’t exactly expecting to act like a hat stand to avoid the grasp of death.
Rise Of Nightmares has taken the worst parts of survival horror games from the 90’s and bundled them into a fairly ambitious package. Chopping up the undead is undeniably fun, but only when the motion controls decide to respond efficiently. The ability to walk about by shifting around your body is a nice touch, but is marred by dodgy progression and slow exploration of familiar grounds. Everything that starts off as a pro ends up as a drawn out con and the lack of scares flip-flop the narrative from ‘Taking itself so seriously it’s silly’ to ‘Giving up and just being outright silly’. Alas, it will fall to the bottom of the bargain bin, but it will stand as an exceptional lesson to future titles that truly want to put you in a hero’s shoes. Literally wandering around is a very good idea, just don’t make the Kinect itself feel like an obstacle you have to bypass.
The Bad: Combat controls soon screw up at the worst of times, Walking controls soon grate thanks to inaccuracy and unimaginative level design, Not scary in the slightest