Rise of Nightmares was developed and published by Sega. It was released on September 6, 2011 and retails for $19.99.
Rise of Nightmares was one of the first mature-rated games to utilize Kinect. When the advertisements started blaring through television sets and on key Internet sites, Sega made it known that this was the full-motion survival horror experience of a lifetime. Chills, thrills and diced zombies seemed to be on the menu, and the only thing the gamer at this Lovecraftian restaurant needed to do was stay alive. At least, that was the idea.
Welcome to Josh’s world. After playing through the eyes of an expendable character in a mood-setting opening of enslavement and inevitable death, gamers are thrown in the controller-free body of our hero. He’s not the type of hero that we have come to expect. He doesn’t have that pristine, clean-cut look or a healthy, can-do attitude. He’s not a bald, muscle bound space marine. Instead, Josh is a recovering alcoholic with some “deal-breaker” issues with the wife, Kate. As the story unravels and we learn a bit about this fellow, we’re given some time to adjust to the controls, performing simple actions like opening doors, walking and washing Josh’s hands. When the fun’s over, we’ll be left wondering why they were vacationing in Romania.
Once our scintillating bout of train exploration is finished, Kate is abducted by some hulking brute, and the locomotive crashes. This is when our downtrodden hero has to pick himself up and save his wife. Throw the bottle away, Josh. It’s time to battle thousands of clones from the same four or five different zombies littering the countryside.
Here’s what we liked:
Fighting mechanics - For the most part, the Kinect responds quickly to players’ arm movements. Weapons and tools are easy to use, and there is a nice variety laying about. Early on, there does seem to be a heavy saturation of knives, brass knuckles and wrenches, but Sega adds more goodies as the game progresses. To use the weapons, gamers are asked to simulate how the devices work, which makes using something like hedge trimmers or a chainsaw a bit nifty.
Atmosphere - Rise of Nightmares has a very Victorian horror feel to it. It’s almost darkly romantic and mystical in its feel, like those old Universal Classics Dracula movies. Sega captures this feel well as we voyage deeper into the surreal, treading further into this strange world. What’s also great about this is that throughout the game, the mood stays consistent.
Characters - Not all of the characters have much going on. In fact, most of them are zombie fodder. The core characters, however, are somewhat interesting. Sega tried, at the very least, to create a main character with something going on. Instead of tossing gamers into the shoes of a bland body where we have to fill in the blanks on his personality, there is an attempt to construct a human being with goals, motivations, troubles and triumphs. The antagonists, mad scientist Viktor and his wife Mary, are doubly more interesting as Sega layers a mystery to be explored.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Repetitive zombies - Throughout the game, it feels like we are fighting the same four or five generic zombies over and over again. The first major grouping seen at the beginning of the game pretty much solidifies the body count for the next several hours. That’s it, save for a couple bosses.
Movement - Movement is awkward in this title. The style is unnatural and takes some time to get used to. Luckily, there’s an option to auto-walk by holding one’s hand up in the air, but this is not a cure-all. There are still moments where gamers will have to try and walk, so it’s best to get used to contorting and twisting like some stiff-legged walking cadaver.
Not frightening - Rise of Nightmares, while surreal and moody, is not terrifying in the slightest. The scares are predictable. The monsters are more odd-looking than spooky. What’s more frightening is the fact that Sega thought it’d be cool to make us act out the actions of washing Josh’s face or swimming across a river, then wiping leeches off our arms.
Ultimately, Rise of Nightmares is a step in a direction we’d like to see continued. The gameplay itself brings little new to the genre or to the Kinect, but it’s something bizarrely entertaining enough for mature audiences. Whoever scripted this world and set the mood had a style that, while cliche at times, presented a surreal mystery that helps vary up the amount of party games on the Kinect. On the plus side, it’s also a mostly functional title, something seemingly rare amongst many of the games recently released for Kinect. If you find yourself intrigued by Rise of Nightmares, go ahead and give it a shot.
Score: Try it