Product Type: other PC games
Newest Review: ... range, and make sure they don't get up again. Which, given that you'll be fighting zombies as well as a host of other creatures, is somethi... more
Contains creatures that are nightmarish. Like a very grumpy goldfish.
Nightmare Creatures (PC)
Member Name: Hannard
Nightmare Creatures (PC)
Advantages: It's gruesomely good fun.
Disadvantages: The jumping sections can be mildly annoying.
Ask someone to name a famous horror writer, and the chances are they'll say Stephen King, whether they've actually read any of his books or not - he's produced a large number of books over the years and is undoubtedly one of the most prolific and well known horror authors. However, there's a writer who was even more well known in his day, and even today has a huge following - to top it all, his work has been imitated, although never bettered, by many other authors. The author in question is H.P. Lovecraft, who wrote novels and stories that were, and still are, very gothic, strangely foreboding and extremely scary. Many of the stories involve ancient entities lurking beneath the sea, in hidden cities or within other realms parallel to our own. Also prominent in H.P. Lovecraft's stories is a legendary book known as the Necronomicon, containing tales of the aforementioned ancient entities as well as the recipe for getting into contact with those entities. In other words, it wasn't the kind of thing you'd want to give your gran. But what does this have to with Nightmare Creatures, the hack-em-up from Activision and Kalisto. Quite a bit, because not only does the game have the same spooky gothic atmosphere that Lovecraft's stories do, but it also features a previously lost tome, much like the Necronomicon, containing a wealth of demon-summoning passages. So no prizes for guessing what's going to happen...
Or more precisely what did happen, since Nightmare Creatures is set in an alternate London in 1834, where hordes of demons roam the streets after being summoned by the use of the lost tome. The book in question is the lost diary of Samuel Pepys, a famous figure from the nineteenth century, and it is discovered by a black magician known as Adam Crowley (the name presumably a reference to the infamous satanist and kids TV presenter Aleister Crowley) who, along with his similarly minded brotherhood, has let loose the forces of darkness upon the streets of London , and released some sort of supernatural plague which mutates the populace of London turning them into all manner of nasties. Crowley's evil efforts cannot be left unchecked - someone has to stop him. And so, playing as either Ignatius, a staff-wielding fighting monk or Nadia, a sword-toting gymnast, it's up to you to track him down and kick his stupid evil-doing head in.
The ensuing battle of good against evil takes the form of a 3D scrolling beat-em-up, which looks a little like Tomb Raider, as the action is viewed from a third person perspective, like Lara Croft's escapades. However, the similarity ends there because while Tomb Raider involved hopping around platforms and dangling from high ledges, occasionally pausing to murder a few endangered creatures, Nightmare Creatures is the complete opposite of this. Most of the time you'll be hacking away at nasties, occasionally having to clear a small jump - the emphasis is on beating seven shades of poo out of the baddies. This would no doubt be a relatively simple task if you were armed with hand grenades, a machine gun and a rocket launcher, a la Quake 2, but in this game you don't have access to that kind of weaponry - this is no shoot-em-up. There are one or two weapons in the game - a pistol and a multigun, but these can only be used once and aren't particularly abundant. Instead, you have to use sword or staff to take down the baddies at close range, and make sure they don't get up again. Which, given that you'll be fighting zombies as well as a host of other creatures, is something you'd better be pretty sure of before you turn your back.
While you can't blast your opponents with a BFG or shotgun, you can hack bits off their bodies, seriously limiting their mobility or attack capabilities and in some cases, killing them outright. Nadia and Ignatius use the same type of weapon throughout the game, a sword and staff respectively, although there are power-ups hidden in some levels that will permanently increase the damage that their weapons do. There are two attack buttons, kick and strike, which produce different effects when used when running or jumping - pressing strike while Nadia is running will make her do a roundhouse slash, and pressing it with jump will result in her leaping into the air, slashing with her sword, and then slashing when she comes down. The former attack is useful for dismembering or decapitating smaller baddies like zombies, whilst the latter is more damaging and can take out most baddies in one blow, or at the very least severely damage them, but it leaves you extremely vulnerable to attack while you're executing it. You can also create combos by stringing moves together, and hints sometimes pop up on screen telling you which keys you can use to execute certain combos, something that comes in handy when you're fighting the stronger monsters. There are also some power-ups scattered around the levels that can be picked up and used later - each power-up can only be used once although you can carry several of one type of power-up. There are proximity mines which damage any monster who goes near them, dynamite which damages everything on screen, a single-use piston, and a multigun which damages all baddies within range, a flash bomb which blinds them, a freeze spell which does pretty much what you'd expect, energy power-ups to restore your health and several other items. Some are hidden, and it's definitely worth search around the level to find them because you'll need all the help you can get given the number of nasties roaming the streets.
The zombies are the first type of creature you'll encounter in the game, and they're pretty true to form - they're slow, but tough and if you don't dismember them they'll keep getting up. And that means separating their torsos from their bodies, because if you just hack their heads off, they'll keep coming. In fact, you can hack the arms and legs off the other monsters and they'll keep coming, but at least they give up the ghost when they lose their heads. Aside from the walking dead, you'll also run into werewolves, giant golems, huge river-dwelling giant squid, demons, harpies, gargoyles, spiders, giant insects, three-headed mutant monsters, giant rats, and fire-breathing hell hounds, all of whom must be dealt with in different ways. You also have to deal with about five end of level bosses, including a Yeti, Jack the Ripper, and Adam Crowley. You can't defeat the bosses just by whacking them around the head with your sword - all, with the exception of Adam Crowley, are immune to normal damage. Instead, you usually have to use some special method to defeat them - to defeat the Yeti you have to avoid his projectiles and run around collecting dynamite. When you have enough dynamite, you can use it to blow up the barrels of gunpowder next to him which will in turn eventually bring the ceiling crashing down on his head.
The nightmare creatures of the game's title inhabit a total of twenty-one levels, taking place in all manner of locations including London Zoo, the British Museum, a graveyard, some docks or other, darkened streets, the sewers and a burning city district. According to the PR handout, the locations in Nightmare Creatures are based on real maps of Ye Olde London, and so should supposedly be accurate representations of the London in 1834 - or London today if you're a one of those misguided members of the American public whose entire perception of British culture comes from watching Dick 'Cockerney' Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. The levels are very dark and gothic, and appropriately spooky and feature plenty of surprises - the baddies seem to enjoy leaping out at you through windows and walls, or dropping rubble onto your head so you'd better have your wits about you. There's a little bit of jumping to do in places - mainly jumping over trenches and gaps, which isn't much of a problem - except in one place. There's a bit in the Sewer level where you have to hop across several different platforms, and if you miss one and drop into the water, you lose one life. If you lose all your lives (you have three) you have to start again from a saved game. The trouble is that you can only save your game before you begin of a level and not anywhere within the level itself. This isn't a problem in itself as you do have several lives and can pick up more, but on the sewer level the way you can lose so many lives so quickly can get very annoying - perhaps Kalisto could have taken a leaf out of the Tomb Raider book and let you clamber out of the pool to have another go. Fortunately, this is the only place in the game where you have to deal with such problematic jumps, so once you get past it you don't have to deal with anything similar for the rest of the game.
If you do manage to finish the game playing as Nadia or Ignatius, it doesn't end there. Because there's a hidden cheat mode that lets you play the game as a monster. To access the monster mode, you have to go to the main menu screen and then type in EVERYWHERE to activate the cheat mode, and then type in BRONKO to activate monster mode. Then, when you start a new game, there'll be an option to play in monster mode. I don't usually give out cheats in reviews, but this hidden mode adds significantly to the game. You can't choose which monster you play as - the computer chooses for you, and you play as a different monster on each level - with the exception of the boss levels in which you revert to playing as Nadia or Ignatius. The zombie is extremely hard to kill off, and can take a hell of a lot of damage before dying, but is very slow indeed. The insect on the other hand isn't as strong but can fly and is pretty fast. It's up to you to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each monster and use them to your advantage.
But is Nightmare Creatures any fun to play? Definitely - the game is not only spooky but entertaining, big enough and tough enough to keep you playing for a while and the monster mode (which I think should have been given a higher profile by the programmers) should offer a challenge to even hardened gamesplayers. Nightmare Creatures is scary, very playable and addictive - you'll keep on coming back for more even if you do fall foul of those flipping sewer jumps - this is a game that really goes for the jugular. Get it - before it gets you.
(review by me, originally posted on GamesDomain)
Summary: A good gothic slash-em-up.
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