Activision's spiritual action game blends the horror of Resident Evil with Tomb Raider sensibilities
When Kalisto first brought its horror/action title Nightmare Creatures to our offices, we were suitably impressed. The game was dark and moody, with an interesting spiritual undertone running through it. It was perfect for the PlayStation. Activision s finally released the game here, and it s everything a PSX game should be.
The place is 19th century London. Adam Crowley has unleashed an unspeakable evil upon the city, a transmortification virus that is changing the townspeople into hideous, deformed monsters. Only two brave heroes have stepped up to take on Crowley: Father Ignatius Blackward, a priest, and Nadia F, an immunology expert who also happens to be a lightning quick gymnast. You play as either character -- each has his or her own attributes, moves, strengths and weaknesses.
The game itself is huge, with 18 levels and 5 bosses to contend with. Level design isn t so intricate as to be puzzling, but you do have to find switches to keep going, a la Tomb Raider. The emphasis in Nightmare Creatures is much more on action than exploration, though, and the switches serve more as a way to break things up. There s some minor platform jumping as well, but again, this plays second fiddle to the action.
The look of the game is summed up in one word: spooky. With plenty of low, transparent fog, and enough rats to make even Willard jealous, Nightmare Creatures certainly lives up to its gothic-sounding name.
An interesting aspect of Creatures lies in the characters special moves and combinations of kicks and weapons attacks. Unlike most hack and slash titles where you keep repeating the same move over and over, this one has different weapons combos for both Ignatius and Nadia. Knowledge of the combos is tantamount to completing each level, as they take off more damage than normal strikes. Control is fast and smooth, and although it does support analog, the control configuration (left or right rotates, forward or back moves) is such that it s easier to use the D-pad.
One technical problem that should be mentioned is the camera. While it functions perfectly in most cases, occasionally it can get in front of you, which obscures your immediate foe from view. Also, when fighting a monster around a corner, the camera sometimes doesn t follow. These cases are the exception, however, and the majority of the time the fixed camera functions fine.
With a time limit in the form of an adrenaline meter (keep killing monsters or you re offed by the virus), and some really tough monsters, Nightmare Creatures does at times seem unbalanced. Right from the get go, the game is difficult. Even with the difficulty set on easy (it defaults to hard), Nightmare Creatures seems too difficult too early. A more even difficulty curve would ve been helpful. Don t get me wrong, it s not impossible, it s just a little uneven.
Ultimately, the positives far outweigh the negatives in Nightmare Creatures. It s spooky, challenging, and a hell of a lot of fun.