Maximum Games are publishers for well-known titles such as Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Oddworld: Soulstorm, Among Us, Sifu, and FNAF: Security Breach. Unfortunately, some of their titles do miss the mark in entertainment while others make it to be franchise hits. They have partnered with Magic Fish Studios to develop a game that had a very intriguing gameplay trailer and great visuals, In Nightmare. Magic Fish Studio’s first game.
Our protagonist falls into a deep slumber and awakens in a nightmarish dreamworld. In Nightmare is a narrative-driven horror adventure game combining sneak action with a slew of puzzles. Experiencing the effects of a broken family, and the heartache it brings, a young child will escape reality into a dark, whimsical world created from his own memories. This sets him on his journey to uncover what truly lies within.
Having suffered in reality, his past trauma turns into terrifying monsters that want to keep him in an eternal nightmare. With the help of his dream spirit, the boy will find ways to sneak past enemies, overcome intricate puzzles, embrace his fear, and eventually uncover the truth so that he may be able to purify the monsters he has created so that he can finally wake up.
A Night Terror Tutorial
The game begins with an abrupt start with no setup as to why or where you are. As you progress through, I found myself confused as to how any mechanics properly work during a very half-assed tutorial sequence that did not even prompt me on everything I needed to know. I found myself playing with the controls on my own to find out what my dream spirit/butterfly Bikti even does or how to use its consumable items.
You use Bikti as reconnaissance, using it to detect any threats before you reach their vision threshold and get chased down. The problem with this mechanic is that it has a very limited range and the trees and skybox can get in the way of your view. You can use items such as dream essence to enhance the Biktis flight range, but I rarely used any consumable item since the game is ridiculously easy or the feature was useless in the area map.
I will give an A+ for the art style and atmosphere. It has some great, creepy, and somber music and amazing detail with its environmental storytelling. Destroyed libraries, burned down buildings, trashed schools, and frightening caves. As you progress through the game which I should mention has no dialogue, you witness Bill’s childhood memories to help paint a picture of what has been torturing him. I feel like the monsters are representative of those traumas and although the monster design is great, they really pose very little threat or scare in-game.
The reason behind the unthreatening nature of each monster is its A.I. Players can literally run circles around certain environments until you get far enough away from an enemy so that they forget you were even there. They also have very predictable walk patterns and behaviors. The main mechanic of In Nightmare, stealth, is poorly conceived. Once you find yourself playing the meta of the game, In Nightmare starts to become boring, predictable, and annoying.
In Nightmare has a lot of collectibles that can be viewed in your pause menu or at the main level selection hub. The main hub allows you to go back and find any missing items you may want to discover later. Most of these items have no benefit aside from cosmetic or story lore. Some items do upgrade Bikti’s skills but as I mentioned before, I rarely found a reason to use them.
The puzzles in the game are child-like in difficulty. I believed them to be very easy and not a lot of thought was put into any depth aside from a copy and paste of a million other puzzles players have done with older games. It’s almost like the game was designed for very young children but having a horror stealth-heavy game isn’t exactly a young child’s choice of genre.
Bill can run away by sprinting and has limited use of stamina before he needs to slow down to catch his breath but that also has a problem. There is no meter to help determine whether Bill will run out of breath before you find yourself in a precarious situation. Players must judge based on his breathing but with noises, monsters screaming and loud music when you’re being chased goes on, it’s hard to hear it. The funny thing is even if you could, you can still hold the sprint button and be fine since his rest period is so short, it’s almost pointless to have it implemented.
Avoid The Nightmare
I enjoyed the trailer, yet was highly disappointed with the finished product. I dreaded going back to play this game and take notes to write this review. It’s slow, confusing, and unthoughtful. The game was easy yet frustrating and felt very unfinished and unloved. I hope Magic Fish really takes what they’ve learned and polishes their next game with something less generic and insulting to gamers who like stealth horror games.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of In Nightmare for PS5 provided by Maximum Games.