As once said by a snotty little rabbit, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to live my life by that adage, this would be an exceptionally short review if I did, so we’re all just going to have to grit our teeth and get through this together.
The New Nightmare is a love letter to survival horror’s roots, returning the genre to its origins with classic controls and camera angles, hordes of shambling zombies, and an inescapable Resident Evil/Silent Hill vibe it wears like a badge of honour. It’s a great idea – those old titles defined horror gaming, and though one of them has moved on with the times and the other has been plummeted into panchinko parlour purgatory, they still hold up. The New Nightmare‘s bones will be instantly familiar to fans of those series, there just isn’t an awful lot of meat on them.
As my years of heavy drinking prove, we don’t always pick up the best traits from our heroes, and this is where The New Nightmare instantly misses the mark. It would have been possible to create a retro horror experience with what’s on offer here, but for the most part everything is so shoddily assembled that it’s hard to look past it. Characters are mute and stilted, without even written dialogue available as a reaction to the world around them. It should not take four point-blank shotgun rounds to a zombie’s head to kill them.
Flicking on your character’s torch just shines a light directly from their chest with no actual equipment visible. Player characters stand in fire and have no reaction whatsoever. There’s lots of little flaws like this that individually could just be looked past, but they all add up to make it janky in a way that those PS1 games never really were. It’s important to remember that this is the work of a solo indie developer who clearly has a lot of passion for the genre. It must have taken a ton of work and determination to get the game to the stage it is now. Unfortunately, passion and hard work aren’t all it takes.
When it’s standing still, The New Nightmare can look pretty good. The lighting is especially effective, and the cinematic camera angles really help get the best out of the environments. It’s just one of those things that falls apart the closer you look at it, the more you attempt to diverge from the carefully laid path it wants you to follow. My character sprinted halfway up a wall once like a Matrix character because I walked into a cupboard slanted against it. If this series had really gone back to basics, it might have turned out much, much better. As of now it straddles an awkward line between retro charm and unpolished, unfinished modern indie game.
There is a co-op feature – up to four players, apparently – and varying levels of difficulty. Given the amount of time and bullets it took me to kill single zombies by myself, I imagine co-op is all but necessary to succeed in harder campaigns. It also offers a splitscreen mode, which has earned it one of its points today because splitscreen is the best.
Obviously, a game like this developed by one person cannot be held to the same standards as one made by a full team. That doesn’t exempt it from criticism (although if this was developed by a full team, I’d have spent the last five hundred words roasting it.) I think the developer has a ton of promise, but all The New Nightmare goes to prove is that tasks like this are rarely successful alone. I hope Dead Drop Studios keeps trying – maybe they just need to turn on co-op mode.