Neverending Nightmares takes you to a place you never thought a video game could. It has been a very long time since anything has truly scared the shit out of me and boy has this game done it. This is brought to us by Matt Gilgenbach creative and rather unique mind, as it has been inspired by his own personal struggles with OCD and depression he has suffered in his own life.
The horror video game genre is seeing a massive rise in interest, with the likes of Slender, Amnesia, Outlast and Five Nights at Freddys. However they are all played from a first person’s perspective, which is meant to give you that ‘more immersive experience’, but they are all mostly jump scares and after a while you get used to them. This game however does the complete opposite and does scary and horror the way it’s meant to be, one where it stays in your mind, asks you questions, gets into your head and makes you rethink everything, the most effective type of horror, psychological.
Literally within seconds of you pressing start, you watch a young girl dying, she has just been stabbed in the stomach and blood starts pouring out of her mouth, this sets the games tone right from the off and doesn’t let you get off the ride…ever. This describes the game perfectly within these few seconds, you haven’t a frigging clue what the hell has just happened and it’s very open with its use of blood. The art style is similar to the game Madworld, which is very underrated, and some films like Sin City and Schlinders List as in everything is in black and white apart from the odd bit of colour. These are the items that you can interact with, candles, door handles, for example but the main colour you see is bright red, which is the sign of danger, and boy is there plenty of the vibrant red stuff on show here.
You are Thomas, a young man who seems to love his chequered pyjamas and has just awoken from this nightmarish vision. There are no instructions on what to do or where to go which only heightens the uneasy feeling you have already started with. There is no real set goal, which again just increases the tension you are feeling as the player. You are free to explore the whole environment, yet you still have that feeling of being trapped. You could be walking for a good five or so minutes with nothing happening at all, you’ll end up going in and out of rooms looking for any type of clue to see what to do, then a tiny little noise starts to get louder and louder and then silence…the game is playing tricks with your mind. You think for a moment that you are getting somewhere, suddenly that noise you thought you heard has completely gone and you have no idea why.
Thomas does have the ability to run, unfortunately he has got the stamina of a 75 year old, who smokes 60 cigarettes a day for 50 years body, so he can run for about 10 yards and then needs an oxygen mask. So, when you are being chased by the huge baby monster and you need to stop every 10 yards otherwise you’re going to have a heart attack, this causes panic to set in and fast. Thomas has no weapons to fight back and is in a continuous struggle for survival, escaping the things that are trying to kill him, however the only way to continue in Thomas’s dream / nightmare is sometimes looking right at you in the face; death. These are portrayed in some of the most graphic moments you will see in games, I don’t want to spoil what these are but if you are of a queasy stomach then I wouldn’t recommend them, mind you, if you have got this far in the game then obviously your stomach can cope with these powerful images.
The music and sounds are tremendous, they are so suited to the game and are perfect at every moment. The game recommends you play it with headphones and I do have to say it makes a huge difference to the gameplay, voices start to echo and paintings start to make a whining sound among many other things. The headphones make you hear every creak, every teeny tiny movement and you get so involved in the game you stop and try to hear if something is going to happen, this gets you more immersed in the game than horror game has done so far, except for maybe the original Silent Hill games.
There are however some downsides to Neverending Nightmares, the seemingly never-ending walking down same corridor time, after time, after time trying to build up that tension can wear you down. When the monster jumps out of the wardrobe at you, the jump scare effect it is trying to get from the player slowly wears off after the 3rd or 4th attempt, you know it’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of time when it happens. You slowly become numb to its effect and the horror is then more of an inconvenience to your game.
Overall, this is a game that definitely stands out from the current crowded horror game marketplace, it’s not one which you will play again and again, but it will stay in your mind. The game can be slow at times, but this only adds to the effect the game is trying to give us. It is on the short side if you can manage to stomach the visceral blood and guts in a single sitting, around three hours, but I was taking breaks every thirty or so minutes, so my mind can comprehend what is happening, and two the atmosphere the sounds give you when playing in headphone mode is scary beyond belief, highly recommend.
+ Art style stands out from every other horror game
+ Horror done as horror should be done, psychologically.
+ Some of the best sound design I have heard in gaming
– The lack of interactivity at times can be frustrating