written by Incognito
We all remember Resident Evil as one of the best survival horror games to ever be made. It basically re-invented the genre. Typically, you play a lone hero defending yourself against a horde of enemies in a nightmarish and downright bloody setting. Scary? Oh yes. Thrilling? Definitely. Though Resident Evil is a great game it’s been beaten to death with reviews so let’s look at a more obscure title in this RETROspective, Nightmare Creatures. After the release of Resident Evil in 1996 developers really took off with the survival horror genre trying to get out as many games as possible. In 1997 we got Nightmare Creatures a game that was relatively fun for its time, brutally hard, and at some points pretty awful, but it was bloody and different.
Nightmare Creatures’ story is a familiar one. It’s 1854 London and the streets are being flooded with awful mutated creatures. Spawned by the vicious cult known as the Brotherhood of Hekate led by Adam Crowley, the game’s main antagonist. Since the gothic horror genre seems to have an untapped wealth of resources it’s only natural that Adam Crowley is an homage to the real life Aleister Crowley, a controversial occultist from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. I remember when the game came out it was hinted that Aleister Crowley was supposed to be a descendant of Adam but looking at the backstory of the game I couldn’t find any evidence to back that up. It is clear that the developers are giving a nod to the old wizard. Adam Crowley finds the diary of an old writer that details the way to craft a serum that would create a person of superhuman strength. Crowley quickly gathers up eminent members of society and reforms the old Brotherhood of Hekate to create the race of superhumans. Using the old Frankenstein canon of storytelling they round up corpses and quickly start experimenting, only to have all of their creations turn into abominations or “Nightmare Creatures”. You get the feeling that throughout the story Crowley is aware of the outcomes the whole time and his followers are not. So, out of fear of him they never try to stop him. However, there are two heroes that will. “Father Ignatius Blackwood”, a priest known to battle evil from time to time, and “Nadia F” gymnast Fencer and daughter of the prominent doctor who informed our heroes of the situation.
At the start of the game you can choose to play as Either Ignatius or Nadia. Each character has their own unique way of fighting and, as much as I loved to play as Ignatius, Nadia just rips through the creatures so much better with ease. It’s incredibly badass. You traverse through London streets, basements, rooftops, sewers and other locations hacking your way through the nightmare creatures. The controls, my god, the controls are severely flawed making the game almost impossible to play. Imagine trying to play basketball without your arms. Actually you would probably have an easier time doing that than beating this game. You have a health bar at the bottom in red and an adrenaline bar in blue on the left side of the screen. When I first started playing, I noticed that regardless of who I was playing, I kept dropping dead seemingly at random. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. Was there a time limit? What was happening? I researched through the instruction booklet and found out that both characters are apparently infected with something called the “trance modification virus”. Well that’s awesome, but what does it mean? The adrenaline bar! Once your adrenaline bar is completely empty your health starts to drain. Oh, that’s right. It’s pretty ridiculous. The only way to keep the adrenaline meter full is to keep killing creatures. This is an interesting mechanic but since it was never explained in the game at all and I had to read through the instruction booklet to even figure it out, it caused me a great deal of frustration. Each character has a basic set of movement abilities with varying combo attacks you can utilize. As you upgrade your weapons and perform the right combos you can sever limbs from your enemies causing them to bleed and stumble about. You can collect items to increase your health or use the secondary weapons such as guns, spells, or bombs. So, everything seemed to be in the right place with this game but it suffered from some of the worst controls I’ve ever experienced. Fighting is riddled with poor camera angles and clunky movement although you can jump, run, back step, strafe, and block your success is basically determined by pure luck and button mashing. The camera is so bad that just simply trying to turn around while you’re in a fight can mean instant death. Strategy in this game is non-existent. I tried. I really did, but even after awhile of getting used to the controls and the movement of the game, these problems are really what make Nightmare Creatures a mediocre game at best. If you lack any sort of patience you would quickly give up on it and toss it aside for something else. Probably the reason why the game is more obscure today. The game starts off fair, but gets brutally difficult. You get three lives to start off with, though you can pick up extra lives along the way. Even then, these extra lives are incredibly rare, being very few and far between, and hidden within the world map. The health bar can be depleted down to nothing very quickly. As such, trying to imagine going through this whole game like this seems like an impossible task. You could say it’s even more Dark Souls than even Dark Souls itself. No? Awww, give me a break. You can save your progress or use one of those really old and weird password systems. It will start you off at the beginning of the level again which is at least something, but the game’s difficulty is just too unbalanced.
The graphics leave much to be desired. Even for 1997, Nightmare Creatures’ graphics are fairly poor. Everything is heavily pixelated and grainy. Refresh rates also seem fairly low. I realize I keep referencing Resident Evil but you would think that a year later graphics would not have to be such an issue. Resident Evil’s well rendered environments and attention to detail were so meticulously carried out that you really believed the setting you were in was terrifying. Nightmare Creatures just plain looks bad. Though, in contrast to the rest of the game, the blood and gore is carried out well. So, if you’re a gore fanatic, this game would surely not disappoint. Severing limbs while running through old London can be fun and satisfying. The cutscenes were done fairly well for the time, though they were left out of the Nintendo 64 version and replaced by text, while the PC and the PlayStation versions were pretty much identical. The sound design of the game is spot-on. I will give it that. The creatures sound genuine and character reactions to dealt damage give you the feeling that they are not just a pixelated fuzzy mess running through the streets. The music is ominous and gloomy, successfully immersing you into a gloom and doom environment. Nightmare Creatures is overall an a decent game. It was by no means groundbreaking for its time nor would it ever be in today’s standards. It was definitely riding on the successful coattails of Resident Evil. It’s gloomy atmosphere is executed well and if you’re feeling nostalgic, Nightmare Creatures is a fun game when you don’t have to think about much and you can just focus on action. If you’re up to the challenge and have the patience it will not disappoint. If you’re brave enough to get through the entire game Nightmare Creatures just may be a worthwhile experience for you even if it does suffer from some pretty crippling issues. I give Nightmare Creatures a hesitant RETROspective seal of approval.