Kinect with Your Nightmares: Rise of Nightmares Review

Our Rating
out of 5.0

This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.

It’s been almost a year now since Kinect launched, and we’ve yet to see a Kinect-only game for ‘core’ players. We’ve seen games made for families, work-out routines, and even a fair share of dance and sports games, but nothing to quench the average Xbox 360 gamer’s need for blood and violence.  Then along comes Rise of Nightmares, Kinect’s first dive into the world of action and horror. With promises of scares, gore and good old-fashioned zombie killing, the thought on everyone’s mind is: will it be the start of a new line of Kinect titles, or will it die a slow painful death?

Before we can answer that question, we need to set the mood.  The story revolves around Josh and his wife Kate. They’re set to take a vacation to help their marriage when the train they’re taking is suddenly attacked by an unknown creature.  Kate is kidnapped and it’s your job, as Josh, to rescue her.  The initial theme reminded me greatly of Saw or Hostel and seemed a little clichéd.  After a short time though, it brought on supernatural and sci-fi elements, adding some unexpected surprises.  There are also some collectibles that give you some back story on the events taking place.  Overall a great experience.

My only complaint is the game was over too quickly, with a playthrough taking only eight hours. A few more levels would have made the experience that much better.  However, once you finish the game you unlock an “endless nightmare” chapter. This hidden mode gives you a time limit to escape a level. At the end of the stage, or upon death, you’re awarded a score and grade. As a great reward for completing the story, there is even a “kill-o-calorie” count, so players can even use it as a crazy form of workout.

No matter how good a story is though, the game ideally needs to play well too.  Luckily Rise of Nightmare does, very well. The controls are fairly simple and mimic real actions, but they do take some getting used to. For movement, you put a foot forward or back to move in that direction, and use your shoulders to turn. To interact with the environment, raise your arm straight forward and hover the hand icon over what you want to use. If you’re lost or having trouble, you can raise your right arm up which puts you into auto-mode, which will automatically move you in the correct direction.  However, to add a certain level of challenge, the auto feature is disabled in some areas, such as trap rooms, so you have to carefully pick your way around those obstacles.

Combat is just as simple as navigation. You bring your hands up around chest level to enter fight mode and kick, punch, push, or swing your arms depending on the weapon you’re holding.  Similarly, you can block by taking no action while your hands are up. There are all sorts of items throughout the game that can be used to defend yourself with, and the variety of tools surprised me greatly.  Each weapon falls under a class (such as blunt, cutting, ranged, or two-handed) and has a number of uses before it breaks; when that happens, you’re left fighting the undead with punches and kicks until you find another object to use.  The hand that holds the weapon will be the one that you pick it up with, so if you’re a lefty you won’t have to worry about using your right hand to fight with.

The part that impressed me most was the interactions with the environment. When you select something, you must use it like you would in real life. Push open doors, pull down levers, swat away insects or leeches, and kick or push off any creatures that happen to grapple you. This style of play immerses one into the game, making players feel like they’re truly part of the story. While Rise of Nightmares isn’t scarier than others, it’s incredibly thrilling and likely to send chills down the spine. You feel like you are actually fighting for your life, especially when you start to tire and your weapon suddenly breaks!

The controls, while great and responsive, have some design flaws. I found that while attacking, the game will only read stabs, left, right, and down swings, without registering diagonal swinging or uppercuts. While this is a very small fault, it detracts from the realism a fair amount. This, added with the learning curve for movements and blocking, makes the game unforgiving to new players on any level higher than easy.  Additionally, auto-mode requires you to hold your hand up the entire time, as opposed to being a toggle. This wears out the right arm if used too much, which makes it a very uncomfortable design choice.

From a graphics stand point, Rise of Nightmares is fair. The character design is very creepy and sees various undead outfitted with some intricate mechanical body parts and creative looking weapons. Characters are diverse, and you never see too much of one enemy. Bosses all have distinctive features setting them far apart from each other and the mass of standard foes. Levels are equally creepy, with no setting or location becoming too familiar or re-used. The only downfall is that it’s just not as visually pleasing as other survival horror games.  It simply looks outdated compared to other titles this year.

However, graphics aside, what really stood out was the audio. The score was composed perfectly for the game, often using strange sounds and tones to create a sense of terror. While exploring, the music was either absent or using slower, tenser sounds to create suspense. Alternatively, when the action picks up so does the tempo, often using orchestra hits in tandem with scripted actions.  Sound effects sound realistic, with each step and swing sounding like they should. The voice work however, is somewhat dry. Actors either try too hard or not hard enough, and accents often sound faked. Thankfully, most characters don’t live long enough to annoy.

From front to back, Rise of Nightmares definitely shows that Kinect can do more than just family games.  The developers had a terrific idea and implemented it beautifully.  However, the game still needs a few design changes to be on par with controller based games of the same genre. More games like this are exactly what Kinect needs for the core gamer, and I hope this opens the doors to get other games of this calibre.  If you’re a fan of horror, or just looking for the right game to pick up Kinect for, Rise of Nightmares comes highly recommended.  Just remember, though the best scares and chills come when you’re starting to tire, know your limit and don’t hurt yourself!

Final score 4 /5

Our Rating
out of 5.0

About This Post

September 16, 2011 - 8:00 am