Kinect is for kids. There’s nothing about the system that appeals to adults. It’s all a bunch of tiger petting, bubble popping, Cookie Monster dancing and getting sweaty in your living room. No self respecting adult would enjoy anything about Kinect. Yeah, sure there was the excellent Child of Eden but seriously that game is for kids too, seriously. Sounds familiar right? Rise of Nightmares is here to change your idea on what the Kinect system can and will do – and for the most part it’s very successful in doing that.
The game does a very good bait and switch upon starting a new game, and quite honestly it caught me off guard and left a very good first impression of where the game was going. The story after that lovely prologue however quickly started down a tired and clichéd path, all points would be familiar with current horror/torture movie genre. You take control of Jon a man who struggles with his inner demons and quenches his thirst at the bottom of a bottle. Jon and his lovely, not-nagging wife are trying to enjoy a vacation when he gets up for a quick break then comes back to find a note saying she’d meet him in the dining car. As you make your way through the Eastern Bloc era train car, you catch up to your wife in a car covered in blood and see her slumped over the shoulder of someone, or something huge. Shock of all shocks – the train crashes, and that’s when the real fun begins as you begin to investigate the area and come in contact with a man known as Victor, who seems to be a mix of Jigsaw and the mad Doctor from The Human Centipede. You see, he not only traps people and in some cases forces you to watch for some unknown reason, but he also experiments on corpses, fusing their bodies with machinery making them into some strange undead hybrid hell bent on your destruction. Your duty is, naturally, to save your wife from the Eastern European stereotype while putting a stop to the madness – without a controller.
As you should already know, Rise of Nightmares is a Kinect title, no options for using a controller exist in this title. Similar to how some of the more recent titles to Kinect are able to use gestures beyond a hand location, Nightmares uses the Kinect in a few interesting ways, and for the most part they are used well. Something else to get out of the way, this is not an on rails game. Meaning you will have full control of where to go in this very linear game, sure it forces you to go where you need to go but you are controlling when and where. Part of the reason for a horror title on Kinect is to help immerse the gamer in the world that’s being played, and the controls do help with that aspect. Moving is done by placing a foot either in front or behind the other, and turning is as simple as moving your shoulders in a direction. See a mecha-zombie? Put up your dukes and you take the fighting stance. Using weapons is as simple as punching, slashing, or throwing a great big hook at your opponent. Naturally, when using other weapons such as the chainsaw or hedge clippers, it is a lot more context sensitive, so yes a chopping motion is required to shear off a neck and a nice wide two handed swipe of the chainsaw is required to properly use that weapon. In this regard, the game succeeds on the immersion. Other interesting uses of gestures in Rise of Nightmares come at some unexpected moments; flipping over tarot cards very early in the game beats the hell out of simply pressing ‘A’ to turn the card, and things that normally would be cutscenes become interactive and satisfying. Rather than just watch your character splash water on his face, you do it. Sick of watching doors open for themselves? Good, because you’re going to be the one opening them here.
The game does pack in a good amount of gore, beheadings and amputation are prevalent, and at one point I had to reach into a corpse and fish around for a key, the best part about this section was that it went on about 15 seconds longer than it needed to be to prove the point, and those 15 seconds became the exclamation mark on demonstrating exactly what I was doing. The controls were for the most part responsive enough to play the game – but at higher difficulty levels the sluggish walking mechanism would get in the way of a good time. The game does include and autoplay feature which moves your character to the next checkpoint as long as you hold a specific gesture, or something doesn’t show up looking for a fight. This was good for those times when you get a little turned around in the caste of horrors.
Kinect is not just for kids. There’s definitely something about the system that can appeal to adults. It’s not a bunch of tiger petting, bubble popping and dancing. Any self respecting adult can enjoy a lot of things about Kinect, Rise of Nightmares is possibly one of them. While still not a system seller, the fact that a game like this can and has been made for Kinect is a great step, and helps move things forward for the system. The level of immersion is a step in the right direction, and beats the rumble of a controller. You try not to squeal at least a little bit the first time something jumps on your character and you have to push it off of you. I dare you.
Platform reviewed: Xbox 360