Nightmare Creatures

17_1Nightmare Creatures is an action-packed, console to PC action adventure, set in 1834 London. A very evil man by the name of Adam Crowley heads the Brotherhood of Hecate. They discover some lost documents that explain how to create a race of “supermen” by manipulating viruses, then mix the potent concoction and release it on the poor citizens of London. But instead of getting supermen, they get monsters — lots of them. It’s then up to you – as Ignatius Blackward or Nadia – to exterminate the wave of monsters that have befallen the city.

The action plays out from a third-person perspective similar to Tomb Raider II. Unlike the point-and-shoot action of Tomb Raider II however, the combat in Nightmare Creatures focuses on hand-to-hand fighting. The camera is the chaotic, jerky and nausea-inducing mess that was common with many console to PC adventure transitions at the time. As jerky as it is, the camera works when it isn’t being unpredictable – occasionally you’ll get turned around, and it can be a bit difficult to right yourself (especially while being gouged in the back), but the biggest control problems lie with the jump feature.

This is when the game calls for you to jump from object to object to traverse some sort of hazard. Even after I was used to the distance involved, I still missed on occasion. Without a decent save game feature (you can only save at the end of a level, a tiresome indication of the game’s console origins), I had to replay the entire level, which became extremely annoying, to say the least. An in-level save feature would have softened the blow of the fussy controls, but without it, you’ll be back to the start with every misstep.

19_1Those faults aside, Nightmare Creatures is enjoyable, if in a very retro and pixelated console game sort of way. Whether running with 3D acceleration or through software only, the graphics are crisp, with none of the clipping problems that plagued both of the Tomb Raider games. Additionally, the creatures are nicely rendered, as are the various lights, tables, carriages and other paraphernalia that decorates the landscape. But beyond the graphics, what this game really excels at is atmosphere.

Each of the levels is extremely well constructed and complementary to the gothic horror theme, and the result is one of the most spine-tingling games I’ve played in a long time. A couple of the levels featured thunderstorms, with rain (which varies in intensity), thunder, and lightning. The lightning is used very nicely, allowing you to catch glimpses of monsters hiding in the darkness, and even features a couple of direct lightning strikes. Numerous little touches add to the creepiness, such as one level where you stumble across a horse lying in the street.

11_1As you round the horse, you see a werewolf happily gorging itself on the entrails. It was refreshing to see a monster actually doing something instead of just lurking around. They’re pretty smart, too — at the outset they’re quite easy to hack and slash, but as the game progresses, their combat skills get beefed up. If you keep using the same attack, they’ll learn how to evade it, for example, and will even coordinate to attack you from multiple sides if there is more than one monster in the same area.

It’s really too bad that Nightmare Creatures fell short in two simple, but significant areas — that lack of a useful save feature, and the occasionally twitchy controls. The game had the potential to be a classic.

System Requirements: Pentium 133 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Win95

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