Rise of Nightmares Review

By Jason D'Aprile - Posted Sep 15, 2011

Sega's gone experimental with Rise of Nightmares, a first-person horror game controlled by your whole body thanks to the Kinect.

The Pros
  • Interesting use of Kinect
  • Some creepy atmosphere
  • Combat can be goofy fun
The Cons
  • Really clunky controls
  • Looks and acts very last-gen
  • Horror with the lights on seems wrong

Rise of Nightmares Review:

If nothing else, Rise of Nightmares helps reiterate that the Kinect just isn’t the platform for hardcore action games. That’s not to say that the game is a complete waste, and for those gamers hungry for something different, this is definitely it. Lovers of Japanese horror games will likely be more forgiving of the game’s flaws, but most gamers will find this Nightmare to be merely a brief curiosity.


Rise from Your Grave… er… Sofa!

In Rise of Nightmares, players take on the role of hapless hero, Josh, who is traveling through Eastern Europe on a vacation with Kate, his wife. Things start off badly when Kate discovers that Josh is drinking again just as she’s about to make a big important announcement to him. Then a horrible monster strikes, killing a bunch of people, kidnapping Kate, and causing the train to crash. Basically, Josh is having a bad day.

Viktor, the very deranged scientist at the heart of the tale, has kidnapped Kate, along with many other hapless victims. Viktor has a thing for brutally killing people, vivisecting them, amputating limbs, and then reanimating the corpses after reattaching new, clockwork-style limbs. This process turns the victims into mindless killing machines, who (for whatever reason) must all be re-killed by Josh…

The story doesn’t really go into great detail on why Josh is the chosen one in this carnival of carnage. Any supporting characters along the way are merely fodder for the game to do awful things to, thus reaffirming that it’s an M-rated horror game. In truth, Rise of Nightmares really seems like an old PS2 game that got shelved for being even more mediocre than usual before being (much like its monsters) reanimated with new limbs.

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Walk This Way

In this case, those new limbs happen to be the player’s. Controlling a first-person game with the Kinect is a strange experience. Make no mistake, Rise doesn’t run on rails, but it’s not exactly free-range either. The game adapts the most basic FPS controls to full-body movements. As Josh, players can move forward and back, turn, interact with certain objects, and attack. Like an early-90’s shooter, there’s no ability to look up or down and no strafing either.

To walk forward, the player must put their right leg forward. Lean in and Josh walks faster. Put the leg backwards, and Josh moves backwards. Shoulder turning equates to turning in the game. Opening doors, turning valves, climbing ladders, swimming, running, and other actions are all done by mimicking that activity. Mostly it works, but frequently the game requires obnoxiously over-enunciated motions before it will register.

Rise of Nightmares

Attacking requires the player to put up their hands in a boxing position. The Kinect is reasonably good at registering individual movements from both arms, and attacking is actually fun—at least for a while. There are all kinds of weapons laying around the levels, or dropped from enemies. Most are nasty-looking sharp objects for melee combat, but there are also things like throwing knives, exploding vials, and shock rods to pick up.

The chainsaw, in particular, is insanely entertaining to use. Shove it at an enemy and the saw revs up and chews through all manner of gore. Using garden shears is an amusing two-handed affair, and even just beating down zombies bare handed has a certain appeal. It just gets tiredly repetitive after a while.

Rise of Nightmares

On Auto Pilot

Attack motions still seem fairly sloppy, but the game tries to compensate with an auto block that helps avoid damage so long as Josh isn’t attacking at the same time. Sadly, the rest of the controls are just absurdly annoying. Walking can be an exercise in frustration and even at his fastest pace, Josh walks deadly slow. To offset how hard basic navigation can be, the game allows for auto-walking when the player holds up their right arm.

Auto-movements are locked out during the many death-trap rooms, and the clunky, slow controls make avoiding Viktor’s architectural implements of death less challenging and more out-right frustrating. There’s some exploration in Rise of Nightmares as well. Tarot cards and cassette tapes are lying around, and constantly auto-moving will result in missing most of them.

Rise of the Nightmare doesn’t offer a cutting edge presentation. It looks ok, with decent character models and a creepy atmosphere, but the architecture and textures are definitely old school. The audio work is by the books, with atmospheric music, plenty of groaning and screams, and tolerable voice work.

Rise of Nightmares

Not Nightmarish, but No Dream Either

As an experimental Kinect game, Rise of Nightmares offers some appeal. Combat is goofy fun, even if basic movements are an exercise in frustration and patience. The use of different motions for interacting with events and objects is clever as well. Unfortunately, the Kinect-centric controls are the only gimmick Rise has going for it. Take that away and all that’s left is an incredibly lackluster and mediocre slasher game.

Still want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?