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   PlanetDreamcast | Games | Reviews | Nightmare Creatures 2
    Nightmare Creatures 2
Welcome to my nightmare - Review By Wheat

Nightmare Creatures 2 Logo In 1997, French developer Kalisto brought us the interesting (if underwhelming) third-person horror/adventure known as Nightmare Creatures. Now, as is so often the case with mildly successful games, a sequel has been developed. Yes, Nightmare Creatures II has come to the Dreamcast, hot on the heels of the Playstation version on which it is based.

The story? Adam Crowley, the villainous "bio-sorcerer" (that's "bad guy" to you and me), has returned a century after his defeat at the weapons of Father Ignatius Blackward and Nadia F., the heroes of the original Nightmare Creatures. His welcome back party takes the form of a vicious massacre of the Circle, which is a secret society that has devoted itself to protecting humanity since Crowley's original defeat. Herbert Wallace, former member of the Circle and unlikely hero #329, is captured by Crowley and subjected to his vile experiments. After unspeakable torture and mutilation, Wallace manages to escape, only to wind up in the psychiatric ward of the local nuthouse. There he spends his days wrestling with his awful past and disfigured face, until a vision of his friend Rachael stirs him to action. No longer content to rot in his padded cell, Wallace grabs the ax some careless physician left by his bed and resolves to put an end to Crowley (either once and for all, or until Nightmare Creatures III).

As you might expect, Nightmare Creatures II is a gratuitously violent tour of mutant filled Europe. Armed with an ax and an assortment of power-ups (guns, toxic gas, and incendiary devices to name a few), our mentally unstable hero does the only things such tools will allow to anything and everything of the undead persuasion. Wallace has two different modes for movement -- one used for exploring the 3D terrain, and the other for doing battle. NCII employs a combat system with a Zelda 64-style lock-on camera. To spice up battles, the game features a combo system to string together different ax swings and kicks, and fatalities for those who prefer to customize their killing.

The exceedingly bloody dismemberment of the undead with an ax... sounds like a winning formula, right? Read on to see if Nightmare Creatures II can cut it.

  • The Good

    The enemy designs are occasionally inspired.
    Nightmare Creatures II features dozens of nicely scripted sequences throughout the course of normal gameplay. Monsters rise from the grave, hellhounds climb down walls, and poor Wallace gets thrown around like a chew toy. Between each stage, a transitional video showcases more of this carnage while further acquainting us with our disturbed hero. The monsters' special attacks are done nicely (although sometimes with a poor transition leading into to the animation), and Wallace's fatalities (special execution animation for each enemy) are a riot.

    The original Nightmare Creatures suffered occasionally from poor camera logic, which made it difficult to get any useful view of the action. Thankfully, that seems to have been addressed in this sequel. While still not perfect, I can't think of any similar third-person view games without similar minor flaws. During combat, the camera repositions itself automatically to keep your target constantly in sight. Also, the hero's controls change to movements relative to your opponent (i.e., left and right circle the enemy), so you intuitively know where to expect Wallace to move without having to think how he's positioned relative to the camera.

    A terrifying pile of polygons shambles out of the strangely-close fogline.

    Some may appreciate NCII for its more or less wacky approach to horror. Kalisto successfully avoids cheesiness by adding a sick sense of humor to the game. The blood pouring from enemies and from our hero is delightfully excessive, and Wallace's violent fits and fatalities are enjoyably spasmatic. Plus, there's something intrinsically humorous about a zombie futilely continuing his attack even after you lopped off its arms and head ("merely a flesh wound"... yeah, you knew that was coming).

    Lastly, the game comes complete with some thoughtful extras. A practice mode (known as "therapy") teaches you the game's two combo attacks, and lets you try them out on an everlasting supply of zombies. Some in-game objects such as chairs and glass can be smashed with your ax, catering to those nihilistic tendencies (although if you ask me, more objects should be breakable). Finally, it's worth mentioning NCII's extra VMU animation, since some companies don't even bother with them.

  • The Bad
    As the relative size of "The Good" suggests, I have many a complaint about Nightmare Creatures II. Lets start with what must be the most serious offense: the sheer monotony of playing. Despite the combo system and special power-ups, Kalisto just didn't come close to making the actual fighting engaging or enjoyable, which is a high crime for a game based almost entirely on combat. Dealing with enemies requires blocking until you're taunted, then delivering one of the two very simple combo attacks over and over. Each takes three button presses, with very little timing required. This is made even less gratifying by the weak and unsatisfying sound effects. Also lame is that you typically don't fight more than one monster at a time. Even if you're surrounded by two or three enemies, you're usually only in danger of being attacked by the one your camera has locked on to, with few exceptions. Once he/she/it is dispensed with (and allowing time for the full fatality animation), the camera chooses your next target and you begin again.

    Next: (Much) More Bad, and The Final Word

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