Insert Disk collects Nightmare Creatures for the PlayStation 1 (PS1).
Today’s retro game review is Nightmare Creatures for the PlayStation 1 (PS1). This retro gaming classic is a horror action adventure pits you against Adam Crowley as he attempts to take over London and the rest of the world by releasing a hoard of Nightmare Creatures. The game has a few bugs and challenges around its control system but there is fun to be had here for any dedicated horror fan or retro gamer.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Today I thought I’d raid my PlayStation horror collection to unearth a game that divided opinion upon its release back in 1997. Join me today as we play with Nightmare Creatures. Picture the scene its London 1666 and a demon worshiping brotherhood with sinister ambitions on world domination is up to no good. One of the brotherhoods order (Samuel Pepys) goes against the brotherhood and burns down the building and halls of London in turn, later to be known as the great fire of London. The back story is somewhat mixed with elements of true history and real life locations. Skip forward to 1834 and mad scientist and new head of the order of the brotherhood called Adam Crowley is experimenting with cadavers to create nightmare creatures in order to take over the world. Crowley reads a manuscript by real-world Samuel Pepys, best known for his diary in order to attempt to create a magic elixir. The result is actually the potion that creates the hideous creatures that he will unleash upon London and then the rest of the world.
So far so good. This is a horror story that could go somewhere. Far better than your average monster hunt. To combat the brotherhoods plans two heroes, Ignatius and Nadia are dispatched to stop him. This is where the game starts going a bit awry. You’ll start off near the graveyard and it won’t be long before you encounter your first enemy. You can kick, jump and attack with your sword. It’s a little clunky to start with but you’ll get the hang of it after a while. The game does have elements of jump scares in it. From nowhere you’ll be taking damage from a sudden appearance of an enemy. To add in some variety the game does involve activating switches to open new paths and also a range of pick ups including health, potions and ammunition. The gun pickup is particularly useful. You’ll only have a limited number of bullets but the weapon is strong enough to one shot many of the Nightmare Creatures. On first glance Nightmare Creatures looks like an instant crowd pleaser.
There are two things that really get in the way of all this though. That’s the camera angles and the erratic control. If I first explain the control method. It’s very much like the tank controls that you experience in the original resident evil. For this type of game it really doesn’t seem to be a natural fit. Often you’ll find yourself turned the wrong way and it can seem like a real mission to steer your character in the way you would like. This isn’t game breaking but its certainly less than ideal. I would have much preferred the ability to run in any direction much more in the style of Mario 64. The control system is functional but seems very dated when you re-visit this game. The second element to make the game less than perfect is the camera. Sometimes its almost right over your shoulder and at other times it swings and sways rapidly. The overall effect when combined with the rigid character movement can be quite unsettling. At times I physically experienced motion sickness whilst playing due to the presentation. The action itself is at best average. There is a rudimentary combo system and it can be fun to slice your foes in half. In practice it turns in to a bit of a button masher at times but there’s still fun to be had here.
The game also has some good ideas, there is a story throughout the game as you track down Crowley. You’ll also be able to change weapons in later stages of the game. So, what about those nightmare creatures? Again, I’m slightly on the fence here. You’ll face the standard zombies, werewolves and miscellaneous hulking masses. I have to admit I did like some touches such as having to dismember the monsters that look like Jack the Ripper. It’s also satisfying to one-shot certain flying enemies. I’m not sure if I’m being too critical of the game or not. There are some clearly re-skinned and reused enemies and overall not as great a variety as I might have expected from a game called Nightmare Creatures. With a game title such as this you have to be sure to deliver a good range of monsters, in truth I’m not so certain that I received enough monster for my money.
It’s also clear that not all of the bugs were removed from the game as it is possible to pull infinite compos on some of the creatures. Also, this being a PlayStation 1 game the graphics have aged really badly in places. The creatures themselves look very generic and there can be some very noticeable polygon clipping in narrow areas. Even back in 1997 there are a great number of games that had already cracked these issues. There are also some other elements of the game that may frustrate you. Firstly the jump mechanism. You can jump using the triangle but the animation feels very forced and doesn’t quite sync with the distance covered. It feels almost spongy and can be quite difficult to handle. Again it’s workable but I found that the spongy jumping combined with the camera sway quite nauseating after a while. Secondly is the fire. Later in the game you’ll be in burning buildings. The fire actually looks very good as an effect. Until you step on it, you’ll be burnt to a crisp in seconds and really harshly punished. This would have been fine if the control system were a little more responsive and the camera in a consistent enough position to be able to see where you are safe. Instead it’s all a bit of a mess. Combine this with having to jump over fire and you feel that you’re battling the developer far more than the Nightmare Creatures themselves.
The physical packaging is well presented. It’s suitably gothic and not too much to complain about. In terms of pricing currently you can pick this one up for around the £10 mark or around $15 with some room to negotiate. There are a few art variations by region and console so I’d suggest choosing your favourite. I may have sounded a bit down about Nightmare Creatures and that’s because I wanted it to be so much more than it is. I often see very positive reviews of the game but I can’t help but feel a level of nostalgia is needed to look past some of the games shortcomings. To its credit the game does have a story ark and the last level fighting Crowley on top of a burning Westminster Abby is very memorable. Again, be prepared to be a little patient as Crowley is not just overpowered, he’s virtually unstoppable.
Would I recommend Nightmare Creatures, perhaps not. Even at the fairly low collectors price point the cash is probably better invested elsewhere. The game isn’t broken it just needs the player to meet it half way. I can see what the game designers were trying to do. The execution just let this good idea down a bit though. To this day the game does still have its fans so don’t just take my word for it, give this one a try if you can hunt down a cheap copy. Its not all bad and there are some good jump scares and reasonable action to be had here. However, it is a little buggy in places and may not appeal to those with low patience levels. Until next time, I’ll be here finishing off this Nightmare Creature…