Rise of Nightmares Review

Rise of Nightmares
Platform: Xbox 360
Reviewed on Xbox 360
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Released: September 6, 2011
MSRP: $49.99

I’m pretty conflicted about Rise of Nightmares. On one hand, I want to commend Sega for trying really hard to make a compelling hardcore experience for Kinect. On the other hand, I want to condemn them for utterly failing to do so.

But it would be a shame to simply harp on what a s-t game Rise of Nightmares is, because experimentation is a good thing for the industry. So, Sega, props for trying something new.

OK, so Rise of Nightmares is Sega’s attempt to create to create a single-player, linear melee-oriented zombie game for Kinect. It makes sense as a concept; zombies are slow, and so they’ll be a forgiving enemy if players aren’t able to get a good handle on the “controls,” as it were. And the controls certainly aren’t easy for everyone to get. I figured them out fairly quickly, but a friend of mine played for over a half an hour and never managed to keep himself from walking straight into the walls over and over again.

And that’s because, as my friend said, “This s–t just isn’t very intuitive.” How it works sounds simple. You turn your shoulders to turn your character in the game, and you stick your foot forward to get him walking. When it’s time to open a door or something, you stick your hand out and move the Kinect cursor onto the door handle, and then make an opening-the-door motion. To hit somebody, you act like you’re hitting somebody.

It all sort of works. Turning your shoulders never seems to make your dude move the way you want him to; it tends to either moves to fast or too slow. All the flailing you’ll do is hit or miss, pun intended; sometimes it will work perfectly, and it will register all your jabs, and other times it just won’t register anything and you get killed.

And getting killed is so, so annoying. Checkpoint placement in this game would be appropriate for most games, but this game moves too damn slowly for checkpoints to be spaced normally. Because your character can never move faster than at a walking pace, Rise of Nightmares moves at half the pace of a normal game — and that’s assuming you’re good at controlling your character — and so it should have twice as many checkpoints. But it doesn’t, and dying is more annoying than it should be.

It doesn’t help that I couldn’t figure out how to block. I know it’s possible to block, because my character would do it from time to time, but I could never figure out if he was doing it automatically or I did something to trigger it. Either way, I could never make him block when I intended to, no matter what I did.

Once I mostly figure out how to control myself in the game, it never became fun, because it’s just not fun to flail at one kind of enemy forever. Yes, there are occasional boss fights, but you’ll mostly just walk down hallways and punch punch punch randomly to make it through. Cliffy B says you have to make that 30 seconds that repeats over and over in your game super fun if you want it to succeed, and the folks at Sega simply did not figure out that formula, because it never stopped being boring to play this game.

Oh, and this game has a story. It’s a pretty good zombie/mad scientist/Hostel tale, but it’s almost not worth talking about because the game is so fundamentally awful. It’s hard to appreciate the story when you’re having such a bad time playing the game.

That reminds me of one more nitpick I have. The game will reload at checkpoints if you die, but if you actually quit the game it won’t save it at the checkpoint. Instead, when you start up again, it’ll put you back at the beginning of the act, which means you could lose as much as half an hour or more of progress by quitting the game. This is an unforgivable sin for a Kinect game, because all the flailing you do can be very tiring. This is a major, major screw up.

I really don’t want to take Rise of Nightmare’s failure as a sign that hardcore games can’t be done on Kinect, and so I won’t, and that will give me perspective here. I’m not a game designer, so I can’t say what Sega should have done instead of what they did. But it should have been clear to SOMEONE over there that this wasn’t working. Give it another shot, I say.

Pros:
Story is amusing and gore-filled
I’m glad they tried, I guess.

Cons:
Controls are busted
It’s the slowest-moving game I’ve ever played
Boring
Badly spaced checkpoints

Final Score: 25/100

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