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Neverending Nightmares (PC) artwork

Neverending Nightmares (PC) review

"A disturbing look into a sick man's mind."

Iím not sure when or how this happened, but Halloween has become my favorite holiday. This is weird for me out considering my default mental state hovers somewhere in the area of ďanxious, cowardly babyĒ most of the time, but Iíve been more willing to interact with media that is built specifically to unnerve its audience. There are plenty of movies in this genre, but games are a different proposition. Most games are more interested in delivering a power fantasy that makes the player feel like an unstoppable badass. Horror is at its most effective when there is an absence of power in the hands of the gamer. Itís a difficult balance to achieve, but itís a balance that Neverending Nightmares strikes pretty well.

Neverending Nightmares spares no time in its attempts to unnerve you. The very first thing you see is a little girl get stabbed as she cries tears of blood. Then the game cuts to your player character, Thomas, leaping out of his bed to find that it was all just a dream. Or was it? Instability is a constant in Neverending Nightmares. Thomas is in a bad way, and your basic understanding of what is going on is constantly under threat. The main themes of the game revolve around an unspoken familial tragedy that has wreaked havoc on Thomasí psyche. The girl from the dream is introduced as your sister Gabby, but the nature of who she is and what she means to you changes intermittently during the story. Developer Infinitap Games takes a ďless is moreĒ approach to storytelling, letting the playerís mind race with regards to what the hell is going on. Reality is shifting, literally, as you walk through the environment. The layout of the large, Victorian-era mansion you spend most of the game exploring shifts over the course of the game. Doors can lead to different rooms than they did previously. The pictures on the wall become increasingly more disturbed as you progress through the story. The mansion itself becomes a completely different place for parts of the game.

The unease that permeates the game is exacerbated by the gameís all-encompassing aesthetic. Neverending Nightmares utilizes a hand drawn, 2D art style that is both beautiful to look at and communicative about the gameís narrative. The mostly monochromatic sketchbook look of the game often leads to parts of the screen becoming obfuscated by darkness. Your worldview is just as disfigured and confused as Thomasí is. The consistency of the mood is so high that whenever the game decides to break the mold with large swathes of blood all over the place or quick scenes of Thomas committing graphic self-harm, these moments become all the more pronounced when they occur.

But the crown jewel in this gameís crown is the sound design. The soundtrack is composed of a cornucopia of truly miserable sounds: ominous keys, spectral animal noises, and otherworldly groans that all coalesce into something dreadfully brilliant. The ambient noises made in the environment also greatly contribute to the dread-filled mood of the game. Every creak of the floorboards underneath your feet, every turn of a creaky doorknob is perfectly tuned to raise your anxiety level far past the level of mere discomfort. Neverending Nightmares cranks up the tension while rarely giving you the release of a simple jump scare. I found it vaguely unbearable and super uneasy, and I was playing the game on my laptop in my well-lit bedroom. Itís great.

The game is far from flawless. The enemy encounters are the most traditional parts of the game, and they are by far the least interesting piece of the game. The final third of the game feels drawn out, which is strange to say considering you can finish the game in about two hours. But if you're looking to get spooked for a couple of hours, you can do a lot worse than Neverending Nightmares.

Project Horror 2016
Project Horror saw one (1) horror review submitted every day through the month of October. This review was part of that effort.


sam1193's avatar
Community review by sam1193 (October 19, 2016)

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