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KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child (Dreamcast) artwork

KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child (Dreamcast) review

"Now take a second to reflect; someone out there thought it would be a good idea to take an aging rock band and throw them into a video game. Consider with horror the fate we would suffer if this trend would have caught on. Ziggy Stardust's Pro Skateboarding would be a hit, equalled only by QueenFighter II."

Only in America can a band who looks like the Village People with an attitude problem make it huge. With their pseudo-homosexual leather attire and enough facepaint to make all of Renaissance-period France blush behind their pancake-coloured make-up, people still dug them. With a lead guitarist that thinks his instrument is an axe, and a drummer done up to look like a cat (but, like, from hell, man!), the amount of love KISS fans have for their faved band boggles minds.

But obviously the more tone-deaf of you get something I don't, so I'll politely step back from further slander. You have the CDs, the posters, the tour T-shirts, and now you can own the Dreamcast game. Ladies and gentleman, I give you KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child.

Now take a second to reflect; someone out there thought it would be a good idea to take an aging rock band and throw them into a video game. Consider with horror the fate we would suffer if this trend would have caught on. Ziggy Stardust's Pro Skateboarding would be a hit, equalled only by QueenFighter II.

That same wonderful someone also thought it would be a super idea to give this game a Satanic undertone so camp it would make Elton John feel manly. The feisty Nightmare Child, you see, is preparing to destroy the world from the comfy confines of his demonic womb. And the only people who can stop this fiendish foetus are the four members of the band Wicked Jester, all runner-ups in some small-scale KISS lookalike competition. Obvioulsy because playing the keyboard and looking like a prat also means you can wield heavy weaponry and destroy hellspawns. How else do you think they beat off groupies and keep road agents in line?

But where the story falters, the game attempts to up ground in other areas. Within this first-person viewed shooter, you'll find well-sized levels with rather noteworthy lighting and flash effects. Shadows will dance when illuminated, natural looking sunlight will light up areas while virtually radiating artificial heat. Your characters will bask in this light, chatting amongst themselves in what has to be considered a pretty high standard of voice acting. And the only price you have to pay for these stellar additions is to ensure you have the PC version of the game, because lazy Take 2 couldn't be bothered to work in a full port to the Dreamcast.

Why could they not be bothered to give you the full game? Maybe because they already knew that KISS Psycho Circus is more circus than psycho. Sloshing through generic levels fighting generic beasts with generic weapons all adds up to a humdrum experience. Whether you are mowing down hellspawn that looks like it was ripped literally straight from Doom with weapons that are reminiscent of Quake, the whole ordeal has the distinct feel of been there, done that. Take what was supposed to be a defining moment in the game: freshly acquainted with the fearsome Magma Cannon [read: rocket launcher clone] something skitters threateningly across the screen at you. Despite the dated graphics' irksome habit of making everything look like it's covered in ink, you can't help eye the approaching arachnid foe with some trepidation. The sub-par ambient music kicks up a notch, as you ready your newest weapon of destruction, only to come face to face with....

A poorly rendered clown-spider hybrid.

Biffo here isn't event the worst of the enemies, believe it or not. Also for your viewing pleasure you will meet fire-spewing demons that seemingly dot around the place on speedboats, headless orangutans with triangular limbs that limp towards you like someone welded their kneecaps together, and clumsy, fumble-footed badgers which the game insists are hell hounds. It doesn't help that these irksome buggers come from destructible spawn-points, so they'll flood the screen until their homes are nuked. Imagine a whole screen of oversized badgers that walk like all their legs are different sizes, and you're imagining KISS's entry into video games.

Even die-hard fans of the band will be forced to raise an eyebrow at the sub-par effort that is Psycho Circus, a game that promised to fill the hole in the 'cast shortage of FPSs and instead regulated itself to the unremarkable. You'll gleam some fun out of the fact that it's a barely-average Doom clone whilst suffering from disappointment at the fact it's a barely-average Doom clone. And that's all we have here: A poor man's Doom with 98% more make-up. But is the inclusion of female cosmetics enough to make a poor game good?

No. But it certainly helps write a bash review.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (August 31, 2005)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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