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A Nightmare on Elm Street (NES) artwork

A Nightmare on Elm Street (NES) review


"The Elm Street license, however, won't distract most gamers from noticing that this an unremarkable platformer. This is not to say it's unplayable. The mechanics, apart from entering buildings, are stable and functional; the platforming scenarios are passable; and the overall product is still far greater than many others that carry the LJN name."



A Nightmare on Elm Street begins where it ought to: on Elm Street itself. Clad in dance class attire, you shuffle down the street and punch snakes and bats in the face while pondering what your objective is. Scattered all about Elm Street are various locales, mostly houses, that beg entry. Push up at some of the entrances and nothing happens. You continue to punch stock enemies for miles, checking each area to see if your character will do anything other than stand there and allow bats to drop rocks on him.

Each time you play A Nightmare on Elm Street, the order in which you enter levels is random. As such, you play a guessing game padding up and down Elm Street until you find the right location. As if randomization wasn't frustrating enough, each area is very picky about where you stand when you press 'Up'. Elm Street expects you to position yourself just right, down to the finest pixel. You could miss the proper location many times and not realize it, thinking that perhaps it isn't the right one.

After much swearing, you'll enter the first level: a cookie-cutter 'scary old house' environment. Gaping holes, beds of spikes, and floating platforms greet you. Giant spiders and man-eating flies creep about, seeking to taste your warm blood. Though the pace has picked up, the experience still feels just as cookie-cutter as it did when you punched your first snake. Each level is a construct of rudimentary platforming scenarios, and later levels are little more than gauntlets of basic patience-testing traps. A new objective becomes clear: collect every bone in the area before advancing. Nabbing them all won't be a cinch. None are really well hidden, but some of them are in tricky locations. Sometimes you'll sneak into a closed space to grab one, leaving yourself open for punishment from a swarm of flies and nowhere to run. Other bones hover over pits, awaiting a well timed jump. It's during times like those that Elm Street shows a little shine. However, the mediocrity of the level designs doesn't make for the most exciting adventure. It's a collection of ideas we've seen before, implemented much better elsewhere.

There are no life restoration items in Elm Street, so avoiding damage is a huge priority. That being the case, one would think there'd be a life bar somewhere. It's not as though there isn't room for one on the HUD, but Rare felt that the A Nightmare on Elm Street logo was more important.

The only gauge to watch is your sleep meter, and when that puppy runs out you will cross over into the dream realm. Enemies transform into more powerful nightmarish counterparts. Giant spiders become human heads with spindly legs, like a throwback to John Carpenter's The Thing. Rats mutate into devils, flies into bony-armed ghosts. But you're not at a complete disadvantage. Nab a 'Dream Power' icon while awake and you could transform into a ninja, a wizard, or........a gymnast? Laugh while you can, because the javelins the gymnast throws pack a punch.

We all know what happens to characters who fall asleep in the Elm Street films. Before long, you'll hear an 8-bit rendition of Freddy's theme. By the theme's end, there will be brief silence broken by a din of desperate music and the words FREEDY'S COMING emblazoned on the screen. They even took the time to add a trademark after 'FREEDY'S'. No more platforming for you. You'll enter a confined room with Freddy himself as he unveils his ultimate strategy: wandering about the room, jumping erratically, and swatting at the air. Now and then he'll summon a minion, usually a gray glove protruding from the ground. Taking out Freddy is cake, as all it requires is patience and basic dodging. Beyond that, these battles are little more than a clumsy means in which to insert the license's key character. The lack of difficulty shows that the most.

The only way to wake up from the dream is to pick up a radio. If you want to stay awake, then you'll have to collect cups of coffee laying around. I'd really love to know who went through the trouble to brew a cup and set it down in arbitrary locations of the cemetery or the high school boiler room.

One neat feature that boosts A Nightmare on Elm Street's worth is the presence of a multiplayer mode. And when I say 'multiplayer', I don't mean 'two players'. Four narcoleptic friends can join the fray, punch stock enemies, and investigate uninteresting levels together! They even travel on the screen simultaneously.

The Elm Street license, however, won't distract most gamers from noticing that this an unremarkable platformer. This is not to say it's unplayable. The mechanics, apart from entering buildings, are stable and functional; the platforming scenarios are passable; and the overall product is still far greater than many others that carry the LJN name. It's unfortunate that Rare couldn't find another way to make this title work. Ho-hum platforming and incessant collecting are safe ideas, but do not a stellar game make.

Rating: 5/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 26, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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