Who doesn’t love a bit of Dance Central over the weekends? A lot of people, it turns out. Casual gaming (and gaming devices, as it were) have heaps more convincing to do if they’re going to win over the ‘core’ audience. What hasn’t helped their case is the near total lack of games with a natural predisposition to violence and potty-mouthery. Well don’t look now, but Sega’s gone and pulled a fast one on us. Rise of Nightmares not only uses Kinect, but also douses it in enough blood to drown a moderately sized town in the process.
If you’ve played any of Sega’s other B-movie aping stalwarts such as House of the Dead, Rise of Nightmares will feel reassuringly familiar. At its most basic, this is a House of the Dead game taken off its rails. You’re more or less free to move around as you’d like, the catch being that you’re restricted to using Kinect controls all through. You’ll fight monster minions and their nefarious bosses, sit through hilarious cutscenes and generally have a pleasant enough time if only for the novelty of it all.
So what are the controls like? You’ll stand upright, place a foot forward to walk, a foot back to back-step, and turn your shoulders to change direction or look around. If that sounds clunky, it’s probably because it is. Very. Enough so that you’ll longingly stare at your 360 controller while you’re contorting your body in a dozen different ways. But saying as much isn’t giving the game due credit. While the controls aren’t ideal for a first-person game, they certainly aren’t unworkable. In fact, you’ll find yourself getting used to them the more you play. But the question that’ll keep gnawing at the back of your mind is whether you really need to be playing a first-person game like this. That’s something I feel we can’t come to a conclusion for from just one game. We’ll need to wait for more titles to throw their machetes into the ring and see what approaches they bring before writing off the Kinect as a peripheral that can’t support traditional videogame genres.
Back to the game, though. Along with the finicky controls is a general impreciseness to the movement that probably comes with the territory given the controller. You’ll especially feel the control constraints in combat situations with multiple enemies, or when you need to navigate traps. In general, anything that requires a bit of finesse will be a tad frustrating to pull off (at least early on in the game). To be fair, there’s always an auto-move option handy which puts the game back on rails and does the walking and turning for you. You need to pull your arms up in a boxing stance in a combat situation, and you’re allowed one weapon at a time. These weapons eventually wear out, but there’s always another handy replacement close by. There’s a nice variety to the weapons and the lock-on system is quite intelligent. I do wish that there was more precision and feedback to your swings in general, but this may be more a case of me missing the controller rumble than anything else. We’re venturing into new territory, after all.
There are also clever one-time activities that show off the Kinect much better than the movement controls do. Swimming is a good example, as is sticking your hand into a toilet bowl to fish out a key. There are a dozen of these actions within the game and they bring much needed variety to the proceedings. These are, of course, in addition to standard motions for opening doors, climbing ladders, pulling switches, etc. Unfortunately, you’re able to shortcut your way through them by using lazy half-motions and tricking the Kinect into thinking you’re totally into the game and moving your body around like an undead ballerina.
And what a game it is, too. While it won’t last you more than a couple of day’s play, the story is absolute bonkers and you’d have to be a crazy person to take any of it seriously. The general campiness extends to the characters and the script, with the primary antagonist himself being hilariously over the top. Granted, mileage may vary depending on your love for hokey genre cinema, but what’s here is certainly passable for the kind of game Rise of Nightmares is.
It’s hard to recommend Rise of Nightmares unless you’re absolutely aching for mature games on your Kinect. Perfectly playable and direct-to-video fun it may be, but there are enough little issues with the control scheme here for potential buyers to exercise caution. The good news though, is that first-person Kinect controls are certainly doable, but it’s going to take a better game than Rise of Nightmares to refine and master them.