Ever seen Hostel? A thoroughly unpleasant film, and one Rise of Nightmares reminded us of. The game is set in an eastern European dungeon where unspeakable horrors are acted out. Except instead of wealthy sickos torturing kidnapped tourists, Sega has a mad scientist abducting visitors to Romania and turning them into zombies. And all they wanted to do was see the Carpathians…
Welcome to the hostel Carpathian
…And you are one such tourist who manages to escape his cell, then has to rescue his girlfriend who is held elsewhere in the labyrinthine nightmare. After an interesting introduction, this Kinect-powered game begins to plod a little. A corridor with some zombies leads to a room populated by zombies, and another corridor that plays host to a zombie or two. You must hack and bludgeon them to death with a variety of implements, from hammers to chainsaws.
The motion controls do take some acclimatisation. Rise of Nightmares actually offers full freedom of movement – putting a foot forward sets protagonist Josh walking forward, and retracting it halts him. Placing a foot behind you makes Josh backpedal, and he turns as you turn your shoulders.
Turning precisely enough can be a bit fiddly at times, especially in the midst of a frantic battle, although we found it helped to reduce the sensitivity of the controls a little. Soon enough, we were fighting even multiple opponents pretty adeptly, particularly when we got the hang of when to lock onto an enemy, and when to drop that focus to move.
Traps and tribulations
As the game unfurls, Sega’s nightmarish vision fleshes itself out to a greater degree, with the tension building nicely and more puzzles and traps being thrown into the mix. Kinect adds a great deal of atmosphere to the gameplay here, as you actually have to physically duck when a poison arrow trap is sprung, or cover your ears to avoid being damaged by a banshee’s howl.
Events such as these help to build the sense of immersion, as does one particular maniacal baddie who stalks the dank corridors. He’s blind but has acute hearing, so you’ve got to stand totally still when he comes near, which makes for some tense moments.
While the story is a mish-mash of all sorts of horror elements, it’s entertaining enough in tongue-in-cheek fashion, and there are even some very smart twists to the tale later on. Darken the room, crank up the surround sound and enjoy.
- Kinect technology works well to give full freedom of movement with only the odd niggle.
- Slow to start and a bit repetitive in some sections.
It's rather slow to warm up, but Sega's horror outing definitely builds momentum and in the end we found ourselves very much enjoying its blend of zombie bashing and reflex testing. The full movement motion controls are occasionally problematic, but they do a pretty good job on the whole, which bodes well for the future of Kinect away from dance and sport games.