If only Kalisto's Nightmare Creatures played as good as it looks. It's an aesthetically striking behind-the-back 3D action game that's chock full of bloody, button-pounding mayhem in which you set out to vanquish an evil scientist bent on turning the world into a fiend-infested deathtrap. This port of the PlayStation game carries over the original's infuriating control and shallow gameplay to make for a short-lived but pretty-looking Tomb Raider knockoff.
If your computer's got the horsepower to run it at higher resolutions, Nightmare Creatures looks impressive. The huge monsters you have to fight at every bend, ranging from zombies to werewolves to giant beetles, are terrifically detailed, fast, and ferocious. And either of the two tough characters at your command, the staff-wielding priest Ignatius and the young swordswoman Nadia, looks like an even enough match for them. Best of all, though, is the scenery, which really brings nineteenth-century London to life: A lazy fog hangs just above the stone streets; street lamps flicker, casting a calm light on their surroundings; rivers and waterways look placid and the homes lining their banks are quaint and almost inviting. Each of the dozen-odd stages in Nightmare Creatures looks different and feels real, yet the washed-out color palette used throughout the game lends everything a dreary appearance.
Nightmare Creatures packs a music score straight out of a horror movie along with chilling ambient sound effects that will make you more than a little cautious as you round each turn. Each creature you encounter sounds as mean as it looks, and snarls, barks, moans, growls, and roars at you as it tries desperately to end your misery. Nightmare Creatures is an aesthetically strong package, but you'd best not stand around and admire your surroundings for too long.
For one thing, some rampaging werewolf will probably strike you down if you drop your guard. For another, your character's been infected by the same stuff that's turned everyone else into mindless slavering beasts, and only by killing such things can you keep your adrenaline level high and the virus from consuming you. What this means in gameplay terms is, you must constantly search for creatures to kill lest your adrenaline meter expire, and you with it. This time limit becomes especially frustrating when you clean a room of evil presence only to be greeted by a jumping puzzle where one false step means certain death within a watery grave (seems Nadia and Ignatius forsook swimming for the martial arts). And because there are no continues in the game, and you have limited lives, and all the while that adrenaline is ticking away... Nightmare Creatures may begin to try the patience.
Your frustration will exponentially increase trying to come to grips with the control. It sounds easy enough - arrow keys to steer, a defense button, a slash, a kick, and a jump - but you'll quickly become envious of your fast-moving opponents while you struggle to make your character heed your bidding. Rotating, for one thing, is painfully slow. And because the enemy creatures have a rather intelligent tendency to flank you, constantly trying to face them becomes aggravating. Collision detection is also rather poor, and on many occasions you'll find yourself wondering what hit you or, worse yet, why your attack missed its mark. The previously mentioned jumping puzzles truly are a nightmare, as even a seemingly simple three-foot leap becomes a life-threatening chore since jumping control is so awkward.
Even if you like how it looks and manage to cope with the unforgiving and sluggish controls, soon enough you'll inevitably grow tired of Nightmare Creatures. The dozen-odd monsters you fight against all look great, but a stick-and-move strategy can be used to vanquish each in turn. Though both Ignatius and Nadia pack a couple of fairly difficult combos, their arsenal of attacks is far too limited to lend any sort of depth or lasting value to the combat. And while there are secret areas, power-ups, and more powerful weapons to be found as you progress, they aren't enough to fight off the monotony of the action. In fact, any lasting value to the game comes from its extreme challenge coupled with the inability to save during a level. Another holdover from the PlayStation version is the inability for two to play simultaneously, either cooperatively or against one another. To be sure, you won't win Nightmare Creatures right away even on the easiest difficulty setting. And once you do, you can always try to repeat the process with the other character. But both play identically outside of marginal differences in speed, strength, and attack - and you'll more than likely grow weary of the nerve-racking, repetitive levels long before you hack through the game the first time.