Anyone that has been following us may remember a blog post that we published in April of 2017 that spoke of the upcoming game, Nightmare Boy. It brought a lot to the table with its teaser trailers and the creators went into amazing detail to explain what their game has to offer. Well, the game is now out, and we were able to check it out for ourselves. Does it live up to the expectations? Let’s find out!
Nightmare Boy is a side-scrolling metroidvania action-adventure title developed by The Vanir Project and published by BadLand Indie. It tells the story of Billy, who is taken to the dream world of Donorok in the state of Noctum by Balder, a monster trying to impress the Queen of Donorok. One night, while Billy is in a deep slumber, Balder captures him and turns him into the Prince, who was recently murdered. Balder’s plans almost worked until Billy remembered his past life and set on a journey to save the other children trapped in this mysterious land. Can you save the other children and awake Billy from this never-ending slumber?
This title’s gameplay mechanics are reminiscent of the retro era of gaming and feels like it was plucked right out of the 80s. You are tasked with killing monsters, slaying bosses, and saving children on Billy’s quest for redemption. You are not only responsible for the well-being of Billy, but become the savior of all the friendly inhabitants of Donorok in the process. Similar to most metroidvania titles on the market, the game is to be appreciated with multiple playthroughs. The first playthrough is used to get your bearings, study the terrain, and memorize those pesky boss patterns. You begin the game with nothing except your first weapon and soon receive your first skill, the mighty fireball. You then must take Billy on his journey, punching enemies and taking names, to receive more equipment for your kit. The mechanics are pretty simple, you punch enemies to get gems to spend on saving the game (yeah, pay to save!) and buying trinkets from the store. Fight the occasional boss and rescues the child. Rinse and repeat until you beat the game. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, there is one detail that makes this much more than a stroll through the bizarre park of Donorok.
This issue comes from your survivability and how often you die throughout your playthrough. Like previously mentioned, saving the game cost a set number of gems and with every saves the price increases. You are probably thinking to yourself, I just won’t save for a while to amass a bunch of gems. While it is a sound strategy, this game is brutal, and death can come to you when you are not even expecting it. Even worse, death sets you back to the last time you saved, which could be the beginning of the game if you are not careful.
Something that I was not expecting when getting into this game was how hard the game is when you first pick it up. The bosses have brutal attacks with some strange patterns and that isn’t even the half of it. Health and mana do not regenerate over time and you must scavenge the world for those beloved health and mana potions. This makes you question every encounter and choose your battles wisely. While it would be fun to just go around punching every enemy that comes across your path, they do more damage than you would think and sure can be relentless. Nightmare Boy was touted to bring back the feeling of older retro titles and they sure as hell made me feel that way. I swear this game could have come out twenty years ago and it would have felt right at home.
The visuals and soundtrack of Nightmare Boy are terrific, to say the least. The visuals are a beautiful barrage of color that comes together to make a collage of amazement. The colors are so crisp that even though the game made me feel nostalgic, I could not help myself from admiring the world around me. However, the environment wasn’t the only thing that had me in a state of awe. The character design of the bosses was plagued with nightmarish features that just brought the overall appeal together. The soundtrack was spooky and sounded like the music you would hear as you walked through a haunted house. It added to the atmospheric vibe and was bone-chilling from time to time. The music didn’t stand out much more than that, but it wasn’t awful.
My experience with Nightmare Boy was overwhelmingly enjoyable, but it did have a few flaws. While I enjoyed the art style and the mechanics as a whole, I felt as the attacks you threw at your enemies were a bit clunky. I felt from time to time that my punches were not hitting even though a clearly made contact with my opponent. In addition, I felt that the jumping animations would be off, and it would cause you to collide with a platform that you clearly would have covered. It didn’t happen a lot, but it happened enough to be an annoyance. Overall, these issues were pebbles in the sea of praises that I have for this game and I am glad that I got a chance to play this title.
In the end, Nightmare Boy was an amazing metroidvania action-adventure title that I would recommend for anyone looking to relive the nostalgia of this genre. The game is pretty difficult and takes a bit of learning before you get the hang of it. It is not as hard as notorious games from that generation, but this game is a doozy and you will die a lot. However, trust me and stick with it and you will enjoy the experience that you are presented with. It’s a blast as long as the nightmares don’t haunt you.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review
Final Score: 9/10
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