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Nightmare Review

"Despite its frustrating control, Nightmare delivers some quality action."

Nightmare combines fantastic graphics and an oft-used isometric maze-running premise to create a solid Diablo clone for mobile. Even though the gameplay isn't as deep as the original and the controls are a struggle, Nightmare is a fun-enough play to justify the download.

Nightmare eschews Diablo's RPG elements, such as the skill-point system, in favor of the pure, unadulterated hack-and-slash action that was the staple of the PC hit. There's a plot, but it's completely unintelligible thanks to some of the worst translation I've ever seen. Apparently, "Dragon city is covered in a sort of mysterious air where there are different zones of big and small size." While this may sound like the writing of a frustrated city planner, it's actually saying that Dragon City is infested with the undead. I know this because I've been slicing and dicing my way through zombies, skeleton warriors, and giant, anthropomorphic fish-men for the past couple of hours. And during breaks from that, I've been playing Nightmare!

In Nightmare, you play as a scantily clad heroine who must dispatch the aforementioned undead using only her fists and a handgun--the latter, obviously, being the more powerful and longer-ranged weapon. Be warned, though, that your "piece" has limited firepower and you must pick up ammo clips scattered throughout the level if you hope to keep pumping zombies full of lead. The goal, however, is not to kill everything that moves. The object of each level is to find a means of escape. The foul legions of hell before you are simply obstacles in your path. You kill what you need to and avoid the rest, collecting the classic "red potion" Erlenmeyer flasks to bolster your health along the way.

Nightmare's graphics are gorgeous--that is, if postapocalyptic, gothic dungeons are your bag (and if you liked Diablo, they are). Nightmare does blood and guts right, with fluid animations and lavishly detailed gore. When you destroy one of the mindless ghouls populating the game's labyrinthine levels, he will violently explode into a pool of his four humors. Awesome. In addition, Nightmare, like Diablo, is played in a three-quarters view, nearly overhead perspective, giving you a good view of the area around your character.

The only thing more horrific than the undead denizens of Dragon City is Nightmare's control. The game's control is abysmal, with no support for diagonals. You will often find yourself cursing your handset as you die time and time again because you were unable to successfully maneuver your character. Since Nightmare's control is so poor, the auto-aim implemented in the game is welcome. You need only point your character in the general direction of the baddy to nail him.

What is it with horror games and crappy control? The Resident Evil series has long suffered from it. Perhaps the thinking is that poor control will make a scary game even more frightening: "Help, I'm being chased by creatures straight out of an H.P Lovecraft novel, and I've lost the ability to run diagonally!"

Despite its frustrating control, though, Nightmare delivers some quality action. I was impressed by the large scale of the levels, the game's gorgeous graphics, and the liberal smattering of Incredible Hulk posters on the walls. Just kidding about that last part.

Posted on Jan 01, 2004