Saturday, January 27

Review: Nightmare Boy [Nintendo Switch eShop]

While there are many well-represented genres already on the Switch the classic Metroidvania numbers are currently a bit thin. That isn’t to say that the titles available, most notably Steamworld Dig 2 and Axiom Verge, are an issue as both are excellent and each has their own distinct take on the genre. We now have Nightmare Boy throwing its hat into the ring as well, with its own distinct visual style and gameplay, though it unfortunately suffers when compared to those aforementioned titles.

In the game you’ll play as Billy, a young boy who has been sucked into a sort of nightmare world and becomes embroiled in some sort of conflict… but honestly it all kind of went over my head pretty quickly. You’re there and you’ll slowly come along a variety of funky beings who will help you along, though some of their motivations and actions do make it challenging to tell what’s going on at any given time. The moral of the story will be to wander and find your boss conflicts, defeat them, and then accept the rewards they give you so you can find your next fight and then use your newfound ability to progress further.

The somewhat uneven story matches up pretty well with the nature of the action you’ll be playing through. While your enemies are undoubtedly varied in their appearance and methods of attack things can be a bit muddled and confusing as well. In particular the benign little puffball beings scattered everywhere aren’t necessarily meant to be killed, and with one particular power-up you can use to get a warrior helper you’ll actually take some damage when you kill them. Unfortunately they’re very good at getting in the middle of fights so that entire aspect of things is just frankly weird. To the game’s credit, the boss fights are often with unusual-looking nightmarish creatures who then sometimes have some surprises in store for you, but at times sticking with the game got tough.

I think my biggest issue with the game was simply having a grasp on where I was supposed to be going or what I was supposed to be doing. The thing is, there’s plenty of content overall in terms of things to find, children to rescue, and bosses to fight. Why there’s not then a better overall way to tell where to go next is baffling. There’s a map which is good on a general level at revealing where you’ve been and somewhat hinting at possible places to go but I found myself wandering and backtracking far more than I’d prefer. On a general level the controls are a bit on the loose side so jumping and attacking can take a little getting used to. For the moment it is also worth noting that the Pro Controller isn’t supported so you’ll just want to be aware or on the lookout for any announcement for when support is in place.

In the end Nightmare Boy offers up something thoroughly different from a visual standpoint and it can be quite challenging, just not always for the right reasons either. If you give it some time it does pick up momentum and you can get into a groove but when you hit the spots where you’re not sure where you’re going things understandably drag quite a bit. Probably only recommended for the most die-hard Metroidvania fans who have blown through what’s already available on the system, show patience with Nightmare Boy and some fun can be had with it.

Score: 6

  • A distinct visual style with bizarre monsters and bosses to fight
  • Generally challenging play with boss fights showing quite a bit of variety

  • The story is a bit of a mess and I honestly got impatient with it in the early going, just wanting to play
  • Control isn’t quite as tight as I’d like with movement, jumping, and attacks, but you can adjust to it
  • There are times I simply got lost and couldn’t tell where I was supposed to go next, which needlessly lead to wasted time

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