• Justin Hess

Review: Nightmare of Decay

The PS1 era of survival horror games makes a triumphant return with this love letter to the first-person horror experiences of yesteryear.


Game: Nightmare of Decay

Developer: Checkmaty

Publisher: Checkmaty

Platform: PC (Steam)

Website: Nightmare of Decay on Steam (steampowered.com)


Does anybody miss the old aesthetics of grimy PlayStation 1 graphics mixed with that oh-so-familiar classic survival horror feel? What if Resident Evil 1 was a first-person shooter? Suppose you're like me and love all these things while imagining the classic Resident Evil in first-person. In that case, you'll appreciate what Checkmaty accomplishes with Nightmare of Decay. In this review, I'll be letting you know if, instead, you should BUY, TRY or CRY yourself to sleep to escape the nightmare of what could be an awful game that is: Nightmare of Decay.


"Eerily the zombie turns its head towards you, looking at you over his shoulder in a lovely homage to Resident Evil 1."

The game starts inside your apartment just off from work upon fade-in. Your character is watching the news on your lovely low-poly resolution television about the increasing number of mysterious missing persons. After turning your TV off, the game instructs you to grab a slice of leftover pizza from the fridge to heat up for a quick meal before a shower and then bed. Once asleep, you awaken inside a coffin as your character lays down and drifts off into a slumber.

The real horror of the game? Late night indigestion.

Your character bursts out after panicking, desperately trying to get out. Once free and successfully climbing out of your still freshly dug grave, you find yourself at a mansion isolated in the woods. Unable to obtain entry yet, you go down a set of stairs to the side, find a survival knife and enter a door. Following bloodstains on the floor and rounding a corner, you encounter a zombie hovering over a corpse having a feast. Eerily the zombie turns its head slowly, looking at you over his shoulder in a lovely homage to Resident Evil 1. I'm hooked at this point!


Something tells me he's not going to share.

Moments later, now in the manor, you find yourself in the grand foyer accompanied by a central staircase leading to upper west and east wing floors with support columns below. Another homage to Resident Evil. Keep them coming! I love it; this game is chock-full of easter eggs to games and classic films alike! Once in the mansion, the game is essentially Resident Evil, just minus fixed camera angles.

Nightmare of Decay has you wondering about the mansion's layout, giving you much ground to cover. You'll find yourself solving puzzles and finding classically shaped keys to fit specific locks while trying to survive and find your escape. Throughout the mansion, you encounter several enemies forcing you to manage your inventory as resources are finite. Zombies may not be the only enemy you face; some may walk on four legs and some on eight. In addition to regular enemies, you will be faced with bosses. These may range from giant furry creepy-crawlies to butcher knife-wielding monstrosities or even little furry creatures (this alone was the best easter egg)!


The game's mechanics are relatively simple, but it works well. At the bottom left, your HUD displays your health in that classic Resident Evil way as a sinus rhythm (heartbeat). Your health ranges from Fine to Caution, and finally, Danger. At the bottom right, your ammo is displayed. It's a very simplistic HUD but not overcrowding which is nice. This allows players to focus on that classic PlayStation aesthetic and immerse themselves in a world of low-poly gritty resolution environments.


By default, when displaying your inventory, everything is shown in a single category; however, through a tab system, you can sort items quickly. When challenged with puzzles, you'll need to select key items from your inventory and use them, much like in classic Resident Evil games. There are even homages within the inventory system to Resident Evil 1, such as lockpicks and simple keys.

Movement mechanics in the game are basic as most FPS titles. With a keyboard, your W, A, S, and D keys allow standard forward, backward, and strafing movement. You can sprint infinitely as long as there are no enemies around; however, it is limited when in their presence. Imagine Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls when you can't rest with enemies nearby.

Combat is straightforward. You point and click to shoot bad things before they hurt you. The main difference with this combat system is that if a zombie attacks you, they latch on to you. As they latch, you cannot move or escape from them until their attack is over. You can still attack during this animation, but it adds a nice little layer of difficulty.

With this said, during some boss fights, you will come across mechanics catered towards bosses, which helps give you an advantage. In all honesty, you don't necessarily need to utilize them, as I was able to just gun them down with magnum and shotgun rounds. A prime example of this is the final boss. I unloaded my magnum on him, and the fight was over in a minute. I wish the bosses were more challenging and intuitive, but the game is only $5.

The main objective, as stated, is to escape the mansion, much like Resident Evil. One thing this game has up on Resident Evil is the mini-quests. There aren't that many of them, but they do exist, and it's an extra little something that gives this game even more charm. There are even shooting galleries much like in Resident Evil 4. Achieving certain scores allows for you to win items to help survive. When finishing the game, you also unlock new modes. Upon completion Dungeon Escape and Horde Mode are unlocked. There might be more to unlock, but I've only beat this game once on normal difficulty. The game wasn't long as it lasted just over two hours.


There's something cathartic about survival horror games with scarce ammo that give you a shooting range to go crazy.

The biggest compliment to this game I can give to its creator is all the easter eggs it's stuffed with. From multiple Resident Evil franchise homages to Silent Hill, Dead Space, and even Half-Life, there is something here, I think, for everyone to enjoy. This is especially true for those who love classic survivor horror and miss that old PlayStation nostalgia. That's why I'm giving Nightmare of Decay a BUY!

 

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