Review: Rise of Nightmares

While the Kinect library has been sorely lacking in core-oriented titles, it’s never had a shortage of shovelware-worthy casual games. Despite Sega’s valiant attempt to open the door to hardcore gamers and those of us looking for something a little more frightening for use with the pricey peripheral, I have to say there’s still a shortage. But that’s not a bad thing. I knew going into this motion control business that its incorporation into the core titles I love would be a risky maneuver at best. However, games like Rise of Nightmares don’t exactly further the cause. Still, I have to admit it was quite the gutsy move on Sega’s part.

In this motion-controlled wannabe nightmare, you’re tasked with disassembling the strange machines and corpses one very deranged doctor has been tossing your way. Stepping into the shoes of Josh, your wife is stolen away from you while you both bicker about Josh’s worsening drinking problem. As the two were traveling through Europe, Josh must fight through the train after it derails and locate his precious Kate, with the intention in mind of course to put a stop to mad scientist Viktor and his foul “creations.”

All this must be done under the guise of “true” motion control, in which your body is incorporated into each and every action you must perform. To walk, for instance, you must place one foot in front of the other and do a strange leaning movement in the direction you want to navigate. Turning is equally cumbersome, and don’t even think about having a look around while attempting to control Josh – he will only stare straight ahead. Much of this nonsense is alleviated by the automatic movement system that allows you to raise your right hand and auto-travel to your next destination, but you must keep your arm held up as long as you want to travel, otherwise you’ll be putting it down and back up again so often you’ll feel like a Nazi, if you catch my drift.

The automated movement works well enough when you’re not required to work your way through booby-trapped locations or smaller areas where precise movement is asked of you – then you’re on your own. Standing in place awkwardly like that got to me pretty quickly, and it was uncomfortable just to get from point A to point B, not to mention wholly frustrating.

Moving, however, was not as fruitless as combat proved to be. The idea is for you to raise your arms up just like a boxer would, and then punch the air in order to attack enemies in your vicinity. Though several items are up for grabs for you to use, such as hammers, brass knuckles, and strange giant tongs, but it was a constant battle for me to stay in the fighting stance, let alone defend myself from oncoming threats. Weapons were much more useful than my bare hands, but I fell plenty of times due to the fact that the Kinect just didn’t seem to recognize that I was standing there with my arms up just like a boxer. I did find it interesting that you’re required to perform several context-sensitive moves when fighting particular enemies, but for the most part the lackluster hit-or-miss combat only served to frustrate me rather than fascinate me. The scariest thing of all about the game seemed to be simply trying to get it to work with me rather than against me.

Poor voice acting, scripted events, and laughable lines go hand in hand with some truly abysmal motion controlled moments to take a game that could have been potentially frightening (there are some nail-biters of moments sprinkled throughout, I’ll give it that) to something downright annoying. I still appreciate that an attempt was made at an interactive survival horror experience, but when it’s this base I have to wonder if it’s pushed motion control forward in “core” gaming or several steps backward by a few years. Perhaps the most terrifying nightmare of all that will linger with me from Rise of Nightmares is the proposition that this type of control might very well become a mainstay someday. And I don’t like that. Not one bit.

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