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Nightmare Boy (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 14.04.2018

Review for Nightmare Boy on Nintendo Switch

Originally released leading up to Halloween 2017 on Steam, Nightmare Boy is a traditional Metroidvania with a focus on light horror elements. In a way, there's a bit more "Vania" than usual present thanks to the aesthetic. A commitment to the monster theme allows the setting to feel alive and fresh. In that regard, Nightmare Boy truly lives up to its "nightmare" moniker. Unfortunately, the nightmare title tends to apply to the game design, as well.

Billy is just an ordinary boy; at least he was until he was kidnapped mid-dream and sent to Noctum, a land filled with monsters and trapped children alike. Resolving to rescue the children, and himself, Billy sets out in a new, demonic body, ready for any and all challenges that may come his way. As far as story premises go, Nightmare Boy's is conceptually sounds: Noctum is established quickly, and Billy's motivation works on a personal and universal level. The actual narrative isn't particularly special, especially given the less than stellar English translation, but the original Spanish script is solidly written and makes for a decent, if a bit pulpy, compliment to the journey. As for the journey itself, it does tick off the traditional Metroidvania boxes, but it also falls flat when it comes to pure design.

Although all the elements are present for a serviceable Metroidvania experience, a game being serviceable is far from the same as a game being good. Billy controls smoothly, he can explore Noctum for upgrades, and there are plenty of enemies to mow down. The elements are there, ready to be expanded upon, but they are mostly left untouched in favour of what feels like an almost surface level approach to game design. Combat is incredibly basic, with the best ability bestowed upon Billy at the start; the thrill of exploration is missing thanks to a linear, secretless overworld; and the platforming sections barely scratch the surface of what's typically done in the genre. The design, as a whole, comes off inoffensive and unremarkable.

At the very least, Billy does control well, keeping the platforming sections rather fluid. Strangely, and sadly, that fluidity is ruined by a genuinely bizarre effect that shakes the screen whenever Billy attacks an enemy. This is a mild nuisance, at best, when playing docked, but it becomes a serious issue in handheld mode. Since attacking an enemy also vibrates the Joy-Con through their HD rumble function, the entire screen has this near nauseating quake effect in combat. Playing docked does lessen the intensity of the effect, but it's still a bizarre design that does virtually nothing to enhance the gameplay.

Screenshot for Nightmare Boy on Nintendo Switch

On the subject of playing while docked, Pro controllers are completely incompatible with Nightmare Boy. Even just turning on the game while using a Pro Controller means needing to reset, unpair the Pro, and navigate with the Joy-Con. This is a game that doesn't inherently need the Joy-Con, either, so it's disappointing to find that this is one of the few titles lacking Pro Controller support.

More than anything, the biggest flaw here is the difficulty curve. Starting out, it almost feels like this would be the perfect beginner's Metroidvania. It's simple, the story is child friendly, and the exploration is definitely catering to a younger audience. At times, though, the challenge spikes up considerably. Bosses never really stray from a few easy patterns, and Billy's fireball skill can make quick work of just about any foe, but there are moments when the enemies simply get too overwhelming. Genre veterans likely won't find much trouble, if any, but it will certainly prove to be daunting for newcomers, and not in a way that feels appropriately paced.

The difficulty also works in the other direction regarding the save system. As money is needed to save, this is a design element that is by no means conceptually friendly. It's designed to make the experience harder and give a hostile feel to Noctum. Unfortunately, money is thrown at Billy like nothing else. There will likely never be a moment where Billy will be unable to save, because money is in abundance. When the difficulty is trying to be easy, it ends up hard. When it's trying to be hard, it ends up easy.

At its core, Nightmare Boy is a Metroidvania that barely scratches the surface of the genre. It establishes everything it needs for success, and then meanders for a few hours until the credits roll. The level of challenge is wildly inconsistent, the exploration is generally eventless, and the story isn't strong enough to carry the game to the completion. Nightmare Boy isn't unplayable, but there are better Metroidvanias on the Nintendo Switch to choose from.

Screenshot for Nightmare Boy on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Nightmare Boy, while stylistically interesting and unique, amounts to little more than a frustrating take on the Metroidvania genre in the long run. Its inconsistent difficulty curve means it's too hard to be entry level at times, while also being too easy to be anything else. Gameplay itself is actually quite smooth, with Billy moving and attacking seamlessly, but the constant screen rumble when attacking, and the bland level design, make combat far less enjoyable than it should otherwise be. Along with the inability to play with a Pro Controller while the Switch is docked, Nightmare Boy comes out as a messy Metroidvania at best.

Developer

The Vanir Project

Publisher

BadLand Games

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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