Neverending Nightmares is a game about a young man suffering from depression and horrific dreams of his sister.
|Console||PC/Mac/Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Ouya|
|Purchase (PC)||Purchase from Humble Store.|
|Purchase (PS4/Vita)||Purchase from PlayStation Store.|
I had my eye on Neverending Nightmares for some time, ever since watching Markiplier play the demo of the game. But of course, I don’t watch him anymore and moved on from Let’s Play videos. Watching someone play a game is NOT a good substitute for playing it yourself. So of course, I did eventually get Neverending Nightmares during a Steam sale.
Easily the most standout thing about Neverending Nightmares is the hand-drawn art style. It’s a style based on the works of Edward Gorey, a book illustrator popular in goth subculture who is best known for his Victorian/Edwardian art style. Brilliantly, the game uses the hatching and cross-hatching techniques to depict shadows. And any important items (or blood) is depicted in color. It really does work to the game’s favor, turning an ordinary house into a deranged setting.
The sound design is also great, providing a creepy ambiance throughout the whole game. There are also plenty of grotesque and disturbing sounds (especially from the monsters), which are good cues to let you know when a monster is nearby. And when you’re playing with a controller, the game sends it vibrations for enemy footsteps. Definitely a nice feature.
The voiceovers from both of our main characters are pretty decent. I don’t usually have high expectations for great voice acting in indie games, but both of the actors are clearly emoting and adding inflections into their voices. The lip-syncing for the characters seem a bit off though, though nothing detracting the performances. A job well done, I must say.
In terms of gameplay, Neverending Nightmares is a sidescrolling survival horror game that is more akin to a walking simulator. Occasionally, you do find items that you will need to progress through the game. But basically, it boils down to two things:
- Explore your current labyrinthine location and find the end goal of the chapter
- Do not get caught by monsters
It’s straightforward but unfortunately shallow for a game of this era. While there is some enemy variety (each with different behaviors), they are easily avoidable once you find out how to circumvent them.
Because your controlled character has asthma, he can only break into a jog for several seconds before needing to catch his breath. Story-wise, I like it. Gameplay-wise, it makes the game feel tedious at times. There’s even a point in the story where he moves even SLOWER, which I don’t really like.
Neverending Nightmares is the story of one Thomas Smith, a young man born with asthma who is undergoing severe episodes of depression and OCD. This story draws inspiration from the experiences of the lead designer of the game, Matt Gilgenbach. And of course, they say life’s experiences bring out the best (and worst) of us, leading to inspirations for storytelling.
Thomas is stuck in a seemingly infinite loop of nightmares. As soon as he finishes one, he enters a new one (hence the title of the game). He is also prone to gruesome bouts of self-mutilation and torture, keeping himself in eternal misery. He has a younger sister named Gabrielle (aka Gabby), an object of his affection no matter what situation he’s in. From here on out, your choices in the game will determine what happens in the story. And interestingly enough, these choices end up changing the story big time.
Depending on the story path, Gabrielle’s relationship with Thomas changes. She could be either his little sister, his psychiatrist or even his wife (with whom he had a child with). What makes this disturbing is that Thomas’s own memory is unreliable, so his true relationship to Gabby is unknown. For all we know, he could be sleeping with his own sister.
However, he loves her, no matter what role she takes. And this is what will ultimately be his wake-up call into reality. Gabby seems blissfully unaware of how Thomas sees the world, but it is up to Thomas to finally overcome his depression.
There are a total of three endings, one of which has two methods of reaching it. Depending on what you get, the ending can be either heartwarming or depressing. Overall, Neverending Nightmares is not a very long game and might last you two hours, tops. It’s a little tough to justify the $15 price tag with a game that short.
Neverending Nightmares may not be someone’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed it for what it is. I think it got the creepy horror atmosphere right with its strong art and sound designs. While the story is fairly minimal, it has hints of being both straightforward and open-ended. While the gameplay isn’t great, it’s easily forgivable. It has a unique presentation and it’s definitely worth checking out.
- Excellent hand-drawn art style.
- Great sound design with good audio cues, decent voice-acting and good music.
- The story is fascinating through player choices and its minimalist presentation.
- Gameplay is very simplistic and feels more like a sidescrolling walking simulator.
- Thomas's stamina makes the game feel more tedious.
- Very short. May last two hours tops, even for the completionist route.