Right from the start, Neverending Nightmares has you on edge. Whether it was the creepy art style, terrifying sound effects, or disturbing imagery, I remained tense and frightened the whole way through. I pushed myself through each scenario, hoping for things to lighten up a bit. Unfortunately for me, they never did…
Anyone who can appreciate good psychological horror is in for a treat. Players control Thomas, who seems to be stuck in an endless nightmare with death around every corner. Your only clues tend to be followed by very graphic imagery and are often accompanied by disorienting awakenings. You’re back in bed, but the scenery has changed. Maybe the room looks the same, but now the floor plan is different. Do you go down the new door that wasn’t there before? This was scary, but intriguing as well. It was a lot of fun just making my way through old areas in which the art had changed. as an example, one time I walked past a dining table full of food, only to have it look rotten and old later.
One of the best aspects of this experience is definitely the sound design. Creepy noises are everywhere and the music fits perfectly. Jump scares are used, but sparingly enough that you don’t grow numb to them. The key to tension is keeping that balance just right and the game’s noises easily play one of the biggest roles in that. Play with headphones on or with a quality sound system and turn out the lights. Don’t be afraid to turn the volume up. Well, be afraid but do it anyway.
The enemies encountered were a nice change of pace from the early safe exploration in the game. I tended to die once or twice the first time I encountered something new, but it was always a good learning experience. Clues were given too, usually. For example, the first time I walked over glass, I noticed it made a noise and I had cut my foot. The next enemy I came across was attracted to sound. Reacting to danger kept alternating between fleeing or taking it safe. I often found myself hesitating, only to then sprint into danger. Another nice thing about the enemies was how different they all looked. Giant baby apes and the maniacs are only a couple of them, but those were my personal favorites.
What stood out to me the most was the use of red and gold to accentuate artwork. Having all that contrast brought the world to life. I found myself admiring all the blood splatters on the walls and checking every little room to check out all the deranged messages. Seeing “wake up” painted in blood on the walls of a cell was particularly jarring, and it was tame in comparison to other writing. All of this was done with such dreary lighting too. Thomas would be stuck in pitch black at times, and flashes of the rooms with blood everywhere always sent a shiver down my spine. One thing is for certain, Thomas is rarely alone in his own subconscious hell.
So of course, there have to be some complaints. One thing that would have helped with the immersion a lot is if Thomas’ eyes would have drifted to look at the scenery more often. Gruesome objects dotted it, and he would just stare forward. I was scared, but I had trouble feeling like he was scared as well. This just kind of brought me out of the world at times. Something else that could use a little touching up was some of the door transitions. The jump from room to room was a little jarring. Maybe this was intentional, but it felt more annoying than disorienting. I also didn’t get lost really, and I think that would have sold the whole nightmare idea a lot better. There are extra rooms that look super cool, but more dead ends and changing paths would have brought more to the game. It might go back to keeping the title short to maintain tension. I’m just not sure that an extra twenty minutes of gameplay would have hindered that.
While maybe a little too short, it was nice that it didn’t drag on. Being scary for hours on end is difficult. The checkpoints were a great way to save progress too. These really made the game easy to pick up and play whenever I had free time. For those who can’t handle scary this was a nice touch. Play for a bit, get scared, put it down. If you really want to extend your playtime, try it again and get a different ending. It doesn’t take long so doing so doesn’t end up feeling tedious like other titles.
Neverending Nightmares has its flaws, and it certainly isn’t for the squeamish. However, anyone who digs the horror or suspense genres should absolutely pick this up. Being born out of personal torment and inner conflict makes this game a unique experience, and sometimes you can’t help but relate to Thomas’ confusion as he wanders through the dark. I hope you can save him. I know I wouldn’t want to be stuck in his nightmare.