REVIEW: ‘In Nightmare’ – Spooks and Puzzles Galore (PS5)

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In Nightmare

In Nightmare is a narrative-driven horror adventure game that combines puzzle-solving with sneaking. Published by Maximum Games and developed by Magic Fish Studio, the game follows a young boy who falls into a deep slumber only to awaken in a world of nightmares that resembles his traumatic life. He must fight through his fears and purify his monsters if he hopes to wake up.

In Nightmare isn’t the most inventive game out there narrative-wise, but it does bring some fun gameplay to the table in the form of a wide variety of puzzles that will keep you entertained through most of its levels. You’ll sneak around enemies, hide when needed, and solve puzzles to move forward. Some puzzles are pretty typical gaming fanfare and will pose no trouble at all, while others will make you pull out your thinking cap. There are definitely areas that will stump you for a bit, but the game makes it easy to get through them with plenty of hints in the environment and a button that will show you which way to go if you get too aggravated. Some puzzles you’ll have to solve under duress, and many will rely on your other senses like hearing to solve. The variety in puzzles is refreshing and each puzzle reflects the environment wonderfully.

You’ll go through six chapters, each encompassing different fears and themes. The stages are well made, and each puzzle makes sense for the area. But for being such a simple-looking game with a top-down aspect, the locations you’ll explore are surprisingly beautiful and intricate. And very spooky. With dark mansions, bottomless water, prickly forests, and ice mazes, the atmosphere never fails to be visually intriguing and creepy.

There’s plenty to explore outside the main pathway. And the game gladly encourages you to investigate everything, with a central hub in-between stages that allows you to unlock skins for the protagonist and deposit all the items you find in each stage. Exploring will bring you across hidden pathways, objects, and places to upgrade aspects of your character, like stamina.

Your exploration will be helped by your dream spirit, Bitki. Outside of the interesting puzzles, Bitki is another aspect that made the gameplay a fun experience. Bitki has multiple uses, from acting as a decoy to detecting invisible pathways and objects to working as a radar for enemies. The latter is extremely helpful due to the top-down aspect. You can only see as far out as the boundaries of the screen. While you control the protagonist with one stick, you control Bitki with the other. So you can move Bitki ahead of you to look for enemies. Pushing in the stick acts as a radar, pinging the direction of enemies. It’s not the most novel system but it works very well with how the game sets up its horror.

There are certainly some jump scares, and the music will make your heart quicken. But the biggest scare is just how much you can’t see. The top-down view and limited space in some locations create an almost claustrophobic feeling. You can’t see very far around you, so you have to rely on Bitki and auditory cues to figure out where enemies are at and where they’re going. Similarly, you have stamina for running but no stamina bar. Instead, you’ll have to listen to the character’s breathing to cue in on their stamina level.

While I appreciate what the developers were trying to do, the frequent sequences where the protagonist views silent apparitions of his past traumatic memories fell short. It’s sometimes difficult to tell just exactly what’s going on, and the transition between gameplay and these ghostly memories is quite sudden and just feels too harsh. Add on the fact that you can find notes that reveal memories as well, and it would have probably been better if the game focused on one or the other.

Similarly, the narrative falls short. While not every game has to be profound, In Nightmare feels like it tries to tell a novel story and focus on a protagonist overcoming and learning how to face his fears, but many of those elements are hard to piece together. There’s a bit of a disconnect between what everything is supposed to represent and what environments and monsters are supposed to relate to the protagonist’s life directly.

Despite the confusing narrative, In Nightmare is still fun. The puzzles are varied and delightful to work through. And while not the scariest game I’ve played, there’s plenty of anxiety to be had sneaking around enemies and solving puzzles under duress.

In Nightmare is available now on Playstation.


In Nightmare
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Despite the confusing narrative, In Nightmare is still fun. The puzzles are varied and delightful to work through. And while not the scariest game I’ve played, there’s plenty of anxiety to be had sneaking around enemies and solving puzzles under duress.