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Nightmare Creatures II
Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Kalisto Entertainment
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:
You have to hand it to Kalisto. The atmosphere in Nightmare Creatures II is absolutely perfect. From the opening scene, where you stop rocking back and forth on a bed and pick up an axe, ready to do some serious damage, to the end of the game, it all feels so artfully put together. Each time a new enemy appears, you get to see some sort of crazy in-game cut-scene where you get “introduced” to them. Heh. The game is dark, really dark, so you may have to turn up the brightness on occasion to see what the hell’s going on. But as a general rule, it’s light enough to see what you need to. The character design is absolutely fabulous, from the protagonist with his bandages to the enemies with their shuffling gaits and awkward movements. (At first, anyway.) The music is good, if subdued, with the notable exception of Rob Zombie’s tunes during cut-scenes. Good stuff, that. It fits the game perfectly. The sound effects do as well, with their creepy groans and shufflings.

Oh, and lest I forget, there’s blood in the game. Lots. Every time you swing, you’re going to make some red splatters on everything. At first, it seems excessive. But as you get into the style of the game, you realize that it’s just part of the whole feel of the game -- gorgeous, entertaining, and a tad closer to Young Frankenstein than a serious take on the genre.

Unfortunately, Nightmare Creatures II just doesn’t live up to the presentation when it comes to gameplay. Sure, it’s entertaining as well, but it just doesn’t present enough variety to really keep you hooked.

There’s a storyline, picking up a good century or so after the previous title, with the bad guy even badder and you having to save the world, or at least himself. But the storyline, while presented in great cut-scenes, never really grabs you. The core of the game is hack-and-slash, with you running around and chopping up enemies into little pieces.

And you certainly do. Whenever you approach an enemy, the controls shift into something reminiscent of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time’s Z-Lock, where you stay facing the enemy and move around them. This makes it easy to keep targeted, but can be an irritant when you have to fight more than one enemy at a time. As you move around, you can use different types of attacks, and a few minutes in Therapy (one of the game options) will teach you some basic combos that let you really wail on the creatures. After you deal a certain amount of damage to the baddies, “Fatality!” will flash in the corner of the screen, and you can dissect them in an, er, unique way. This is, of course, incredibly entertaining, but you’ll stop doing it after the first few times to save the time it takes to execute.

Unfortunately, the farther you get into the game, the more you realize that that’s really all there is. Sure, there’s a bit of simple puzzles, “insert key-a into door-b” type things, but very little. You simply run around, looking for enemies, and you hack them apart. While it’s always cool to see new enemy types, after a while you’ll feel that the game could have been much more.

Hopefully, Kalisto and Konami can keep you entertained with novel character design for long enough that you won’t really notice this. It just cuts down seriously on replay value. The spells, which are cool and offer neat new ways to slaughter your foes, seem just another means to an end. (Wholesale slaughter, in case you haven’t noticed.)

Nightmare Creatures II has a really spotty difficulty curve as well. You’ll slaughter the first few enemies with no problem, and then get the crap kicked out of you in the middle of the level by a group of baddies. You’ll then go on to not get hit for another few, and then get mauled again. This sort of on-again, off-again difficulty is a major pain, but you soon learn to expect it and plan accordingly. Sometimes it takes getting your butt kicked in a fight before you do, however.

Game Mechanics:
The controls are tight and easy to understand, if a bit confusing the first time the game switches from exploration to Z-Lock. After the first fight or two, however, you’ll get the hang of it. The menu system is clear and easy to understand, and the in-game menu is much the same.

Nightmare Creatures II is an entertaining title, but one that really has no staying power. You’ll have a blast playing it for the first hour or two, and then you’ll be hankering for more, and then you’ll probably just walk away after beating it, never picking it up again. There just isn’t enough depth to go with the excellent design. Despite this, NC2 is definitely worth a look-see if you’re at all a fan of the genre -- its irreverent take on horror is enough to keep you amused for at least a rental.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

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