Review

Rise of Nightmares Review (Xbox360)

A survival horror involving fighting your way through the dark, dank halls of an eastern European castle? Sounds pretty good. Zombies? Well, they've been done to death (chortle) but they're still fun to kill, especially if you get to use swords and knives to do it.

It's on Kinect. Ah no, wait, come back! Give it a chance as, after all, at least it's not a cutesy film licence or a dancing/music/fitness game. It could be argued that this is the first attempt to get a 'real' game on Kinect, with some element of freedom of movement and a combat system where you get to place the swings and kicks. So, don't just run away without reading on.

When the Thriller dance goes horribly wrong...

As mentioned then, Rise of Nightmares (RON) tries to do more with the Kinect technology than others have before, injecting a strain of what one might call the 'core gameplay' virus into the throbbing vein of the motion control genre's arm.

Movement is relatively free, like a basic FPS where you step forward to move forward, back to move back. Turn your shoulders to move the camera left or right, and this is where the game starts to stumble over its own ambition, hampered as it is by lack of subtlety and finesse the Kinect sensor has.

But let's continue going over the features and such before delving too quickly into analysis. Along with the movement controls come Kinect mainstays like pushing forward to open doors, crouching down to, er, crouch and running on the spot. Most of the time you'll be fighting zombies, though, and it's pleasing that, although tiring on the arms, your punches, stabs and kicks are picked up well, unlike in other Sega titles like Sonic Free Riders, which barely acknowledged you were there.

When enemies come up to you, you can either kick or punch with either related limb or, if you've managed to pick up a weapon, you can slash or club with it. Knives and bladed weapons are the most satisfying ones to use, with a pleasing sense of impact when you connect in the right areas. Slash down with a cutting blow to an arm and chances are it'll skittle off into the distance with a spurt of blood. It's a shame the crushing weapons don't have a visible deflating effect on the skulls of enemies, though.

"Need a hand, love?" Billy chuckled

The combat works quite well then, which is a good thing as you'll be going through the motions a hell of a lot. There are occasional dips into puzzle and deadly trap room territory, but these both serve to highlight the worst thing about the game – the movement.

There are two ways to move – the first is described earlier and the second is auto-movement, which is where you hold your right arm up and let the game take over, taking you along the 'route you're meant to follow'. When you're not allowed to use this, you have to rely on the incredibly fiddly and frustrating free move, which is fine if you just want to go in a straight line, but falls over when you try to turn.

Because you've got to turn your shoulders, you'll often just swing the camera around like a lunatic, or it'll move back in the wrong direction when you turn your shoulders back to centre again. You'll often find yourself getting away from the middle of a corridor and then struggling to get yourself away from hugging the wall or just avoiding that trickiest of obstacles, the frame of a door.

As usual then, this game works best when it remembers that Kinect is seemingly incapable (so far) of allowing players any real degree of sophistication, controls-wise. Boss battles work reasonably well because they take away the horrible free move and just put the game on rails, telling you what to do to win.

Having said that, there’s an enemy that’s sensitive to sound and movement, so you have to stand still, which at least is relatively original use of motion control devices. Of course, it’s quite amusing that one of the best bits in a movement-related game is the bit where you don’t actually move at all, but anyway.

This guy'll need more than a plaster for that one

So yeah, Rise of Nightmares is, like, alright. A bit. Ish. It’s pleasing that it isn’t a kids game or related to dancing in any way, but it also fails in a relatively admirable attempt to move the device beyond the utterly basic.

Perhaps it’s greatest feat is in convincing us that, just maybe, the Kinect device will never be able to do anything more sophisticated than waving your hands around and sidestepping to beat a boss. It’s not awful and, in a House of the Dead-while-standing-up kind of a way, it’s acceptable, but only really worth buying if you have nothing else for the Kinect that you spunked money on and you’ve seen it going dirt cheap somewhere.

Favourite moment: Standing still and wondering about the irony of doing so in a game designed for the moving of limbs.

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