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A Pleasant Nightmare

  • Frogge
  • 05/03/2019 12:00 PM

Nightmare Traveler by kato-san
Length: ~15 minutes

As far as short rpg horror games go, I think the Nightmare Traveler style is one of my favorites for the length of 10-15 minutes. It embraces that it's so short and does not make an attempt to have characters you are supposed to connect to or a plot you are supposed to be super immersed in, because these concepts generally don't work in such a short timespan. Games like Nightmare Traveler prefer to focus on setting up a basis for a story, but focusing largely on the scares and gameplay. So does it succeed in that regard?

The story of Nightmare Traveler involves a boy who is shouted at by a woman, and as a result ends up locking himself into a room. He goes to sleep and wakes up in a deadly nightmare. Your goal is kept vague so you are simply trying to get through the nightmare and uncover more as you go along. The game isn't afraid to be a bit experimental and weirdsy, especially towards its finale.

As it turns out, our boy has some strange ability to kill people in real life by killing them in his nightmares. He makes use of this ability to kill several people, including a woman who he does not want near a baby, who according to the game page is his baby sister (I wasn't able to tell in game, so not sure if I just missed it or it wasn't communicated very well). My big complaint here comes from the ending being a bit confusing, perhaps due to the translation. It seems the story was kept vague on purpose to let you theorize about what happened, but I feel like the puzzle pieces were not clear enough for that.

Then again, perhaps my interpretaration is right. As far as I understand, this story seems to have been about the boy taking away everything a man loves due to his abusive behaviour, presumably his father (though the ending sort of implied his father and caretaker were seperate people so that confused the hell out of me). The man has a new lover who the boy is not a fan of, as she seems to be verbally abusive as well. The boy does not want this woman near his baby sister, who from the looks of things may have been a child born by accident after birth control pills did not work (could also be that the boy was the accident child I'm not sure). I actually figured midway through the game was doing some sort of commentary on abortion or something, perhaps that the boy accidentally pregnated another teenager and gave her pills to kill the baby, but I think that was actually completely wrong on my end, though it would be interesting to think about.

The writing is fairly generic and I couldn't identify literary devices that particularly stood out to me. The translation is also slightly wonky, while still better than a lot of foreign language to english translations, as it does have a couple typos and grammar issues here and there. Perhaps most annoying to me was how the text never actually reached the end of the text box which I have vented about enough in the past that I don't feel the need to go through it again. As far as short gamejam games go, though, it's really not bad.

You're not giving me much of a choice here.

Visually, Nightmare Traveler does make use of a lot of original assets, some looking much better than others. I wouldn't say this game looks all that great, but it definitely gets the job done. The art itself is rather nice, though you only ever get to see it in like two screamers, the title screen and the ending.

Speaking of screamers, though, in terms of scares I felt there were two cheap instances, one much more than the other. The good news is that neither one is scary in the slightest. Even if you have the volume up high, the developer had the decency to keep the jumpscare sound fairly quiet, at least in comparison to what you would hear at the cinema for a mainstream horror movie. However, it still doesn't exactly excuse that they're still lame jumpscares, and they could be replaced with much more tense alternatives. There's a section where you watch a TV, the game freezes for a good couple seconds, and then boo in your face. A much better way to handle this scare would have been if the boy was distracted by watching the TV and something was creeping up on him slowly but he had no idea. Granted, it would probably not have been too scary either, but it would at least get the job done better than a cheap jumpscare. The other one is actually just a super quick flash on the screen when you remove a mask off the wall, and it didn't really need to be there, but I don't think it was actually trying to be scary rather than just being a quick effect so I'll give it a pass. It's a shame because the rest of the game's scares aren't horrible. Of course, a lot of it is predictable if you've played any rpg maker horror game before, but I can see that the faint of heart could be creeped out to the edge of their seats when playing. There's also one scene right at the end that's genuinely kind of tense where you have to hide from a monster that turns around to look at you. However, I would suggest making her a bit faster because after dying once or twice I quickly got over it by just hiding behind a box, waiting for her to turn around and running to two boxes over. The puzzle also tells you not to make sound, but it really just means don't step on the blood, so I'd have preferred you had to avoid stepping on something like hardwood instead and the rest of the map was covered in carpets.

Gameplay is where Nightmare Traveler shines the most, and while it's a fairly standart adventure game deal, I still enjoyed the occasional small puzzle elements. It kinda reminded me of old point and click games I used to play on the internet that I struggled with for hours only to find out there's like a 5 minute walkthrough to beat it. Luckily, the struggling for hours part was not there, as it was rather easy to find what to do, but I enjoyed my time with it none the less. The game also loves messing with you occasionally which was really fun to see. My favorite example of this has to be a door really early on that jumps around when you try to open it, and eventually turns into blood after you try for long enough.

The sound usage was also fairly well done. While the music didn't stick out to me (don't remember if the game even had any) I found it interesting how the woman gave off a creepy sound effect every time she turned around (granted it can get repetitive) and how you hear knockings on the door after running into your room.

All in all, for a 15 minute game that was made for a gamejam no less, I expected Nightmare Traveler to be worse than it actually is. Perhaps give this a go if you're a fan of horror adventure games that are actually more horror-y and less "loli anime girl stuck in creepy place." I give Nightmare Traveler three and a half Nikkis out of five.

What, it's the only score image that came to mind, okay? She also travels through her nightmares, deal with it.


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Thank you very much for the review! I'm very proud that a game I made from 0 in a single week has gone so far, reaching 3000 downloads and even having the honor of receiving reviews and gameplays. I'll make better games, I haven't finished.
Thanks again!
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