Neurological Nutcase Nixxes Ne’er-do-wells: Nightmare Reaper

Neurological Nutcase Nixxes Ne’er-do-wells: Nightmare Reaper

Matthew Kenney, Staff Writer

“Nightmare Reaper,” besides the name of the character we’d find in my doodles when I was 13 and thought Shadow the Hedgehog was cool, is a game by Blazing Bit Games where you play as a nameless woman seemingly trapped in a mental asylum.

Every night you fall asleep to zombies, demons, and dozens of other dastardly devilish delinquents debasing local districts. It’s kill or be killed and an auto-shotty is the decision maker, or a pistol, harpoon gun, magic tomes or whatever else the developers come up with. It’s roguelite elements mixed with the fun varied gameplay and surprisingly dark story make for a compelling experience.

The main character has no name, a face to be certain as it’s always in the bottom corner, but no name to go by. Now, imagine if you will, Doom Guy, a space marine clad in green armor, which according to new canon, is forged by Angels. Caleb is an ex-cultist gunslinger with a leather trench coat and red piercing eyes.

And now we have the Nightmare Reaper Woman (who I’ll refer to as Nightmare Woman for simplicity’s sake) to add to the lineup of “Boomer Shooter” protagonists, who walks around in a hospital gown. This is consistently a source of comedy, me going around with a harpoon launcher in hand, blasting demons into unidentifiable meat chunks that you’d find in piles in the meat packing plant labeled under “sausage(?) meat” with the breeze blowing my bare behind.

The combat is fun. Iit gets much more hectic as it goes on but lends itself thematically toward the waking hours where you are locked in a mental hospital. Your only contact are the screams you hear from what you assume are the other patients somewhere in the buildings. But when you fall asleep, the nightmares start: here it’s just you and a randomly generated environment followed by aforementioned baddies.

Variety seems to be the spice of the game, with tons of enemies later on, and a whole bunch of guns, staves, blunt instruments, sharp instruments and bombs to make everything in your way no longer in your way.

It’s stereotypical but broad boomer shooter combat, which left me pretty satisfied. And you get a grappling hook, which I don’t need to say much about, grappling hooks and jetpacks make everything better as a rule of thumb.

Much like the games it faithfully recreates, there are also secrets and environmental aspects which usually end up being platforms that move, acid or jump pads, which is what most boomer shooters end up using. In a game with lots of variety, I’d expect the arenas not to feel like an old school Wolfenstein castle with the “bottleneck and blitzkrieg” strategy of forming a conga line into the doorway you’re standing in. So when we do get these new environmental hazards, while it’s nice, I wish they’d play more with the psyche, Nightmare Woman is a nutcase, in logs it’s said her only form of reprise is games, so why not take influence from other games? Maybe a directional boost pad that sends you flying off into the distance or a portal that leads to another part of the arena?

To step back to the secret hunting, it ends up a bit tedious, sure it’s fun to find one naturally, but if I’m having trouble in most games I just leave it and move onto the next board. However, in Nightmare Reaper if you find all the secrets you get a bonus to gold, which you can use to buy upgrades, and those upgrades feel almost vital to the game. So it’s secret hunting for the crack in the wall somewhere within the level you just completed. This isn’t the worst since they’re usually pretty small and easy to navigate, but it still ate up a lot of my time. I wouldn’t do it if the upgrades didn’t feel so worth it.

When I got the upgrades menu (which the menu was in the form of a little Gameboy, nice touch devs) I had just begun thinking, “Man I wish I could move faster” lo and behold they’ve got an upgrade for that as well as dashing, double jumping, more ammo, more resistances and more health. There’s all sorts of upgrades that are easy to understand and impactful, and to unlock these, you play a little minigame, where you’re put into an old school platformer level. Those also get tedious, but you can turn them off in the options menu, so I’m not really going to complain. Sometimes getting them can be frustrating if you replay a level half a dozen times.

In the regular game, it has rogue-lite elements, whenever you die you have to restart a level, but you keep all the money you earned through it. And the levels are procedurally generated. There’s not too many tiles it chooses from, but you only play through one set of tiles about three times before it moves onto a new set. Most of these were forgettable except for the Murky Docks, where the running theme was water and me drowning in it, so that set of levels can go drink wet cement.

The last thing I want to touch on is the story, it’s not in your face, and you can seemingly choose to ignore it if you choose to. It’s mainly pieced together from scraps of paper presumably left by a doctor in your room, why they leave it in your room I’m unsure, maybe they assume you can’t read which I’d honestly not put it past them.

Going into the story with a turn into spoilers, Nightmare Woman was abused as a kid, neglected, beaten and not even brought to school. She didn’t learn communication until she became a pre-teen, so learning to read is altogether a different beast to conquer. Her father got locked up early on which can almost be a blessing, as that’d mean she only had a single terribly abusive parent. However, her mother was much worse; it’s dark and depressing. And, it caused Nightmare Woman to have a distaste for humanity, which is constantly brought up along with a “terrible thing” that she has done. Her only solace is video games that her parents stole to turn a profit for drugs. This is why a Gameboy becomes the pause menu you access; it’s a pause screen and a pause from her insanity, which is super neat and almost delves into a realm of ludonarrative synergy, which is a whole different topic that we’re not going to talk about for brevity’s sake because you’d be here all day reading this.

I’m not completely done with the game for a multitude of reasons. Also, it’s still in early access so all my complaints could just disappear like dust in the wind. All in all, Nightmare Reaper is a lot of fun, has it’s teething problems but as the second title the studio released, it definitely shows a lot of promise.