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Nightmare Reaper review: Shootin’ Outta the Hospital

nightmare reaper review

Blazing Bit Games manages to put a lot of it into nightmare reaper. On the surface, it appears to be the latest in a growing procession of retro-inspired first-person shooters. Instead, it’s a delightfully bizarre amalgamation of that, a rogue-lite, minigames, and looter shooter that goes to some interesting, if sometimes inconsistent, places. After several years of development and early access, it is ready to face its demons and the general public.

Players are put in the robe of a patient in a psychiatric hospital who suffers from hellish nightmares. She has a unique way of dealing with them though, as they generate first-person shooter levels with enemies she can kill with all sorts of weapons. Each time she falls into her dreams, new ones are created, each time offering different locations, enemies, and weapons. There’s a story behind the patient and her incarceration to unravel in between, but Nightmare Reaper’s meat and potatoes are in the blast of demons, undead, supernatural beasts and more.

Each level is a standard fare to start with. Through corridors of varying shades and textures, you shoot whatever flavor of enemy the game has deigned to throw at you. You collect the treats and treasures these enemies drop to help improve your skills down the line, and you discover secret loot in levels. The procedurally generated nature of the game means there’s no real pattern to get used to at any given level, so there’s a freshness to every run, but tempered by a bit of frustration when throwing virtual dice goes against you.

You have to find weapons in each level and can only keep one out of three at the end, with the other two giving you at least a small cash settlement as compensation. While there are the usual flavors of weapons such as shotguns, knives, explosives, etc., they come in a variety of tiers, making exploration a worthwhile cause in hopes of find a juicy legendary weapon to lead into the next nightmare gauntlet.

And the search for new weapons is particularly interesting because the combat is so damn good. The visual feedback of the damage you deal is very satisfying, and the sheer punch of the best weapons can be felt as you move closer and closer to their power. The game features around 80 weapon types with around 30 different enchantments, and any mix of these can appear during first-person gameplay. The biggest problem I had was deciding which fun weapon to keep at the end of a stage.

Part of the fun comes from not knowing what combination of return fire locations and enemies you’re going to blast next. nightmare reaper is, to me at least, like a celebratory parade of my favorite PC games from the late 90s, and in the context of nightmares, the constantly changing levels that draw on the likes of Duke Nukem 3D, Powerslave, earthquakeand evil spell remains surprisingly consistent. Sometimes it feels like the floppy disks of all the shooters from the 90s melted together and the fumes from the collective mass of burning plastic and metal gave rise to this vivid hallucination. I say that in the kindest way. As part of its dedication to returning shooters, nightmare reaper is also delightfully infused with gore, which makes combat a little more enjoyable.

The other parts of the rogue-lite look at nightmare reaper are more of a mixed bag for me, unfortunately. I really like the concept of turning skill trees into playable retro mini-games (which are played in-game on retro consoles), and it certainly offers a little break from the endless shooting and looting, but they don’t don’t always end up being fun to go through, and sometimes actively prevent you from having a good time by wasting your time for a pithy reward. I applaud the sentiment, but wish it had been a bit overpowered.

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Also, while I generally enjoyed the levels of cut and change, some things didn’t come together very well and sometimes interfered with the act of shooting with blurry visual mashes. A rare problem, but I guess it might as well be a lesser or more serious problem for someone else given that it’s procedurally generated.

nightmare reaper is a very nice mix of retro stuff with a delightfully barbed edge. It doesn’t always hit the high notes of the old favorites it plays, but you’ll sing along anyway.

Nightmare Reaper review code provided by the publisher.

Nightmare Reaper is now available To smoke.