Indie Review: Living Nightmare Trilogy
The Living Nightmare series, by domithan, was a training series for the developer to get into the indie scene. As of this year, it was completed with the third game, so we're taking a look at the entire trilogy.
- Worth The Time?Yes, to see the ideas on offer and for the interesting story. The first game is debatable, the second is definitely worth it and the third may or may not be depending on your tolerance levels.
- Things LovedThe story concept is intriguing and you can't help but want to know what happens next, the music is very atmospheric, the second game is great and very intuitive, the ideas are interesting especially the ones used in the third game, the graphics and design get progressively better from game to game, the writing is generally of a good standard and is quite descriptive.
- Things HatedThe first and third games are not very intuitive, the first game is barely interesting and can become frustrating, you can get stuck easily, the text parser in the third game is often unresponsive, there are plot holes and story elements left unexplained, only the second game has voice acting,
- RecommendationIt's difficult to recommend Living Nightmare. The first game isn't bad but it probably won't do much for you, the second game is great, and the third is very interesting but its gameplay problems run the risk of putting you off. It's free, so it can't hurt to try it out, but be cautious of investing too much into it.
- Name: Living Nightmare Trilogy
- Genre: Point & Click Adventure, Horror
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC
- Developer: domithan
- Publisher: domithan
- Price: Free
- Reviewed On: PC
You can download all three games here.
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The Living Nightmare trilogy, by domithan, was a training series for the developer to get into the indie scene. The series was completed earlier this year, and all three games have been made available to download for free. Impressively, the first game was remade with the release of the Deluxe edition, so for the purposes of this review that will be the version I use. The series follows the life of a young man named James, who is plagued by horrifying nightmares and hallucinations when falling ill. The story spans three games, namely Living Nightmare: Deluxe, Living Nightmare: Endless Dreams and Living Nightmare: Freedom. The first game flashes back to when James was a child and encountered the nightmares, the second game is when he is a young man and the third is about, as the name implies, breaking free of the darkness causing these nightmares. I’ll be taking a look at all three games.
Living Nightmare: Deluxe easily draws you in when you start the game. The ticking clock in the main menu, and the mellow yet uninviting music does well to set the tone for the game. You’ll play as a young James awoken by a nightmare, and trying to seek comfort and understanding of what he’s experiencing. For the most part it’s your standard point and click affair, with you trying to interact with whatever you see, collect, use and combine items to create tools you need to progress, and exploring the environment. The game controls quite well, and the ability to save your game at any point is certainly welcome. Unfortunately, while Deluxe starts out quite interesting, and the narrative is pretty well written, there are some major flaws with the game that eventually replace your interest with frustration and a sense of boredom. The two major issues with the game is that firstly nothing much happens. There’s such a long build-up to your first scare moment, which isn’t that worth it anyway, that by the time it arrives you’ve pretty much given up waiting for anything to happen. This isn’t in a good way, and it’s made worse by the game’s second failing, which is that it’s not very intuitive. You can see the solutions in your head, based on reading the descriptions, but the game has a very specific and rather rigid method to solving certain problems that there ends up being one or two parts in the game where you’ll be totally stuck. The last problem with the game is that it’s only really the last few minutes of the game that are of any real interest, and the rest is sadly pretty forgettable to say the least.
The sequel, Living Nightmare: Endless Dreams is a far better effort, and a great game overall. It’s also the only game in the series to feature full voice acting, which makes the game a lot better, but you can opt to get the version without voice acting for a smaller download. The graphics are more detailed, there is a greater variety in the environments, the effects are more crisp and animation definitely is improved. The game is also very intuitive and logical, and apart from one area in the game I had no real frustration or struggle with working out the problems I was given. The gameplay is very much identical to the first game, which isn’t a bad thing. It works better, the game is more interesting, and there are some genuinely freaky moments waiting for you in it that makes the experience very enjoyable. It also links back to the first game, but for risk of story spoilers I won’t say anything other than that it’s a nice touch if you’re playing through the whole series. That said, Endless Dreams is the most compelling of the three games, and the story is well written and told. I don’t have any criticisms to make other than the fact that it can be over too quickly, and the ending is rather abrupt.
The last game, Living Nightmare: Freedom, is perhaps the title that will spark a roller-coaster of emotions in you. Firstly, the game has a great visual design and it’s very atmospheric. While it’s unfortunate that voice acting is absent, the added cartoon sketches for story moments are pretty cool. The game makes a bold move in getting rid of the gameplay found in the previous two games, and instead is played using a text parser. Basically, you’ll use your keyboard to enter commands into the game for James to follow, such as “look” or “stand up” or “open door”, and on paper this sounds like a great way to play. However, while Freedom is a great concept and is perhaps the most interesting game in the trilogy, it’s sadly let down by a few things. The first and biggest is the unresponsiveness of the parser. It easily has the potential to completely put you off the game from the very first puzzle. For example, and this is a minor spoiler, you’ll need to place some chains under dripping water to loosen them. I sat there for a while, trying commands like ‘move under water’, ‘place chains under water’, ‘move chains under water’, ‘soak chains’ and ‘get chains wet’, but none of them worked until I got frustrated enough to go online and discover that ‘put chains under water’ was the answer. Another example is where you need to use a knife to cut a painting, but ‘cut painting’, ‘use knife on painting’, ‘cut painting with knife’, or ‘remove painting’ all don’t work, and in the end it’s ‘slash painting’ that gets the job done.
The failing of the parser doesn’t just come down to a lack of synonyms and accepted phrases, but also because hints don’t always correspond to the commands you’ll need. For example, when entering a room it’s advised to type in the ‘look’ command because James will give a well written evaluation of his surroundings. However, even though the descriptions often describe things you think to be of importance, you actually can’t always interact with them, and it turns out they’re not important. On the other hand, some objects are omitted entirely from the descriptions. But the overkill for me was one or two instances where a word was used in a description from James, but when I tried to interact with what he was describing, using the same word, the parser didn’t accept it, and wanted something else. It’s a shame that the parser issue puts such a dent into this experience, because it’s actually a genuinely interesting game that you’ll want to finish, but I honestly wouldn’t blame you if you call it quits, because there’s a high chance that you’ll struggle and find the game extremely difficult. The worst part is that you’ll often know the solutions to the problems you face, but the parser will refuse to cooperate with you. I liked the idea of Freedom. It’s got creepiness, it’s got a great visual design, it’s a cool idea and there’s a good narrative in there. But I wanted to like the game itself, and unfortunately Freedom makes it extremely difficult. It’s an ocean of mixed emotions, even with the interesting story due to the plot holes that surface at the end and the lack of explanations given. It’s still intriguing though.
In the end, the Living Nightmare trilogy is a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs. There’s a good story here, an intriguing concept that makes you want to play through the series, and a great second game. The first game is hardly memorable or interesting, and the third is a mixed bag because it could have been a really strong finish to the series, but instead due to severe gameplay flaws it has a high risk of putting you off or making you struggle. I do like this series though, but at best I can say that because it’s free you can’t go wrong trying it out. However, be cautious of investing too much time into it if you find that it isn’t working for you. It’s a decent effort overall, but it could have been a lot better.