Neverending Nightmares is one of the more aptly named titles for a game on Steam (y’know, besides Shannon Tweed’s Attack of the Groupies), because that is exactly what will plague you upon playing it: never-ending nightmares. This is bleak, brutal, and brief – like every good horror should be.
As Thomas you wake up from a nightmare… only to realize that you’re still asleep, still dreaming. And like a Freudian Dante you’ll make your descent down the increasingly bizarre and menacing circles of your inner Hell searching for your Beatrice… of sorts. The world is sketched starkly and wildly in black and white – like a schizophrenic’s scribblings – with the occasional accent of blood red and sickly yellow to mark manipulable objects and pretty much every childhood fear, irrational or otherwise, you still foster in your beating heart: darkness, gore, claustrophobia, self-harm, asylums, creepy porcelain-skinned, raven-haired girls, dolls… it touches on them all. Fucking dolls. Fucking dolls and raven-haired girls, man. Some people are afraid of heights. Some people are afraid of clowns. I’m afraid of dolls and women with black hair and fair complexions. And if you aren’t, you will be.
The atmosphere is thick in this one. As you progress slowly from room to room and area to area, the game will do its damnedest to put you on edge. China will crash to the floor with no prompting, birds slam into windows with suicidal intent, and shadowy figures dissipate as you draw close. Then the tension will ease off, and your guard will be lowered. That’s when the game will hit you. And it will hit you relentlessly. As I’ve said, this will touch on all your creeping nightmares… and perhaps some new ones will blossom. How great for you! Neverending Nightmares utilizes its jump scares effectively. While they are numerous, they’re only as scary as the atmosphere allows and let me tell you, it abides.
According to the “About This Game” section, Neverending Nightmares is in part inspired by a developer’s own struggle with mental illness. And that absolutely comes across in the game. The jarring, not-initially-clear story, the imagined monsters… and the real ones; the soft, distorted, plinky music and “mental ward sketching” look of the art… it feels very personal. And the game benefits from it. This is a man’s soul laid bare, complete with an intimate, artistic peephole into his troubled mind. It gives the game character. More importantly, it makes it that much more terrifying and tangible.
Neverending Nightmares doesn’t overstay its welcome, keeping it fresh and frightening. And with the four divergent endings you’ll likely get some replayability, but don’t expect to revisit this one over and over as it’s fairly linear. It isn’t all that challenging either, though that isn’t why I play horrors. I play them to have a story told to me… a story told to me by an unspeakable horror that has me bound to a chair in basement with a lone, swinging light bulb above my head. And it’s on the fritz.
Neverending Nightmares is one of the better ways to ring in a new spooktastic October.