Monday, September 29, 2014

Indie Impressions - Neverending Nightmares

Neverending Nightmares

Now Available on Steam

Developed by Infinitap Games

The greatest and most effective aspect of horror is the tension and the atmosphere, the feeling of creeping unknown terror that lurks around each corner ahead, the mysterious buzzing sounds of some vile machine sprinkled with the curious moanings of what one could only guess are tortured souls.

When it comes to horror, it's hardly ever the execution of cheap scares or the appearance of the actual monster that are scary or make the experience, but the thick and heavy atmosphere and the suspense that it builds in you throughout the journey and this is exactly where Neverending Nightmares excels above and beyond everything I have come to expect from the horror genre.

Neverending Nightmares tells its chilling story of endless terror in the heart of a young boy through brilliantly gritty black and white artwork that evokes a strong nostalgia in me for the works of Edward Gorey, and the influence is obviously strong both in visuals and narrative content. This mysterious story of a troubled young protagonist shows a deep connection between him and his sister, and yet he seems to be so alone, so isolated in this nightmare realm.

The effects of prolonged solitude and isolation can bring about these strange and hard to manage feelings of anxiety or OCD, and it creates a feeling of fear and distrust towards the few humans that are close to the inflicted. We see this fear in the protagonist and his close relationship with his sister as his visions slowly distort the image of this caring force in his life into someone who doesn't even recognize who he is.

The title screen alone gives a foreboding and chilling effect as the eerie sounding notes of a piano descend peculiarly in the same way the player will descend into progressively bizarre and terrifying realms of what seems to be the characters own mind. Deeper into the hauntings of your nightmares you will journey, waking up over and over again only to find yourself in an even more terrifying nightmare than the last like some kind of harrowing metaphor for the day-to-day dealings of those who suffer from mental health issues.

With each passing of these horrible nights that seem to be a dream or vision our protagonist awakens back in his bed suddenly, gasping for air and trying to put together the pieces of what he saw. Each time you awaken startled out from your slumber your environments change and the place you once called home slowly evolves into something hellish and terrifying. More and more with each damning vision your surroundings become enshrouded with antique oddities and bizzare, grotesque imagery.

I'm not the biggest fan of horror, not because I get scared easily but because blood and gore never really do it for me. I was kinda exposed to a lot of violent entertainment as a kid unfortunately and saw a lot of thriller and slasher flicks and such at probably too early an age.  I became totally desensitized to shock values in horror.

This game, though.. This effects me in ways I can't really explain, and wouldn't feel comfortable explaining because it really hits home with issues I've had dealing with insomnia and anxiety at a younger age although clearly not as extreme as what the developer, who states that his own real life experiences were a huge influence on the game, has been through. The point, either way, seems to be that mental health, no matter how small or severe, is a real issue that needs to be looked at more seriously especially in the gaming world.

Despite the very sparse dialogue the characters are given incredible authentic personality through the emotions they portray throughout the game. The sound design is the best I've heard in a horror game and recommends you use headphones, I can see exactly why and would absolutely recommend it now as well. The effects all come at you from every direction and make you feel like footsteps accompanied by the rattling of chains are closing in behind and faint whispering can be heard as you step deeper into dark basements, the atmosphere is so thick and heavy that I find myself stopping to catch my breath and gather my thoughts.

Still, after a couple playthroughs and seeing half of the endings I am left with so many question on what exactly our main character is going through. What causes him to see some of these visions, particularly of the cruel happenings between him and his sister? Which of these events are reality, and which are merely a figment of his paranoid and anxious mind?

This is a story I will revisit and contemplate many times, and it's a story I'll be determined to show everyone I know with or without an interest in the subject matter of mental health. Neverending Nightmares manages to be genuinely terrifying and surpasses even the most realistic 3D horror experiences on PC simply through the usage of skin-tingling atmosphere and an art style that won't soon be forgotten.

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