Is this arcade shooter a dream to play?
Nightmerica feels to me like wasted potential. The atmosphere, art, and some of the gameplay elements make me want to enjoy the game more than I actually did. The game is an arena shooter that dumps the player into a large two-dimensional landscape. Enemies spawn in waves, and the player must dash about eliminating them.
That is the basic arc of Nightmerica, and if it sounds like it isn’t much, well that’s because it isn’t. There are boss enemies thrown in for good measure, but for the most part there are simplistic enemies that follow the player. While there is a variety of enemies, the nature of the game doesn’t make fighting them particularly rewarding. Shooting enemies and maneuvering about the environment is made difficult due to the less than ideal digital joypad. The environments also don’t serve the gameplay. Sure, they are large and visually engaging, but I found myself growing tired of chasing enemy arrows on my radar and stumbling over jumps and bumps in my way.
The core draw behind these arena battles is the host of randomly generated weapons, and the mods that can be applied to them mid-battle. I do quite enjoy the weapon effects, watching your bullets bounce around the arena and explode is quite gratifying, even though the whole thing is decidedly low-pixel. The art, weapon variety, and visual effects make Nightmerica feel like a better game.
The game looks and plays like a mish-mash of Dark Void Zero and the oft-ported Cave Story. I wish that there was more behind Nightmerica. I would have enjoyed a story mode similar to Cave Story’s where weapon mods could have been used as the Metroid-like pull to string players along. As it stands, the gameplay style of Nightmerica is so centered around quick play sessions that it doesn’t make me want to overcome the cumbersome controls.
Nightmerica’s core components could be used in a better game, one with physical controls. The majority of the effort was clearly put into the weapon variety and effects- both of which should be implemented in a better, more meaty game. On their own, though, they aren’t enough to carry this arena shooter. The environments are too large, the controls don’t handle how they should, and I was left wanting more. Nightmerica has a way to go until it becomes a go-to timekiller.
Nightmerica is available as a Universal app for $0.99