Once I saw In Nightmare, I realized that I had a favorite game genre. ‘The boy protagonist has to solve puzzles and avoid monsters in a scary world’ is not an official genre, but it fits the description of many of the games that he really loves. Featured in Little Nightmares, Gylt, and Fran Bow, there’s something about this setup that manages to draw me in every time.
The funny thing is, I’m actually a bit skittish when it comes to horror, so I think this creepy/cute setup allows me to dip my toes in the ghosts without having to sleep with the lights on afterwards. That said, I wasn’t expecting In Nightmare, which was recently released on ps5to pretty much pack the punch he made.
Of course, if you’re used to playing games like Resident Evil or other cult horror games, In Nightmare probably won’t scare you. But what it lacks in scares and gore, it makes up for in creepy villains and tense moments that made me grip the DualSense controller a little tighter than necessary.
If you haven’t heard of In Nightmare before, here’s what you need to know. The horror puzzle adventure game combines atmospheric problem solving with stealth that requires players to think on their feet. The story of him follows a young man who explores a dream world where he must overcome his fears and find out what happened to him in the past. You won’t have to do all of this just because you’ll be joined by a dream spirit called Bikti who acts like Navi in The Legend of Zelda but is much more helpful and much less annoying.
In Nightmare is filled with spooky settings and scenarios including an abandoned mansion, a desolate school, and other twisted locations created from our protagonist’s fragmented memories. Although incredibly unsettling on their own, what makes these worlds even more terrifying are the sinister monsters scattered throughout each level that you often hear before you see, adding another layer of fear to your game.
The first monster you come across appears in the opening cinematic, it can also be seen lurking around the main menu before you even start the game, which only adds to the creepiness factor. The ghoulish figure, with long black hair and a long white dress, appears out of nowhere (along with a sound effect you’ll soon fear more than the monster itself) and chases you around the map, forcing you to hide in a closet.
Although this sounds simple, what took me by surprise was the fact that sometimes she can open the closet doors and get you out of hiding. It’s made worse by the fact that you can hear her laugh as she looks for you and see a countdown as she approaches you. However, this monster is the least of your worries, later you will meet a number of other creepy characters who have their own ways of scaring you.
resolving the past
Perhaps even more frustrating than the ghouls and goblins were some of the puzzles in In Nightmare. Many of them require you to find hidden objects, open doors and move obstructing furniture, and some require real skill and brainpower. Most of the time, once you figure out how to figure it out, you find yourself saying something like “ahh, oh, of course!” or “that’s obvious now that I know.” The riddles are clever, I’m just not very good at them.
It’s not just scares In Nightmare offers, it also offers a healthy dose of excitement. We get little bits of history that explain what happened to our main character, Bill, and why he has such terrible childhood memories of him. As was quickly deduced from the various letters and recreations scattered around the world, Bill appears to be from a broken family that has caused him much pain and trauma. So not only does he get gratification from facing his fears in this game, but he also gets a sense of satisfaction from knowing that he’s helping Bill heal.
In Nightmare is available to play now on PS4 and PS5.