Another day, another retro FPS. There seems to be plentiful amounts of games that embrace the brilliance of the nineties, all the while introducing some new modern twists to pepper up the experience. Speaking of which, Nightmare Reaper, created and published by Blazing Bit Games, has popped out of Steam’s Early Access recently. Expect lots of gibs, oodles of weapons and countless lootables which makes grinding and trying to git gud in this one a lovely time.
The unnamed protagonist is a mental patient who is incarcerated inside an asylum. When she goes to sleep, she dreams of taking part in ultra-violent, action-packed gunfights. After ‘dying’, she wakes up in her room, ready to do it all over again. You’ll unlock diary extracts regarding her condition as you plod along through each level. Curious though it may be, reading the diary extracts is thankfully optional.
It wouldn’t be a throwback shooter without colourful pixel art, right? You’re gonna be seeing a lot of gore, coins and weather effects, which can clutter the screen at times. Good thing you can twiddle around with the many visual settings in the options menu. Sure, some tities may have more detailed sprite work, but what’s on offer is still impressive. There’s a small soundtrack composed by none other than the beloved bearded composer Andrew Hulshult; the track that plays during combat will crop up a lot, and that’s a good thing cuz it sounds very cool. The game has crashed a few times during gameplay, which isn’t unheard of for an Early Access title. Still a nuisance, though.
You don’t need an in-depth training mission to tell you that you gotta kill things, loot stuff and find secrets before exiting the level. Stages are set in murky mines, small villages, spooky forests and such. There’s a bit of verticality, with pillars to climb, bridges to cross and countless spike pits to dodge. However, the whole thing is made up of strict, 90-degree environments, akin to Rise Of The Triad (*sips boomer juice*). You can expect a few locked doors to crop, and while some need coloured keys to open them, others need a switch to be flipped, or some spooky symbols on the walls to be destroyed. The latter two can make the simple act of opening a locked door a kerfuffle. Good thing there’s a minimap in the corner of the screen.
What makes this game sound out from the rest is the armory. It’s friggin’ massive – 80 weapons! There are pistols, shotguns, bazookas, remote mines, spellbooks, chainsaws, and more. Not only are many of these very satisfying to use, but they also come with alternate fire modes. Some merely allow you to aim down the sight, which feels kinda pointless when you’re facing oodles of foes getting up-close. Getting a souped-up, rare version of a weapon with bonus stats can tip the odds in your favour a bit too much, more specifically if it’s ranked at level 1 (you can only bring one low-tier item with you after you beat a level). Some legendary pieces of gear are also branded as level 1 items, oddly enough.
There’s a bog-standard roster of enemies to test your weapons against, those being pistoleros, shotgunners, melee attackers and some flying dudes. On occasions, you may stumble across much tougher ones, like these ugly faces that teleport in your face to bite you, and the occasional bullet-sponge boss. Killing them will rack up your combo meter and showers the area with treasure; trying to collect it all can be frustrating.
Cash can be used to upgrade your character. How it works is that you flip open a handheld game console (anyone remember the Game Boy Advance?) to play a Super Mario Bros. clone, where you need to play through a level and reach the goal without dying in order to swipe the upgrade of your choice. It’s a quirky design choice that makes upgrading your character a tad more fun.
Nightmare Reaper ramps up the action while watering down the complexity of level exploration and thoughtful enemy placement. While it’s not a lengthy game, for what it’s worth, there’s a massive arsenal and selection of upgrades to keep you amused along the way. Those who just want to blitz through hordes of monsters while ogling at some sweet visuals and headbanging along to Andrew Hulshult’s minimalist OST will love stepping up to the challenge.