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A young couple on holiday in Eastern Europe is separated shortly before their train derails, leaving a handful of survivors stranded in what locals believe to be a cursed forest. Cold, unarmed and completely cut off from the modern world, Josh presses into the forest looking for his missing wife, spurred on by fear and the cryptic message of a fortune teller. It is not long before he discovers a macabre catacomb where cadavers have had mechanical appendages attached to them. These grisly experiments rise from the grave and Josh finds himself completely alone in an all-too-active graveyard.

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You take direct control of Josh and see through his eyes. The Kinect controls add a sense of urgency to your actions and the plight of the hero, as you can’t just hit a button and turn around to see what’s behind you. Because there’s always something behind you. Arm tracking seems well refined. The game uses very few animations to show you what to do, and instead allows the player to discover ‘natural gestures’ for opening doors, climbing down ladders, or digging through intestines for a key.

The game unfortunately only shows you the Kinect ‘zone’ once at the beginning of the game, so, while playing, you never know if the Kinect can see you properly. (I was standing in the wrong place for half of the game before I realised if I moved back half a step in real life, I could actually walk a lot faster in the game.) Thinking of your entire body as a controller takes some practice to get used to. It’s essential that you make sure your play area is large enough and free of dangerous objects, as well as other distractions. Your dog wandering across the play area could cause your character to walk into a spinning blade trap.

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The game has checkpoints, but doesn’t actually save at them. This means that you can’t just hop in for a few minutes of gameplay and then leave in the middle of a level, an irritation if you are tired or don’t have much time available.

The ‘Interact’ options are useful in getting your character standing in the right place, but at the same time, the Interact icon sometimes doesn’t pop up unless you’re standing in a very specific place. You may find yourself walking back and forth in front of an object to try and determine whether you can interact with it or not.

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There is a definite sense of achievement when beating a boss, as you mop the sweat from your brow and nurse your aching arm. Boss fights also include Quick Time Events, which in this case are actually ‘Quick Move Events’, as you have to physically duck or sidestep to avoid death or dismemberment. Fights become simplistic, however, due to the fact that you, the player, have to physically perform the moves (there are no backflips here!). This is more realistic, but perhaps not as cinematic as most gamers will be used to.

The game has an enjoyable story, full of twists and turns and plenty of horror. However, the mixture of mysticism and alchemy results in a very illogical and sometimes disjointed narrative. The story is pieced together by objects discovered in the world, which can unfortunately be missed due to the aforementioned interaction issue.

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The game has multiple levels of difficulty and plenty of collectibles, as well as a time trial mode. However, knowing how the story pans out will make your second playthrough lose a lot of tension. Characters have an annoying habit of not introducing themselves, yet somehow the protagonist knows everyone’s name. The game’s high tension soundtrack is let down by some unbelievable voice acting. Weapons degrade very quickly, meaning you’re always scrounging for weapons, sometimes even mid-boss-fight.

Scoring

Gameplay:

6/10

Nothing revolutionary, except now you get to use your whole body to control your character instead of just your fingers. It’s a great way to vent frustration as you wallop your way through hordes of zombies.

Design and Presentation:

7/10

Menus and interface are very well-designed. Lack of variation in types of zombies and repeating several levels adds a touch of monotony. It seems odd that the game does not make use of the Kinect voice control options.

Value:

6/10

Despite all the collectible items and added difficulty levels, once you know the truth of the story, the game loses a large element of its horror. Average length, but may feel longer due to your soft gamer flesh failing you.

Overall

6.5/10

A decent use of the Kinect controls, allowing for a fresh look at first-person melee games. If you’re feeling energetic and like to bash zombies, this should keep you entertained for a few hours.

Last Updated: December 15, 2011

Rise of Nightmares
Summary
6.5

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