In the horror genre we have seen everything from mutated zombies to large snakes to dasterdly wolf-like creatures. There have even been some things that have really scared me. The newest incarnation into this realm of the freakish is Nocturne, which seeks its creepiness at the source in the 1930's. This was a welcome divergence from the futuristic "science gone bad" horror games of late.
You play the part of the "Stranger" who is the top monster hunter of a privately funded organization set on ridding the world of vampires, demons, werewolves, and other typical monsters costumes you see on Halloween. What keeps this game from becoming to generic is the way that the topic is treated. Every case is handled as seriously as an F.B.I. case giving a great deal of credibility and fright to the ensuing cases. There are 4 missions taking place at different time periods that you can play in any order. Each one sends you to a different location with a different objective and different monsters. This was a nice difference form the games which have the same monsters throughout the entire thing.
The first and most amazing aspect that you will notice about the game is the spectacular lighting effects. Since most of the game takes place at night (that is when the monsters come out) the game has the potential of being too dark. However, with the monitor calibration that starts the game and some creative sourcing the game remains very dark and brooding yet everything is well lit. You will see the trees in the forest and all of the graves in the graveyard yet still have that fright of never being able to really see into the darkness ahead of you. The lighting combined with other elements such as great animation and character design give the game a very specific dark and scary mood that permeates over the entire game.
The layout is very similar to Resident Evil. All of the backgrounds are pre-rendered so that means that you must run from screen to screen while they change around your movement. This is different from something like Soul Reaver or Tomb Raider where the backgrounds are in 3D and they move with your character. This can be very frustrating when the angle changes. It really screws with my sense of direction. One minute I am walking towards the top of the screen and then the angle changes and I am walking left and then if I try to move a different way then the angle changes again. As you can see it gets very confusing. Another problem with pre-rendered backgrounds is the way that it changes while you are in the middle of a battle. Many of the screens are small and will change if you move into a certain place. Sometimes, however a wolf or a flying demon will push you into that area and devour you before you can readjust to the new angle.
Other than the spectacular effects and beautiful level design the game does not really have that much offer in the way of originality. The main appeal of the game lies in its time period and concept rather than in its actual gameplay. You get a mission, run around for a while finding people and talking to them. Every once in a while you will be faced with a fairly simplistic puzzle that, once, completed, will lead to more monsters and areas. For me the game was just some obligatory shooting to get from plot point to plot point.
The storylines became more and more fascinating as the game went on. Though the game allows you to hear as much or as little of the story as you like I highly recommend listening to the characters tell their tales. They range form scary campfire stories to elaborate soap opera tales of lies, deception, and vengeance on the un-dead. This kind of dialogue mixed with the darkness and shadows give the game a really cool feel that is fun to be a part of. However, with frustrating gameplay and constantly changing backgrounds, the scary feel can lose its luster really quickly.
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