When a review is marked as ‘in progress’, it is done on the basis that enough time has been invested to obtain solid impressions even though we have been unable to beat it. This may be down to an extreme length or brutal difficulty, but either way it is a title that has overcome us… at least for a period of time.
Games marked as such will receive the usual review treatment, plus some additional footage to help give you a general idea of what to expect. These games will likely be finished at some point, and the review will be updated accordingly. As such, keep checking back if you want to keep a track of our full final thoughts when we have them!
Many thanks to the publisher for the review code
First person shooters have been largely unaffected by the rogue renaissance that has been partcularly predominant as of late. There are some, such as Post Void and Immortal Redneck but they’re comparatively quite uncommon when compared to certain other genres. Perhaps it’s because balancing interesting level design with shooting is pretty difficult to pull off well, often resulting in something far inferior to their pre-designed counterparts.
Nightmare Reaper changes all that, however, by taking elements of roguelite design and implementing them to near perfection. This is how it should be done.
Many thanks to Feardemic for the review code.
As is traditional for the Boomer Shooter genre, Nightmare Reaper casts away any pretense of story in favour of a general setup that sets the scene for all the carnage that lies ahead. In this case, we have our hero trapped in the confines of a mental institution and the levels are what her brain forms during sleepy time in order to get through her torment. It’s a bit like Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch except with marginally less sex appeal.
There are attempts to add some complexity to the plot via diary entries that your doctor leaves on your table each day, but they’re largely pointless and only really serve to help provide a little extra lore for those who are really looking for it. It’s nice to have, even if it makes very little difference to the overall narrative.
The hospital room itself is largely basic with little else to do aside from reading these diary entries and going to bed. This unfortunate simplicity also extends to the visual style too, with the general aesthetic of your room being rather dull and lacking in any real – which is a shame considering that the rest of the game isn’t quite so bland. Rather than evoking the likes of DOOM, as you would expect, the visuals are more reminiscent of the rudimentary Wolfenstein 3D. It works for the most part, with enemies and environments looking particularly nice given the archaic look they’ve been given. There are some elements that don’t fare quite as well, such as your character’s bloody hands upon death, but they’re mostly pleasing for the most part even if they don’t come across as anything fancy.
Presentation issues are only really limited to these minor quibbles though, as the audio is top notch across the board. Enemy grunts and gunfire also sound as pleasing as you’d hope for, and Andrew Hulshult’s soundtrack is near faultless at providing some rocking tunes as you blast away the hideous creatures that stand between you and your path forward. Anyone familiar with his work should no doubt be aware of how badass the OST is before it even kicks in.
And blasting away creatures is exactly what you’ll be doing for the majority of the time. Every time you go to sleep, you find yourself in a randomly generated dreamscape. Whilst there are set areas with their own aesthetic themes, the levels themselves will all be structured differently every time you play. This can result in some rather bland and forgettable stages in other game, but it generally works pretty well here. Levels have far more vertically than you’d expect from a Wolfenstein 3D inspired game, and the level traps and secrets all add to the overall enjoyment.
The randomly generated enemies, on the other hand, can be a little bit of a mixed bag. These also mostly consist of a pool dependent on the stage, but certain combinations can certainly be harder than others. Despite that though, the designs are all pleasant enough, even if a little uninspired. There’s speedy zombie chicks, undead soldiers, flying bugs, and so on. All stuff you’ve seen before, but I suppose it matters little as you turn them into bloody chunks.
What makes that particularly satisfying is the selection of guns. The many, many, many guns. With over 80 unique weapons to choose from, you’ll end up with plenty of useful and unique tools to shred through the crowd. There’s chainsaws, double barrelled shotguns, magic books, bazookas, hornet hands, and much much more. If that wasn’t enough, weapons can also contain enchantments to spice them up even more. I had a staff that fired random projectiles and dropped coins with every shot. It’s a good way to help make recurring weapons feel even more unique, and make you feel excited every time you pick up something new.
Eighty does seem like a lot, and it is, but they really made an effort to help make them all stand out. There are some that are similar, such as the elemental variations of the books, but for the most part each one feels worthwhile in their own right. I very rarely got the feeling that a new weapon I acquired was unusable, leaving me to choose between what I want in my loadout. Usually I’d opt for anything new to play around with, but I can’t deny being drawn to the beefy sawn off shotgun every time I acquired one. It’s really impressive how they managed to make so many great guns in one game, but they did. You can only carry one of them over to the next stage, but they’re so plentiful and varied that you’ll be armed to the teeth again in no time.
The roguelite elements aren’t just restricted to the random generation, however, as the game also features a degree of micro-progression via the game’s various skill trees. Rather than the simple tree that you’ve seen in many games, Nightmare Reaper instead opts for in-game cartridges that you acquire and play in order to get stronger. These offer playstyles from 2D platformers to a Pokémon style RPG, and progression will make your character stronger in the main game. It’s a stupid upgrade system, but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Stupid describes most of the game, really, and I mean that as a complement. There’s a stupid number of guns (many of which are stupidly ridiculous), the story premise is stupid, the upgrade system is stupid. Everything is just stupid and shouldn’t work. But it does. That’s not to say the game isn’t without fault, as the occasional visual issue and painfully lengthy load times do affect the overall polish; however, I’d still class this as one of the best boomer shooter games on the Switch. Does that mean it’s worth the high asking price? Probably not, but it’s still something that you should probably add to your collection at some point.
Nightmare Reaper is a highly addictive old school shooter with more guns than you can count. Its procedural generation combined with its unique upgrade system adds to the overall fun and makes this one of the best first person shooter experiences on the Switch.