By: Ted Chow
Neverending Nightmares is a unique horror experience in that the game has a definite message being conveyed to the audience. Developer Matt Gilgenbach‘s personal struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression is clearly shown in the main character, and that provides a revelation into the minds of mentally unsound individuals and how their sense of reality and perception dictate their lives. This wasn’t just a game to be taken at face value, but a journey into the psyche of the human mind within a visual medium.
The controls use the WASD standard within the context of a side scroller. The only functions available are moving, sprinting and an interaction button for key environmental pieces. All the controls are changeable to your preferred buttons in the settings menu.
Neverending Nightmares decided to go with a minimalistic pen and ink approach in the graphics department with red to amplify the level of importance. This isn’t a detriment, however, as the developers’ main goal was to create a sense of immersion without the hindrance of a busy UI or flashy particles. And in that respect, Neverending Nightmares is successful in offering a foreboding sense of dread and despair. Combined with the dark ambience from composer Skyler McGlothlin, the nightmares feel much more menacing.
Neverending Nightmares truly lives up to its name as the setting continues to offer a never ending sense of darkness and hopelessness. You will go through what feels like endless corridors and twisted rooms that prompt your sense of déjà vu. Never knowing when you will die and have to start over again after waking up in your bed really confines your senses and provides a level of claustrophobia to your surroundings. Add in the darkness to cramp your space even more and you start to acknowledge what real individuals may be going through.
The darkness in this game really does take precedence as it not only adds to the atmosphere, but it also acts as another character of importance; a character that lurks and creeps toward you as if waiting for the inevitable. Those ever present sensations that the darkness will get you make it feel all the more alive. It is a silly notion as the darkness is only spots of black ink, yet the way it dissipates as you get closer and slithers behind your back is strangely surreal and real at the same time.
The powerful imagery within Neverending Nightmares really sells the dark undertones that may be present in the lower creases of the human mind. The environment itself is the epitome of loneliness with the bland colors and stark differentiation when compared to the main character. It really does seem like the main character is one with the environment. The only dash of color is saved for blood, which is plentiful and solidifies the stance of pain and death being the only way out of this recurring nightmare.
Coming in at around three hours of gameplay, the game is relatively short in duration, even though it feels much longer when you’re playing it. If you’re looking for flashy action and more interactivity, then you may come out a bit disappointed. Neverending Nightmares is more about the journey and self discovery rather than the end destination. Even the endings themselves are bittersweet and leave the player to their own interpretations of what to take away from the resolution.
Neverending Nightmares is a journey into the psyche of the human mind and the real life messages that it tries to convey. The game’s lack of gameplay is answered with an insightful discovery of Freudian Principles and the unconscious fantasies. It is also a credit to the developers to take a daring stance in relaying a serious social issue and coming out enticing the general populace to take the necessary actions for change. While this game is out of the norm from those I’d personal indulge upon, the experience was well worth my time, and it will continue to resonant as I see reality in a different light.