First released in September 2011, SEGA’s Rise of Nightmares was made especially for Kinect on Xbox 360. Among the range of games available for the peripheral, it is the least likely title ever made for the Kinect – there’s no dancing, no pets, no sports. (Though by its end, hacking through hordes of re-animated corpses here starts to feel like a sport.)
Instead players are thrown into a more unsettling and gory world that they have to fight their way out of. It’s a purposefully trashy and gratuitously violent title that tries to utilise the Kinect to its full potential, with varying degrees of success. It wins points for ambition, but also loses some for execution.
Those shortcomings were what was picked up on when Rise of Nightmares was first released. Poorly reviewed, it also failed to find an audience and sold minimal units. Not even the hype of the Kinect could spare it from a swift and sudden demise.
In a way that is a shame, Rise of Nightmares is a game that tried to do more than any other Kinect game, but a game can not succeed on its intentions alone. Ten years later, if Rise of Nightmares is remembered at all, it would be for its more ridiculous elements. There are some particularly memorable images here which, had the game been released in 2021, would have definitely been meme-worthy.
Where the game succeeds is in its combat. Pitting the protagonist, Josh, against mobs of increasingly bizarre and macabre creations made of recycled human remains, the only course of action is to fight back with whatever weapon there is to hand. Anything from swords to scissors can be used as weapons in Rise of Nightmares and, where a melee button would normally be used, here you will have to perform the motion in order to attack.
The Kinect accurately copies player movements and gives the option to attack in different ways, from separate spots and in different directions. Outside of combat though is where the recognition problems are more evident: performing actions like opening doors or even selecting menu options leaves players having to hold their hand up and in place until their choice is selected.
More awkward is moving around. The game tries to mimic real movement by having players put a foot forward in order to move ahead, back to stop or move backward and turn their body to change direction. While an admirable attempt to make the experience feel as realistic as possible, in practice it is fiddly and faulty.
The field of recognition is small and unless you are playing in a particularly big room, this can lead to a lot of problems. The inclusion of an automatic movement function, which moves players along the prescribed route for level progression, seemingly indicates that the developers were aware of the motion issues.
In addition the game also has a calorie counter, which keeps a record of how much energy was expended while playing, so you can start shedding the pounds much like the victims; though the weight they lose is in the form of limbs.
The plot, which sees Josh and the survivors of a train crash in a remote Eastern European forest captured by an unhinged scientist and subsequently trying to escape, may not have an original bone in its body, but it is simply an excuse for the action, limb-loping and blood splatter. Despite that, the game makes good use of all its characters and has a handful of entertaining boss battles.
It can all get very samey and unsettlingly sick in longer play sessions, but those who can stand the frustrations and like a challenge can find some fun in Rise of Nightmares. It could and should have been a much better game, but ten years later can still find an audience. Those who like a bit of mindless, bloody action can find a copy on Amazon or Ebay. Or, of course, there’s the Xbox Store.
Let us know in the comments what you remember from Kinect’s Rise of Nightmares.