REVIEW: Eternal Nightmare

Eternal Nightmare ($1.00) really, really, wants to be Contra. And why not; it’s generally pleasant memories that most of us have of that game. This one, though… not so much. Instead, it’s going about living up to its title. Developer Chris Antoni‘s second game— hot on the heels… er, I mean sleigh rails, of Santa Slay1— follows the basic path of Konami’s design, but veers off track. Oh, and simple visuals and ‘clip art’ be damned, we’re doing this whole ‘look’ again.

Like the title it borrows from, the action here is comfortably ‘Run & Gun’, with some light platforming. The stages flow from that viewpoint with little more than ‘kill everything in sight’ for an objective, moving left to right, right to left, up and over… you get the idea. Your character looks like he belongs in Contra, rolls into a ball to jump, lies flat to avoid fire. All the boxes are checked. Even a boss seems like you’ve seen him somewhere before:

As the title implies, the gist is you’re asleep and having a nightmare. You— and up to three friends locally— must battle your way out of that dream. Being a figment of your imagination (and yet so, so real), the enemies are predictably funky, some with exploding bodies (and heads that give constant chase), others that deflect your shots back at you (sometimes from off-screen, so you can’t see it coming). You get your assortment of mini-bosses and bosses too, all primed to get their shot at you. Essentially, you’re being set up to die. A lot.

It’s not all lost. Weapon powerups drop from the sky periodically, giving a boost to your gun, like a faster fire rate or a spread shot. At the end of each level, you get a pair of skill points to assign, increasing your firepower, speed, or jumping ability. In theory, this should help. Still, you’ve got a target painted on your back at all times. With friends, you could probably spread out and do a little more damage that way, but you’ll also share lives from the same pool. It’s a trade-off. Yet no matter how you play it, the game never really ‘gels’.

So what’s it missing? The Konami Code2, for starters, more polish certainly. And that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, that something that made Contra simultaneously maddeningΒ and fun? Addictive enough that you’d spend hours perfecting your moves, running through the game multiple times, just because? Well, Eternal Nightmare doesn’t quite have it. For every homage to the Konami classic, every character sprite or boss art that’s ripped from it, you have pain-in-the-ass enemies, tiny bullets that blend into backgrounds3, and not nearly enough lives (or patience) to see it through.

Nothing really wants to go Eternal Nightmare‘s way, ditto for the person playing it. WhereasΒ Santa Slay had some humor to back up its simplistic looks, the presentation here is just lackluster and threadbare, made worse by the frustrating gameplay. ‘You sleep and dream this nightmare forever!’ the game says when you fail. No, Eternal Nightmare, I don’t. In fact, this nightmare ends the second you’re deleted from my hard drive. I’ll sleep like a baby.

  1. Yes, yes, it’s early for the Holidays, I know, but you know what? It’s not too bad year-round. 
  2. And really, we could use the extra 30 lives here. 
  3. Sure, Contra had the same problem, but that was the 80s, man. We’ve evolved since then. We know better. 

25 thoughts on “REVIEW: Eternal Nightmare”

  1. Tim, I participate in comments on may sites and most of those sites are subject to trolling but someone you have been able to keep the trolls away. I was wondering if you are deleting those comments or is just the Indie community some how troll resistant?

    1. A mixture of both, actually. πŸ™‚ Not as many people care enough to even bother with a reply, methinks, and then there have been ‘a few’ certain-trolls that have tried. When your comment starts with ‘dis fuckin game sux and so do u’, or proceeds into some kind of racial / expletive-laden discourse, I get the feeling that particular person does not have anything constructive to add.

      Thankfully, when it comes to the Comments Section, I don’t believe in ‘free speech’ or Democracy. I run this place like old Soviet Russia, stamping out dissent like a boss. πŸ˜€

      And, of course, I’ve got to adapt the meme for my own device:

      ‘In Soviet Russia, website trolls you!’ 😎

  2. I probably don’t have what it takes to finish this game, but I’m very curious anyway! πŸ˜‰

  3. Great review as usual, Tim. This game really brought out my inner masochist, but even I don’t hate myself that much. I’m sure it’s beatable, just couldn’t force myself to attempt ANOTHER run. oh man, I do respect the mere existence of this game though aha

    1. Thank you, sir! Agreed, the challenge is there for those that wish to take it on. Personally, I was with you in saying that after four or five run-throughs— and not getting anywhere beyond the fourth stage— I wasn’t looking forward to another attempt. Just no great spark to this one, unfortunately, and without it, not much momentum to carry it.

    2. A recent podcast, , discussed Eternal Nightmare. The one caster really hated the game at first, until he realized that every boss and encounter is a puzzle for you to figure out. He then discovered tricks to beating each one that allowed him to get further and further into the game. Not saying this is a “great game,” but I think it’s definitely geared towards a very specific type of gamer.

    3. Chris it reminds me of the way games used to be. A throwback of sorts. You used to have to figure out the one way to beat the boss or pull out a Nintendo Power and hope there was a way written there. Now when we get stuck on a game we can just search for the answer on the internet. I personally RARELY do that and prefer to figure it out myself just for the reward of conquering the challenge.

    4. @Chris & Dream Poet:

      I can agree with that assessment, and absolutely agree on the ‘figuring it out on your own’ bit. That’s how gaming should be, but in the age of ever-more complicated games, we sometimes forget how hard it used to be / how easy it is to find answers. That said, old school difficulty is such a 50 / 50 proposition for me. I’m torn, because I realize it has its place, and some people genuinely love the challenge, but on the other hand, I feel that this isn’t the 80s / 90s anymore. We don’t have to play hard, frustrating games if we don’t want to. We can enjoy things like the storyline, characters, art, etc., without having to artificially-increase the difficulty to extend a game or make it ‘hardcore’. You have to tow the line between the two, IMO, and it’s a delicate line, very, very hard to get right.

      Not to plug Indiepitome, or anything, but I keep going back to two games I’ve covered there, Shovel Knight and Azure Striker GUNVOLT. Both games are platform shooters, built in that ‘old school’ framework, and both games have later, ‘end game’ moments where they throw out all their excellent pacing / work, and just try to make the game brutal for players to get through. This, I think, mimics the design that some games had in the 80s and 90s, and just like then, it sucks (again, IMO). You’re enjoying something, figuring everything out, and then the game throws a big, frustrating curve ball at you, and tells you ‘Hey, either you hit this unexpected curve ball out of the park, or you don’t. Good luck.’.

      While Eternal Nightmare is nowhere near as brutal as some games can be, I feel the same logic applies. Yes, you do get better as you go along, which is the goal, of course, but I just question the motivation. My own motivation, that is, to continue playing. Whereas Shovel Knight and Azure Striker GUNVOLT had other things that intrigued me, Eternal Nightmare really only has its difficulty. For me, that’s just not enough. In an age where there’s so many other great distractions, you have to bring something else to the table. Santa Slay had its humor, and the art style was simple, but strangely-effective. Here, it just felt flat. The homage to a classic was nice, but it needed something more. Like I said before, if I want to play a Contra-like, I’ll go play the actual Contra.

      Whew, okay, mini-rant over. πŸ™‚ That wasn’t meant to be a rant, by the way, just a more ‘extended’ reasoning behind why I wrote what I did about the game.

    1. You’re welcome! πŸ™‚ That’s always my intention, and with indie games, developers don’t always get that kind of input. That, and I always say I’m just one guy with an opinion. I’d be interested to see what the others say here about the game.

  4. Hey Tim, thanks for trying the game. How far did you get? Also, this game is designed to be hard, as the description states. But once you understand the enemies you should be able to clear most if not all of the game. This is not going to be a game for everyone, as the difficulty is slightly harder than the original contra. If you can’t beat contra you will be crushed by this game.

    Did you try getting speed? 1-2 points makes you faster than the skulls.

    Also, playing with others gives you an advantage with bonus lives and damage per player.

    1. Chris: No problem, as always. I got to the fourth stage, I believe? I was at the boss, a pair of twin girls that used up the last of my lives.

      Oh, I got that it was meant to be trouble. πŸ™‚ Contra, by comparison, I could obliterate as a kid. Funny, you updated Santa Slay to include a 30-life option, and you missed the golden opportunity to add the Konami code to this one, where (at least) I would need the extra help / cheat. I did get better as I went on, but I think by that point, I didn’t have another run in me. Maybe I could’ve done better with more time, but even without the difficulty, this game wasn’t doing anything for me. Simplistic has its merits, but if I want to play a Contra-like, I’ll go play Contra. Certainly, though, if somebody had three friends (and three controllers), they might feel differently.

  5. Of course, I’m just one opinion. Interested in trying out Eternal Nightmare for yourself? Well you can. I’ve been graciously given ten (10!) codes for the game to give away, thanks to Mr. Chris Antoni. You know the drill. Leave a reply to this comment, and the game is yours.

    1. That’s incredibly generous. I remember stinking at Contra (the arcade version) while all my high school friends were awesome at it. They’ve gone on to successful careers in law and medicine. Clearly I should attempt to recapture the vitality of my youth with this game. And end up stinking at it and feeling my soul crushed all over. Thanks Tim. Not only is this a high-quality review site (NOT a blog!) but it allows me to relive all my past and present failures. ; )

      And dammit. Footnotes. I cannot do. I feel like a loser all over again …

    2. Hmm, successful careers in law and medicine, you say… simply from rocking Contra? Wait, I was awesome at Contra, so where the hell did I go wrong!? πŸ™‚

      And, of course, I’ll send a code your way. Happy to help someone relive their past failures over and over again. Other’s misery is my contentment1. πŸ‘Ώ ❓ πŸ˜€

      1. As for footnotes… well, practice makes perfect. 
    3. I was gonna abuse the loophole and go massively offtopic, but it’s not hitting the right notes.

      I did enjoy Super C in pakistan.

    4. Hello, I’m kinda new, though not really. Been following this site for about a year. I love it.
      And some free games are always the best.

    5. @Saansilt: ‘Abuse the loophole’… Heh, heh. πŸ˜€

      @AxelMill98: Free games make any day a better day, agreed. Thanks for visiting / sticking around the site! Not easy, as XBLIG has taken a serious dip in interest over these past few months.

      Codes will be sent shortly, guys.

    6. If it’s free it’s for me!! Never was a contra fan but this looks interesting to say the least and beside after I read it was meant to be hard my sadomasochistic side wants it now!! Thanks in advance Chris Antoni and Tim too.

    7. ‘Free’ is that magic word, that trigger from which all good things in this world floweth from. A wise man said that once, I think. πŸ™‚

      Code is sent!

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