Making a 'proper' game using Kinect seemingly isn't very easy to do. While some of the peripheral's better titles have managed to capture your movements modestly well, none have been able to put you into a virtual world and let you actually explore. SEGA's Rise of Nightmares tries to do just that, offering walking, looking and combat wrapped up in a nightmarish world. Problem is: walking and looking around using Kinect isn't much fun - it doesn't matter how amusing a dog with a man's head is.
You're a normal guy, on a train with your wife. She gets angry that you're drinking again (she's been putting up with your problem for five years apparently), so leaves in an understandable huff. You try to find her, only to come across a carriage that's seen an obscene amount of bloody carnage. One guy gets his stomach ripped out by an especially unpleasant monster-thing, and then you spot your wife being carried off. The train crashes into a river, leaving you to find out what the hell is going on.
Rise of Nightmare's big selling point is how you control your character. Put one leg forward and you'll walk forward; turn your shoulders and you'll look left or right; hold your hand out and you can interact with objects; put your fists up and you'll enter combat mode, letting you block and attack - either with melee weapons or projectiles like knives. And yes, against all odds this control scheme does work as it's intended to. The problem is, playing a game like this just isn't fun.
There's an initial feeling of "Wow, this actually works. I'm wandering about, completely off-rails, just using my body and Kinect," but this is soon countered by real audible moans along the lines of "No, stop turning, why are you walking like you're a drunk toddler," and "how the hell am I meant to tackle all these zombie things at once using this control scheme?!"
Once things start to heat up a bit, the enemies will begin coming at you in larger numbers and with varying special abilities (screaming, exploding, vomiting, etc), at which point it becomes increasingly hard to keep calm and not have a go at the controls. Nothing here is difficult in the traditional sense, but in Rise of Nightmares you'll die because you couldn't get your guy to walk backwards in time - and that's frustrating.
Moments of stealth are among the worst sequences in the game, thanks to a nasty yellow-coated bad guy able to slice your head off with one swipe if he wanders into you. You're told to stand still if he notices you (he's blind you see), but if you're in his path he'll find you regardless. More pleasing, at least to the sick horror fans amongst us, is the selection of grim weapons - the chainsaw makes for some especially messy deaths.
Perhaps as a way to get even more casual players into Rise of Nightmares the developers have included a way to make the whole thing play on rails (simply hold your right hand in the air and to the right), with the game ferrying you around from location to location. This is fine, but it's not very much use when you need to find something to open a door, as the game refuses to move you from said locked door. Cue some mindless wandering about without the game holding your hand.
What SEGA could have done to make up for the simple yet aggravating controls is deliver a visually impressive title - something you'd think would be possible given the fairly basic level design. Sadly Rise of Nightmares looks cheap, and not in a cheesy B-movie way, but in a "is this a Wii game?" kind of way. There is a fairly menacing soundtrack to accompany you, but the voice acting is universally terrible, no doubt hindered by an abysmal script.
There's the odd funny moment, but make no mistake, this isn't near the laugh out loud humour on offer in SEGA's excellent House of the Dead: Overkill. The appearance of the man dog I mentioned right at the start is about Rise of Nightmare's level, and to be honest these moments feel at odds with what feels like a fairly serious game most of the time.
So, Rise of Nightmares isn't a good game, but at the same time it's a novelty you might want to give a look. If you're still on the fence about Kinect being a step forward for video games, this won't really convince you to go either way. On the one hand it's a bold attempt at creating a real action adventure game using your body as a controller, but on the other it's an awkward, ugly mess that doesn't use its horror setting nearly as well as it should.