[Review] Nightmare Boy - Nintendo Switch (Archive)

In lieu of the developer releasing a patch for pro controller support, I'm reprinting my review from Switch Score*, with an update** below for the patch addressing the issues that I experienced when reviewing the game.

Nightmare Boy is the latest Metroidvania released for the Nintendo Switch. It borrows a horror theme from the venerable Castlevania series, but presents this horrific nightmare world in a fairy tale manner. You begin the game as a sweet little boy named Billy. Upon going to bed, your pillow comes to life and attacks you, using its magic to transport you into a slumber you're unable to wake up from, and transforming you to Prince Rolok. This appears to be an effort by the pillow/wizard to gain the affections of the Queen?

Nightmare Boy is an action platformer where you traverse a labyrinthine world populated by cartoon monsters. Along the way, you will encounter obstacles which cannot be surpassed until you obtain the appropriate upgrade. You obtain these upgrades by defeating themed bosses in rooms that would have been much easier if you had already obtained this specific upgrade beforehand. The controls are very intuitive, and quite responsive.
You start off with a basic punching attack, and can also do a slide from a crouch. Soon after the game begins, you receive a fireball projectile as your ranged attack. This is your standard “shoot straight forward” ranged attack, so it is well balanced. You can unlock more upgrades and abilities as you progress through the game. This is done by speaking to a specific character, defeating bosses, and buying them with gems. They are sadly only fully available on the joycon, at the moment, and that lack of proper support for the pro controller leads me to one of a few issues that I experienced with the game.
When I attempted to play the game in tabletop mode using the pro controller, I experienced the odd situation in which I was controlling the game, but all of the rumble feedback was being sent to the joycon.
When I tried to dock the Switch, it told me that the controllers were disconnected and wouldn't allow me to play further. My rumble feedback was inconsistent during the game. The same attack would cause various levels of rumble, and sometimes that would continue into death, which led to a black screen that froze the game.
I contacted the developer about this issue, and not everyone seems to have experienced these problems, but I would just like to mention these in hopes that you won't experience the bugs yourself.
The only way that I was able to get docked mode to work, was to put the Switch to sleep, dock it, remove the joycon, and then start Nightmare Boy from the menu. Any other method resulted in the disconnected controller screen.

(fun factor)
Nightmare Boy has some spotty translation, but English isn't the author’s first language, so it's easy to just move on. I only mention it because it makes the story a bit muddled. Other than this spotty translation, the story is whimsical and interesting, but it is a little trying to follow at times because characters won't be named until after the fact, and you have to infer their names later on through the context in which the player does learn them.
The level design is not as well thought out as some of the other games in this style. There are a lot of unexpected blind drops and some cheap enemy placement along the way.
I know that I'm focusing a lot on the issues that I have with the game itself, but the game is enjoyable when everything is working as expected. There is a good variety of enemies with great design, excellent planning and use of the upgrades, and lots of gems to grind out for further upgrades and...saving?
Unfortunately, you do have to pay to save your game, but it is free the first time, and 20 gems more every subsequent save from there on out. I thought that was going to be a drawback, but really it's generally easy enough to make the save payment when you need it. Maybe it's a way for the developer to wean us obsessive savers off of the save room.

Unfortunately, Nightmare Boy doesn't shine with it's innovation. It does a few things wrong, a lot of things right, but nothing that is wholly original. They did still utilize the HD Rumble for the game, but until the issues are sorted out with the pro controller's mere presence causing issues, it'll be hard to fully judge that. The developer has assured me that there is an upcoming patch for pro controller support, however. I’ll update this post when that patch goes live.


Unique story
Responsive controls
Great use of restricted exploration mechanic

Docked mode is spotty
No pro controller support
Little bit of slow down when screen is busy
Sometimes stylistic impact flashes are distracting

*Originally published at Nightmare Boy for Nintendo Switch at Switch Score

**Update - Patching in Pro Controller support resolved a lot of the issues that I experienced, but the rumble does still continue far too long into the death screen (although it no longer caused lock ups), and if you pause the game while the rumble is activated, it will continue to rumble the whole time it is paused.
Maybe the developed was aware of these issues, as rumble is automatically deactivated when you start the game with the pro controller, or switch to it.


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