Mental health is an interesting topic to tackle for a game. It’s something that was used to great effect in Will O’Neill’s Actual Sunlight, which is a thought-provoking look at depression. Likewise, Infinitap Games’ Neverending Nightmares looks to show the horrors of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s a unique hook for a horror game, and one that immediately grabbed my interests.
Players are immediately thrown into the role of a man named Thomas, as he attempts to explore his hellish recurring nightmares. His dark dreams start off at what appears to be his home, as he gets out of bed. With little instruction in terms of what to do, naturally I started to wander around the spooky house against my better judgement.
One thing that Neverending Nightmares does extremely well is setting a mood. This is largely due to the game’s fantastic visual style, which makes the game look like a series of extremely detailed black-and-white drawings. Immediately I felt uneasy walking around the dark house, as the game often teased danger by using shadows and lighting to its advantage.
After exploring rooms filled with creepy dolls, and seemingly endless sets of hallways, I found myself at a basement entrance. The only issue is that it was pitch-black in the basement, and I had no light source. I eventually walked down the dark staircase, only to find myself waking back up at my bed. Obviously, that wasn’t the way to go.
The game’s puzzle-like elements, which are sadly pretty much absent afterwards, then became apparent as I found a candle that I could use to light my way down to the basement safely. Afterwards, I started to find more and more disturbing imagery as I walked around the house. I saw lifeless dolls blink at me, I even saw my own body lying in blood. Clearly my mental state was evaporating rapidly as I wandered these hallways.
Shortly thereafter, Neverending Nightmares started to introduce some light stealth elements. Hulking man-babies started chasing after me (it actually gave me flashbacks to what my Twitter mentions typically look like), and I was forced to hide into cabinets as they passed. Infinitap Games did a great job of using the DualShock 4’s rumble capabilities to their fullest here, as you can tell how far the ghoulish creature is by how strong (or weak) the vibrations are. It’s a genius mechanic, and sadly one that was under-used.
After a terrifying beginning chapter (which takes less than an hour to complete), Neverending Nightmares finally ran out of tricks. The game then became predictable, as I’d be forced to wander locations only to find an untimely end for myself. Sometimes Thomas would start putting his hand into a meat grinder until the game would fade to black, and I’d restart at a bed. Other times, it was an enemy or contraption that would lead to my death. Either way it became repetitive, even though the game changes its locale at the midway point.
While the game’s imagery still managed to scare me (there are some creepily detailed visuals later on), I began to get bored by the end of Neverending Nightmares. There just wasn’t ever much to do other than walk around areas that looked an awful lot like the previous area. Also, since there are only a few different enemies, you’ll see the same ones repeatedly. It’s kind of amazing how repetitive and boring the game got despite only taking about two and a half hours to complete.
Neverending Nightmare‘s gameplay may have let me down, but I was still invested in figuring out Thomas’ story. By the time the credits rolled I had reached a pretty interesting conclusion, although one that was pretty unsatisfying. I was then excited when the game informed me that there were multiple endings to view. After all, the story was what grabbed me the most, so the potential to get more of that was exciting.
An Unexciting Finish
Thankfully, Neverending Nightmares allows players to use a chapter select screen to revisit the game, so you don’t have to replay the same parts repeatedly to see the new content. I quickly found where the game’s story branched off, and was able to play through the two endings that I didn’t see beforehand. This ultimately became largely a waste of time, as one ending offered up absolutely zero narrative payoff, and the other was pretty forgettable.
By luck, I had seen the most interesting ending first. If I had stopped playing then, I actually would have had a more positive outlook on the experience. By the time I had seen all the endings, the gameplay (and ultimately the lack of interactivity) in Neverending Nightmares had become so frustrating and repetitive. I was sick of walking through the same hallways, and was annoyed that the game never took advantage of the puzzles it teased earlier on. There was no meat to the gameplay, just a lot of walking.
After an extremely positive first hour that was tremendously terrifying, Neverending Nightmares wears thin. The gorgeous visuals aren’t enough to save the game from its own tedious design, and ultimately I was bored by the time the game ended less than three hours later. There’s a lot of interesting ideas, but very few are capitalized on in any captivating way.
Review code for Neverending Nightmares provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here