Roguelite games are still very much in the spotlight, even after quite a few years at the top of the charts. The big AAA games are even getting in on the act, adding new roguelite modes to their single-player campaigns. It’s safe to say that the model has become very popular and with games like Hades, it has proved to be a bit of a fan favourite.
But there are also a lot of gamers who get put off, refusing to embrace the grind of the genre. Well, Nightmare Reaper is one of those games, but I think it has much more to offer than just being another roguelite.
Nightmare Reaper starts in a dungeon. You don’t know who you are or what you are doing but you learn the rules of the game as you progress; how to move, use objects, and take in the combat. As you get to the end of the dungeon, the level finishes and you find yourself waking up in a hospital room in a psychiatric sanatorium. You can’t get out of the room, left to stick with the medical notes about you and your condition. When you go to sleep in bed the nightmare starts again – a new dungeon and a new adventure.
I like the set-up and loop of Nightmare Reaper, especially the moments where you are drip-fed bits of the story through coming back to the hospital. I do think the mental health trope can feel a bit familiar, but the developers use this to good effect.
The gameplay sees things working as an old-school FPS shooter. Think Doom meets Minecraft in its design choices. Each level you enter in the dungeon world is randomly generated in terms of structure, enemies, and weapons. And the control system is simple and easy, just as an old-school FPS shooter should be – aim, shoot, run, repeat.
The weapons are the fun bit of Nightmare Reaper. You have – of course – the standard melee weapon, then pistols, shotguns, and grenade launchers. But then it all gets a bit wacky and wonderful. Some weapons will drain health from enemies so you are always being topped up. One shotgun I found fired swarms of bees at enemies, which I particularly was fond of. The excitement is that you don’t know what you are going to get as you make your way through Nightmare Reaper, and that keeps the fun level high.
At the end of each level, as you complete it, all your buffs and weapons go, but you can get to keep one. There is an upgrade system too, while a 2D map permanently gives you buffs on stats going forward. Even when you die you get back to the hospital and restart where you died without going back to the beginning.
There are many multiple levels included here, and after a while with Nightmare Reaper, my patience did grow a bit thin. The initial story promise failed to develop and heading into the levels became harder. I’m not a massive fan of the whole random generation of levels either.
That said, Nightmare Reaper’s visual design certainly nails the retro 90’s look you want of a good FPS. There is blood and bones and gore coming out of all orifices, as you take down enemies and destroy them. And whilst the levels feel decent, it does get hard to see triggers or where to go next when it comes to detail. But the lighting is good and I love how the same design is applied to the real world of the hospital room. There’s some big positives found in the soundtrack too – a great amount of metal and drums that fit perfectly with the action on screen.
You’ll have an absolute blast with Nightmare Reaper – at least for the first couple of hours. The retro style is fun but original and there’s some serious addiction found in the whole ‘what weapon will I get to play with this time’ feel. Further positives surround the gameplay loop, as well as the music, but after a while that loop starts to wane. Mostly though, you should have a blast with this well-crafted and exciting game.