Many Survival Horror games can claim inspiration from the early stages of Resident Evil. From daunting enemies to head-scratching puzzles to intense emotions, any horror game worth its weight will often show a piece of RE somewhere in the works of its title. But few are as much of a sampler than Nightmare of Decay. It feels like a first person shooter de-make of Resident Evil 1, but this $5 indie title is still worth visiting what may feel like treaded territory.
You’ve been having nightmares. After a rash of mysterious disappearances around town have left your psyche in disarray, you start seeing visceral visions of decrepit bodies carrying parts of bodies that are not their own. Chalking it up to another long tiring day, you slam a slice of pizza and pull a quick shower before heading to bed. Once your eyes open after a little sleep you find yourself stuck inside a coffin you certainly didn’t go to bed in, and breaking out of it has you in a hole six feet deep outside a large mansion in the middle of nowhere. With the front gate locked and strange noises in and around the mansion, you venture forth to find a way into the mansion and out of this nightmare.
As said before, you wouldn’t be judged if you felt this was a fan-made RE1 game, but Nightmare of Decay takes points from a bevy of sources. Bits of Cry of Fear, House of the Dead, and even littler bits of Monty Python and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are molded and smushed together into Checkmaty’s passion project. In lieu of basking in its survival horror, you’re given various weapons and a short amount of ammo to dispatch enemies. Using a limited sprint to get past the slower foes is a must but even the most common of enemies are not to be trifled with. Enemies will soak up your ammo, but once they’re dead: they’re dead, no respawning. This is especially nice as you are allowed infinite stamina in a cleared/safe room.
Running a familiar health bar of Fine/Caution/Danger, almost every hit taken drops you down a status, giving you maybe 3-4 hits before you are dead. Later enemies have their own ranged weaponry which makes careful movements and planning an absolute necessity. Add that saves are only done via specific notepads throughout the mansion and you’ll need to be even more careful as to not lose any progress. Puzzles are plentiful and never super head-scratching. Most involve fetch and retrieve which gives Nightmare of Decay plenty of time to set up big moments when grabbing certain items while also making as much use of the small areas as possible. While most bosses are in the later half of the game, most end up being just bigger or angrier versions of things you’ve already fought, while some have very simplistic scenarios to deter them from being yet another “big man who soaks lots of bullets.” The final boss of the game is particularly neat and adds some interesting mechanics, but it’s stuff I wish was spread more throughout the game because you get that one good taste of a boss with a strong variety of attacks just before the game is over.
Thankfully, replay value is Nightmare of Decay’s calling card. Once the game has been beaten (on Normal and Hard difficulties), multiple game modes are unlocked including Horde Mode, Dungeon Escape, and the Certified Hood Classic: the Randomizer. Horde mode is pretty self-explanatory with ever increasing waves of enemies coming out to eat you dead and you use what you can to survive said waves. Dungeon Escape is a multi-floor procedurally generated escape room that takes formulas from The Legend of Zelda and The Binding of Isaac and smashes them together. Search rooms and defeat enemies to collect Credits to purchase items and weapons to aid your escape, all while dealing with a blacked-out mini map and only a flashlight to deal with your lighting issues. Randomizer takes all your enemies and items and rolls them around to make your memorization of the game moot, though key items stay in their intended place so there aren’t too many shenanigans.
When you look at all you’re getting for only $5, it’s hard to turn your nose at what Checkmaty is offering. Nightmare of Decay is a fun if slightly stale survival horror that doesn’t take itself too seriously and gives you plenty to come back to if you want it bad enough. While the enemy variation could use more variety and the bosses could be more “boss-y,” the 2-3hr campaign and all the extra goodies behind it is an absolute deal and worth a “good night’s sleep”-amount of your time.
A copy of this game was independently purchased for review.