Have you tried… hiding from monsters and childhood fears with In Nightmare?

Once I saw In Nightmare, I realized I have a favorite genre of game. ‘Cute kid protagonist has to solve puzzles and avoid monsters in a gruesome world’ isn’t an official genre but it fits the description of a lot of the games I truly love. Featured in Little Nightmares, Gylt, and Fran Bow, there’s something about this setup that manages to pull me in every single time. 

The funny thing is, I’m actually a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to horror so I think this creepy/cute setup allows me to dip my toes into the spooks without having to sleep with the lights on afterward. That being said, I didn’t expect In Nightmare, which was recently released on PS5, to pack quite the punch that it did. 

Of course, if you’re used to playing the likes of Resident Evil or other cult horror games, In Nightmare probably won’t scare your socks off. But what it lacks in jump scares and gore, it makes up for with its creepy villains and tense moments that had me gripping onto the DualSense controller a little tighter than necessary.

Closet monsters

In Nightmare

(Image credit: Beijing Magic Fish Technology Co., Ltd.)

If you haven’t heard of In Nightmare before, here’s what you need to know. The horror-puzzle-adventure game combines atmospheric problem solving with stealth that requires players to think on their feet. Its story follows a young boy who explores a dream world where he must overcome his fears and uncover what happened to him in the past. You won’t have to do all of this alone because you’re joined by a dream spirit called Bikti who acts like Navi in The Legend of Zelda but is much more helpful and far less annoying. 

In Nightmare is full of spooky scenarios and settings including an abandoned mansion, a desolate school, and other twisted locations made out of our protagonist’s fragmented memories. Although incredibly eerie on their own, what makes these worlds even more frightening is the sinister monsters scattered throughout each level that you often hear before you see, adding another layer of fear to your playthrough. 

The first monster you encounter appears as early as the opening cinematic, it can also be spotted sneaking around the main menu before you even start the game – which just adds to the creep factor. The ghoulish figure, with long black hair and a long white dress, appears out of nowhere (joined by a sound effect you will soon fear more than the monster itself) and chases you around the map, forcing you to hide in a wardrobe. 

Although this sounds simple, what caught me by surprise was the fact that sometimes she can open the cupboard doors and yank you out of your hiding place. It’s made worse because of the fact you can hear her cackling as she searches for you and watch a countdown tick down the closer she gets to you. This monster is the least of your worries though, you’ll later encounter a number of other creepy characters that all have their own ways of freaking you out.

Solving the past

In Nightmare

(Image credit: Beijing Magic Fish Technology Co., Ltd.)

Perhaps even more frustrating than the ghouls and goblins were some of In Nightmare’s puzzles. A lot of them require you to find hidden objects, unlock doors, and move obstructing furniture, and some required actual skill and brainpower. The majority of the time, once you figure out how to solve it you find yourself saying something along the lines of “ahh, oh course!” or “that’s obvious now I know it.” The puzzles are clever, I’m just not very good at them. 

It isn’t just scares In Nightmare delivers, it serves up a good helping of emotion too. We get small snippets of story which explain what happened to our lead character Bill and why he has such terrible memories of his childhood. As quickly gathered from the various letters and reenactments scattered around the world, Bill seems to be from a broken family that has caused him a lot of heartbreak and trauma. So not only do you get gratification from facing your fears in this game, you get a feeling of fulfillment knowing that you’re helping Bill heal too. 

In Nightmare is available to play now on PS4 and PS5.

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