No Halloween feature can go without mentioning Freddy Kreuger, the gloved killer that attacks you in your dreams and always has something witty to say while doing you in. While Jason got his own game in 1989, it would take a year for Freddy to get his own game. Brought to us by the folks at LJN who I might add also gave us Friday the 13 th, Nightmare on Elm Street was a game that goes against everything F13 gave us.
LJN resorted to making Nightmare a generic horror platforming game that has a nameless teenager (my saucy side hopes itís Johnny Depp) who not only battles through hordes of irrelevant enemies by punching them, he also battles to stay awake thus making Mr. Kreuger more of a cameo than a threat in the process. There are some twists to the gameplay that attempt to coincide with the movies in the form of a sleep meter that is constantly depleting. While you can attempt to slow it down by constantly moving (standing still will only make it move faster) or picking up coffee to gain a little bit back. Once your sleep meter is out youíre transported to the dream world where the bats, snakes, rats, and miscellaneous bugs youíre fighting transform into devils, ghosts, and skulls with wings that bear a passing resemblance to the one used for the band Overkill. Fortunately for you, the dream world can also give you an advantage by allowing you to take on different forms or personalities to take on the tougher baddies youíre up against. The acrobat can jump high and throw javelins, the dream warrior can throw shurikens and jump kick, and the necromancer can use fire magic and hover. These characters can all be changed on the fly by pressing the select button to cycle through them. Once youíre out of the dream world, however, theyíre no longer accessible until you can get back to sleep. You donít really get to spend a lot of time with these different forms unless youíre trying to put yourself to sleep on purpose. No matter how hard you try to have the advantage of playing a character with special weapons and abilities, youíll eventually come across a stereo that will wake you up again and bring you back to your original and inferior form. Itís almost unavoidable and chances are the designers knew this and placed stereos that are unavoidable just to get you back to a point where itís impossible to get through obstacles unscathed. In essence, youíll find yourself going from shooting fireballs or kicking the hell out of enemies to going back to punching snakes, bats, and rats in no time. Whatís more is if you attempt to stay in the dream world for an extended amount of time, youíll hear Freddyís song start to play then youíll get the words ďFreddyís Coming!Ē and have to go one-on-one with the man himself. These battles arenít really hard or long for that matter and really canít compare with the insanity that was Jason Voorhees which is sad.
Youíll start the game on the sidewalks of Elm Street lined with a handful of landmarks and lines with snakes, zombies, and bats that youíll have to punch. Each location is unlocked by completing a different location. Youíll spend the first three levels fighting through seemingly abandoned houses, then youíll graduate to the junkyard, cemetery, Freddyís house, and eventually Elm Street High School for the final showdown. In order to complete each stage youíll have to collect a set number of bones in order to open up the next section. Each level will have you leaping across holes and attempting not to get knocked in by the enemies that are constantly trolling the pits and ledges youíre jumping to. Hit detection is pretty bad and most noticeable when youíre trying to jump onto the numerous moving platforms youíll come across and just fall right through them. The controls are also a tad clunky and making your way through a level becomes a fight for survival rather than a battle based on skill thanks to rapidly respawning enemies and almost inescapable obstacles.
Boss battles against Freddy and his different forms are a joke. This becomes evident in the first stage where you can just stick to the left side of the screen and constantly throw javelins without any kind of danger. While youíll encounter different patterns later in the game, boss battles seem more like an easy reward for surviving the level rather than taking down a feared horror icon. Youíll fight different parts of Freddy like his glove, his head, his ghost, and his hand again. Sometimes youíll have to fight the head and glove at the same time and the end culminates with having to fight all parts as well as Freddy as a whole.
While the game boasts four player support via the wireless satellite, the addition of three other players becomes confusing for a game of this type and doesnít enhance the experience any further. Youíd be better off playing Gauntlet II.
The visuals are pretty good for its time and though enemies are recycled a lot, they all look good and offer some variety despite the fact they have no business being there at all. Some enemy designs are questionable like the ghost thatís made out of the sock or the lumbering enemy that looks like zombie and/or Frankenstein. Itís still hard to take a game seriously when you have a character thatís punching snakes, bats, and spiders in the face up to three times each. Itís just wrong. Environments are nice and creepy, as well they should be, and offer a lot of little details like spider webs on rafters and the like. Freddy himself looks great when youíre fighting his individual parts, but as a whole person, he looks skinny and frail. Someone making this game was a F13 fan.
There isnít much to complain about in terms of sound. Thereís a small variety of music from the movies and all of it is recognizable when pumped out of the NES. Maybe a small sound byte of Freddy laughing would have been a nice addition whenever you encountered him. Iím hoping for anything to redeem him in this game.
A Nightmare on Elm Street manages to set itself apart from being just another generic platformer, but fans of the movie will have a hard time being able to swallow having to fight off bugs, ghosts, and Frankensteins in order to catch a small glimpse and an overly easy battle with their favorite horror movie icon. In my opinion, Freddy got the short end of the stick on this one and itís not helped with the gimmick of poorly implemented four player support either.
- Brad Hicks (Dr. Swank), SwankWorld Media