Indies Making What Capcom Won’t

HIGH It’s a love letter to classic Resident Evil.

LOW Occasional difficulty spikes.

WTF That cameo from another classic horror franchise…

It’s impossible to discuss Checkmaty’s Nightmare of Decay without referencing longtime horror franchise Resident Evil — it’s obvious the game is a tongue-in-cheek love letter to the classic roots of Capcom’s iconic series. Although Capcom’s recent remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3 remind players of where the series came from, they just don’t make them like they used to. So, Checkmaty is here to fill that void.

Nightmare of Decay plays like a brief first-person reimagining of the original Resident Evil. In fact, some of the design choices are so similar I’m a little worried that Capcom might ultimately take legal action or at least request changes.

However (for the time being) players are cast as an unnamed character suffering from nightmares. They awaken in the yard of a large manor with nothing but a talking cat (yes, really) to get them going, and even before even entering the manor’s front doors it’s not hard to tell something dicey is afoot.

Upon entry, zombies are found moaning and shambling in the halls. The player soon finds a small variety of weapons for offense — a knife, a pistol, a shotgun and a few others helpful in dispatching enemies. Small puzzles and keys are also sprinkled throughout.

Although Nightmare of Decay loses some classic flavor by not being a third-person fixed-camera game, the change in perspective modernizes the formula without sacrificing horror. When I entered a new hallway I would immediately look around and listen for the moans of zombies and do as much early threat assessment as possible. Sharp turns in the hallways with creatures hidden behind them capitalize on the first-person view to bring the dreadful sense that something is always lurking.

Nightmare of Decay doesn’t stop at zombies. I don’t want to spoil the other enemy types, but there are references to other Resident Evil games, as well as some original designs. In an interesting twist, a handful of enemies only exist in specific rooms — it keeps progression both fresh and unnerving.

In terms of difficulty, it makes perfect sense that the game skews old-school here as well. Although I only died a handful of times in this short adventure, there’s no autosave system. Players must manually save at designated rooms throughout the mansion, and if I died, it’s back to the title screen to reload. This was rarely irritating, as most of my failures were my own fault, though — much like it was back then, conserving ammo and fighting thoughtfully are keys to a smoother experience.

To be honest, I bought this game on a whim thinking its homage to classic survival-horror and deliberate Playstation 2-era graphics would coalesce into a somewhat janky indie experience with a lot of heart but little technical prowess. I’m happy to be proven wrong as Nightmare of Decay scratched that itch from horror games of my youth in a way that is just modern enough to feel good but not so updated that it loses its nostalgic flavor. It lacks the length of classic horror games as it only clocks in at about 3 hours, but it still feels complete. People looking for a quick and clever trip down survival-horror memory lane likely won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Checkmaty. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via retail purchase and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 3 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: Nightmare of Decay has no official ESRB rating, but the Steam store page says “This game contains intense violence and gore which is not appropriate for all ages”. I agree, this game is for mature players. It features zombies and other monsters, guns, melee combat, blood, dismemberment and bodies that have been tortured. It is not suitable for young audiences.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind mode available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game does offers subtitle. There is spoken dialogue, but instead of characters speaking words, they make noises and subtitles show what the characters are meant to say. Nightmare of Decay features some noise cues that help identify enemies in some areas. For example, a flooded area has zombies lying under the water and when they emerge, they make noise and splash. Even with sound on one of these zombies surprised me from behind. The game will be more difficult for hard of hearing players due to these occasional sound cues, so it is not fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are remappable for keyboard about mouse keybindings.

Corey Motley
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