Neverending Nightmares is the work of Matt Gilgenbach and Infinitap Games. It’s a tale of struggle and defeat with mental illness as the enemy. The player is tormented. Facing different fears and waking from different nightmares, only to face new ones each time. Falling under the category of ‘Psychological Horror’, Neverending Nightmares isn’t crowded by jump scares, instead, the developers have used atmosphere and the players mind to enhance its universe.
I was nervous about playing Neverending Nightmares. I began with the knowledge that the game is an expression of mental anguish, something that I can personally to relate to.
Immediately noticeable is the graphical styling of the game. There is a significant feeling of darkness. Jagged lines frantically pulse towards the player, giving a claustrophobic vibe, making the user feel as if the world is constantly closing in. The atmosphere created by the games designers is absolutely incredible. A weary, pyjama clad Thomas almost blends in with the scattered background, giving the impression he is little more than a ghost wandering through the nightmare-scape.
There is no real sense of direction in Neverending Nightmares. You awaken from your nightmare into another nightmare. There are usually one or two options to press forward, each presenting different details and choices. More often than not, passing through a room a second time will greet the player with a skewed version of what they saw previously, whether it be a dolls face changing or the wallpaper becoming a nightmarish skull pattern.
The few enemies that you encounter within the game are not particularly difficult, but with the right atmospherical setting, they create a pit in your stomach that pulses anxiety through you. Once you’ve conquered a specific enemy, they’ll generally become easier until the end of the game. There are three different enemies encountered. A giant troll figure that barbarically struts down the decrepit hallways; an eyeless, straightjacket-wearing lobotomy victim, who will destroy you if he hears your footsteps; and a dark-haired, knife wielding girl who lurks in the shadows, menacingly dragging her blade along the ground.
Different choices throughout the game yield the potential for one of three different endings. The game provides no indication as to what these choices are, nor are you made aware prior to starting that there are any repercussions to your decisions, possibly another way to introduce a feeling of futility by the creators. The entire game felt that way to me, as though every corner I turned and every door I opened was just another futile attempt at saving my character. As much as that sounds like a negative, I think the developers portrayal of mental anguish is incredibly close to the real thing.
Ultimately for me, Neverending Nightmares allowed me to play against my own fears and anguish. It pushed me to explore my own feelings of depression and anxiety and subsequently used them against me as I opened door after door. The horrifying creatures that you’re faced with are reflections of battles fought and the ever growing darkness accurately expresses what it’s like to be encapsulated by depression.
My experience with Neverending Nightmares was one I would do over and over again, it left me feeling as though I wasn’t alone in my suffering and that it’s more common than I could ever realise. However, because of the strong mental illness theme, I don’t believe the game is suitable for everyone. A lot of people will play through the game and be bored, feeling as though each step is too drawn out, that there aren’t enough things happening, that it’s not scary enough. If you or anyone you know is afflicted by mental illness, I strongly recommend playing Neverending Nightmares. Until now, I haven’t played a title that is so insightful and such an accurate representation of the fight between yourself and the world.
I played through Neverending Nightmares on PC, via Steam A port is being released on May 3 for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.
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