Nightbreed: The Action Game over a year ago and it definitely changed his life.
Nightbreed is one of the very first games I can remember and they're not happy memories. The film's alright-ish; it's tense, exciting, bizarre stuff. If you haven't seen it yet, be warned. This game contains spoilers for the film!
I am Aaron Boone... the most 80s guy imaginable and owner of one of the coolest jackets in movie history. At the start of the film, Boone dreams of a maze of hidden catacombs populated by a gang of bizarre monsters. A place he calls 'Midian'. We don't get to see these dreams (YouTube link) recreated on the Amiga, which is just as well because the Amiga chipset would surely explode if it tried to recreate Danny Elfman's soundtrack.
Just like the film, the madness starts with a visit to Boone's psychiatrist, Dr. Decker.
I BELIEVE YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RECENT BRUTAL MURDERS THE EVIDENCE IS BEFORE ME. YOU ARE BEYOND HELP
GIVE YOURSELF UP TO THE POLICE WITHIN 24 HOURS OR I WILL BE FORCED TO INFORM THEM
YOU DECIDE TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP AND HEAD OUT IN YOUR CAR TO THE NEARBY HOSPITAL
Huh? Aren't I getting professional help already? Aren't you my psychiatrist?
Well, okay. Mission one: find Boone a better psychiatrist.
I'm in the lower left, Midian is in the upper right. I don't know what's in the upper left and lower right, but one of them has to be the hospital. The other's probably a public place like a library or something like that. I'm sure nothing bad could happen if I end up there.
Now how do I get this car started? I remember having a lot of trouble at this point as a kid. It's possible that this is the furthest I ever got.
Move the cursor with the joystick and click on each road intersection in turn to move the car. Let's go up!
There's no music, only a loud BRUM sound effect when you move the car. The car doesn't even steer, it just slides across the road towards the destination.
Should I really be driving in my condition?
That was a really short game, wasn't it?
YOU ARE WOKEN BY MUMBLING AND SEE A CRAZED MAN TALKING OF A PLACE WHERE ALL SINS CAN BE FORGIVEN. A PLACE WHERE THE MAD AND CONDEMNED CAN BE AT PEACE. A PLACE CALLED MIDIAN
I dunno. I think my pal there is the one and only John Romero (external link).
IN YOUR HEART YOU KNOW YOU MUST GO THERE AND FORCE THIS MAN TO DIVULGE ITS LOCATION. LATER THAT NIGHT YOU ESCAPE.. STEAL A CAR.. AND HEAD FOR MIDIAN.
I'd have forced the guy to give me the information first and then gone there...
Oh! You mean I know I must go THERE, and knowing this I then force the man... right, right. That's some confusing grammar you've got there.
No, really, what do I do? The buttons don't do anything. I thought I might have to click on the 'STOP' sign to turn back or click on the cop to ram the roadblock but neither of them work.
You have to click the text. Stupid.
I can LOOK AROUND, ENTER GRAVEYARD or ENTER MIDIAN.
ENTER GRAVEYARD sounds ominous. I get the feeling the game might take it literally, to the point where it simply pops up a box saying 'YOU ENTER THE GRAVEYARD AND YOU DIE'.
ENTER MIDIAN is the entire reason I'm here. On entering Midian, I'm promised absolution from my sins and peace of mind for the rest of my days. Sounds like game-ending stuff, so let's go for LOOK AROUND. Once again, I have to click the text.
'YOU MUST DIE BOONE'
'WHY?' YOU ASK
'BECAUSE YOU'RE A MURDERER'
'NO I DIDN'T DO IT!'
'I KNOW, MY MASK AND I
KILLED THEM AND NOW
IT'S YOUR TURN!'
'HE'S GOT A GUN!'
AND DROPS TO THE
I don't wanna. If I do that, they'll just shoot me some more!
Hey, screw you, buddy! I just saved the Nightbreed!
If I remember correctly, the Nightbreed were pissed at Boone for leading the mob to Midian in the first place. The mob won't find Midian if Boone never leads them to it!
Okay, try again from the start. Yada yada, need professional help.
This time I'll go straight for Midian.
I started ramming all the roadblocks and the consequences started piling up. First, they shot my gas tank. Then my tires. Even though the car was scraping along the screen at two pixels a second, I was sure I was going to make it.
Thanks to my recklessness, Boone has no choice but to abandon the car at the end of the road leading to the graveyard and spend several days living rough as a fugitive.
...entirely off-screen. I'm sure it was really exciting though.
I'm back on the map. Off to Midian we go!
Now I know that LOOK AROUND is out of bounds. I'll try ENTER GRAVEYARD.
YOU ARE NOT BREED YOU ARE MEAT!
Waggle the joystick? Press the fire button? Click the mouse? WHAT?
This is exactly how crappy it looks in-game, by the way.
I want to stop playing, but I can't stop until I get into Midian. It's... right... there. I just can't figure out how to get them to let me in!
I found a gas station just when I was going to run out of fuel before getting to Midian!
This world map section sort of reminds me of a board game. Roll the dice, dat-dat-dat, pick up a card. Oh, I can buy Gas! Yes or no!
AAAAARGH. The game won't let me go anywhere near the graveyard until I've done the other cutscenes first!
Crashing my car brought me to the asylum anyway, so I talked to the crazy guy again and went to Midian.
I managed ENTER GRAVEYARD and outrun the monster this time. You know what happened? NOTHING. The screen went black and I was outside again. Going into the graveyard again made me play the minigame a second time.
I think I've proved my worth against the tentacle-dreadlocks dude. Let's go into the catacombs of Midian for real.
Let's not go in there.
Going to the asylum twice in a row leads to nothing good and if I try to LOOK AROUND Decker shows up and kills me with his wall of text. I'm completely out of ideas.
YOUR LIFELESS BODY IS TAKEN TO THE MORTUARY.....
You can totally see where the artist has tried to manually re-draw the background gradient where the bars used to be. They almost got away with it too, shame they forgot the shadow.
I'm immortal now. Could you PRETTY PLEASE let me into Midian?
I wasn't trying to flee Midian, I was trying to enter it!
And who's Lori? What's The Mask got to do with it? Who are the Sons of the Free? Why have I suddenly become Jeremy Clarkson?
What's going on!?
I drive across the map. Get caught. Go to the asylum. Break out. Drive to the graveyard. Race against the guy. Get shot. Wake up. Escape. Drive to the graveyard AGAIN.
ENTER GRAVEYARD puts me against Tentacle Terry. ENTER MIDIAN makes me 'overcome with remorse' (we're WAY past that point, by the way). And finally, LOOK AROUND, where Decker is hiding with the cops.
What's the worst that could happen? Is he going to kill me again?
He's throwing an endless series of knives at the camera. I can slowly move Boone's head around with the joystick. As long as he doesn't take a knife directly to the eye, I think I can survive this.
Lori is Boone's girlfriend in the film, if you've gotta know. For some reason, she's never on-screen in this game and this is the first time she's been mentioned in the text. You might think that's confusing. That's because IT IS.
Nevermind. I'm in Midian at long last! It's all falling into place.
And it's Dr. Decker's job to deal with disturbed minds for a living. I'm sure we can trust him implicitly.
So, if you discount ALL the Midianites we've actually seen, they're completely innocent.
YOU ASK 'WHY AM I DRAWN TO THIS PLACE, WHY AM I STILL ALIVE?'
'BY BEING BITTEN YOU HAVE BECOME ONE OF THE BREED, AN IMMORTAL RACE OLDER THAN MAN, PERSECUTED BY HUMANS WHO ALWAYS DESTROY WHAT THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND.'
I thought you said Lylesburg was going to explain.
LYLESBURG SHOWS YOU INTO THE UNDERGROUND MIDIAN COMPLEX
I made it to Midian, but I'm not feeling very peaceful or absolvy. In fact, I'm pretty cheesed off! All my efforts seem to have led me into a crappy Dungeon Master knock-off.
I can walk and turn using those buttons next to the compass in the top left. There's 'Run' and 'Fight' buttons which I assume are used in random encounters. Every time I change cell, a very loud footsteps sample plays and a new game window appears partially obscuring the last one.
That thing up there isn't actually a compass at all. You can tell what direction you're facing by the colour of the latest window, I think. It may be random.
Well, I didn't click a button in time.
Sadly, I'm able to continue.
Why would he be astonished? They shot me once. It didn't work.
Wait. The Sons of the Free still don't think the Midianites are demons? Decker mentioned demonic creatures living underneath a graveyard and the Sheriff actually thought he was talking about COMMIES?!
Everybody here's mental!
The fighting controls weren't so bad. I could punch, kick, block, jump and all the rest. It's the first time one of the arcade sequences has played fair so far.
I'm just wandering around randomly now. I don't have a hope of getting anywhere in the game properly. Lylesburg locked me in the basement without giving me any sort of hint as to what I should be doing.
YOU NOTICE THE RED DOT OF A LASER SIGHT AND MUST DODGE TO AVOID IT
This minigame lasts over a minute, in complete silence. If the light hits his forehead, game over.
Nightbreed. It's a bunch of shitty minigames held together with string.
Violations of the game's narrative are punished by death, and death means repeating the entire game up to that point. Of course, the player has no idea what the narrative is. You're stuck even if you've seen Nightbreed, because the game doesn't follow the film exactly.
The graphics definitely stand up, for a 16-colour film license. You can tell where you are and who the characters are supposed to be, and that's good enough for me.
Switching between mouse and joystick control in the sub-games is frustrating. The first time you encounter each of them, you've gotta scramble through all the controls trying to find a combination that has any effect. In the DOS version, the directions are Z, X, the @ symbol and full-stop.
Speaking of the DOS version, how does it look?
(It has CGA, EGA and VGA modes, so it really looks exactly the same as the Amiga version if your computer is up to it.)
You had no reason to play Nightbreed before. I've shown it to you. Now you've got even less reason to play it. DON'T PLAY IT.