Saturday, 7 June 2014

Game Review of the Week: Nightmare in the Dark

Review by ThoRn (@RetroGameRevival)

Developer:   AM Factory            
Publisher:   Gavaking / Eleven     
Distributor: SNK                   
Platform:    NEO GEO MVS           
Release date:2000                  
Genre:       Platform/Puzzle/Action
Mode:        Single-player 2-player
Size:        166 Meg Cart          

Some games are fun because they immerse you in to a realm of the unknown and the unbelievable.  They can transport you to a place that is impossible to reach until you enter that virtual world.  You can become whoever you want, whenever you want.  And sometimes these games can take you to such a place with the simplest of concepts and mechanics.  Welcome to the graveyard of 'Nightmare in the Dark'....

…..  This was an ancient story.  When people still believed in the power of witchcraft.  There lived one gravedigger at a very small village in a remote region. He lived a quiet, solitary life in a corner of the cemetery. He kept away from the village people due to his very ugly appearance. One day, he found the graves were ransacked and some corpses were stolen. He didn't want the village people to find out, so he decided to eliminate the grave burglars by himself. Thus, he patrolled the cemetery every night. (Extracted from game introduction)

Nightmare in the Dark (NitD) is a horror puzzle/action/platform game released in 2000 by SNK for the Neo Geo MVS, but was never released for the home AES system.  The moment you start playing you will be reminded of Bubble Bobble and Snow Bros but with a much darker tone . 

Your job is to eliminate all the zombies, ghosts & ghouls from each graveyard whilst trying to avoid getting hit.  Your weapon of choice is a small fire you throw which is powered by your trusty lantern.  Throughout each level you will receive potion power ups which increase your characters speed, your fire power and your throw distance.  Once you hit an enemy with your first shot it will freeze them for a short period, you then need to keep firing away until the enemy turns in to a giant fireball which you can pick up and throw at the remainder of your enemies.  If you’re feeling lucky once you have created and picked up your enemy fireball you can try and navigate your way to the top of the board and unleash it to create a chain reaction which can ultimately eliminate every enemy currently on the screen and give you a little score bonus at the same time.

There are a total of 5 different non scrolling boards each with 5 stages.  Now that may not seem like much, but setting yourself the goal for a ‘1 Credit Clear’ will definitely be a challenge.  On the last board of each level you will be greeted by a boss who won’t make things easy for you.  Each boss you confront will unleash a swarm of minions on you so whilst you’re attacking the minions trying to create your fireball you will also be given the task of avoiding the boss attacks until you can get enough fireballs away on the boss to defeat it.

When you have killed all the enemies and destroyed the boss you will be showered with Treasure Chests, Diamonds and Potions.  Although most of the goodies you receive are for points purposes only, that is where half the fun lies as this game is very addictive and keeps you coming back for more, each time trying to beat your old high score.

There is 99 second limit and even though most of the time that will be more than enough to complete each stage, when you come to the boss you will definitely be tested to complete the board in that designated time frame.  If the counter does run down to zero, you wont die straight away but instead your skills will be tested even further when a large pumpkin head enters the board and has only has one purpose, to follow you wherever you go until it catches you.  This is a one hit, one kill game and only three lives until game over, so if you are limited to only a few credits you will definitely need to utilise your platform logic and hand-eye coordination skills.

The controls are simple and responsive, the perfect combination for any good quality arcade game.  Some may say your character might be a little floaty when you jump, but it certainly does not take away from the game control.  And once you have received a few speed power ups, you will have great manoeuvrability wherever you are.

NitD has beautifully crafted  2D sprites and the backgrounds are just great pieces of art.  I actually found myself skipping the loot collection at the end of some of the levels just so I had a bit of time to take in the backgrounds.  Everything is coloured really well whilst still being able to maintain the dark and dreary atmosphere.  When a boss comes out to play that’s when you are treated to some great sprite creation and animation.  The detail and movement of some of the enemies and bosses are very reminiscent of the Metal Slug series.  Considering this is a non scrolling game, it’s amazing how much detail has still gone in to make it very pleasing on the eye.

The music and sound effects fit in the game well.  Not all the music has a horror feel to it, some of it has this ‘funk’ sound but still fits in to the game play very well.  It’s not going to win any awards, but it’s all you need to help keep you focused on the task at hand.

Fun comes in many different shapes and sizes, and this little gem is definitely big fun in a simple package.  It offers a wide variety of challenges whilst keeping things straight forward.  Unfortunately it can be one of the more difficult MVS carts to find as it was one of the last games released before SNK fell to bankruptcy and only a limited run were produced.  It can be found on a few of the on line virtual console sites (not emulation downloads) but for any Neo Geo enthusiast, this is definitely one to have either in your collection or on the wish list.

7.5 out of 10


  1. Excellent review Clint. I do love my arena platformers - Bubble Bobble and Snow Bros being some of my favourite games of all time.

    This game does sound like a 90% Snow Bros rip-off though - the level structure, the way you shoot your enemies (1 shot to freeze for a short time, more to turn him into a snowball that you can shoot at other enemies), the pumpkin head that comes after you if you are too slow is also a pumpkin head in Snow Bros, and the bosses that spawn smaller enemies that you have to turn into snow balls to shoot at the boss.

    As I said, I love Snow Bros, so I'll have to give this game a go to see how it plays. If you like this kind of game, I'd recommend trying Diet Go Go as well.


  2. Great review Clint.
    I actually have played this game and Mads assessed it correctly, it's very much like Snow Bros. But the cool graphics and fun theme raise it above Snow Bros. in my opinion, so as a modern retro gamer, if you have the choice, NitD wins hands down.