Game Over Online ~ KISS: Psycho Circus - The Nightmare Child

GameOver Game Reviews - KISS: Psycho Circus - The Nightmare Child (c) Gathering of Developers, Reviewed by - Dick Ritchie

Game & Publisher KISS: Psycho Circus - The Nightmare Child (c) Gathering of Developers
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium 200, 64MB Ram, 3D Accelerator, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 76%
Date Published Wednesday, July 26th, 2000 at 10:49 PM

Divider Left By: Dick Ritchie Divider Right

The Nightmare Child is based on the KISS: Psycho Circus comic book series created by Todd McFarlane. The comic book series itself is based loosely on the rock band KISS, but beyond the likeness the four main characters share with their rock legend counterparts, these two properties don't share a great deal else in common. Now that we've settled that issue, KISS: Psycho Circus - The Nightmare Child is an action-packed first-person shooter from first time developer Third Law Interactive. It's not the most ground-breaking FPS to come along, but gamers looking for a retro-like FPS experience are in for a treat with The Nightmare Child.

For those of you who might not be familiar with the KISS: Psycho Circus comic book series, here is a bit of an introduction to the franchise:

This story begins just beyond the frayed hem of reality, in the secret in-between places that haunt our dreams. A realm of spinning chaos and shifting landscapes, where four beings, older than words, older than memory, kept silent vigil, ensuring the balance of the universe….

And oh no I've gone cross-eyed!

KISS: Psycho Circus is a twisted world of horror, so I'll spare you the mumbo jumbo and get right to the goods. In KISS: Psycho Circus, you take on the role of the four Elders; the Starbearer, The Beast King, The Celestial and The Demon. These defenders of good against evil have lost their way since defeating the God of Evil and have become parted with their magic garments. They have been called together again by Madame Raven, because The Nightmare King's seed lives on. The presence of The Nightmare Child is powerful and it's up to the four Elders to re-cloth themselves and bring an end to the Nightmare Child.

The game begins in the remains of the Roadhouse. The world appears to be coming to an end as evil minions begin to spawn from every conceivable nook and cranny. The band, who was originally at the Roadhouse to play a gig before all this happened, is split apart allowing you to play as each of the characters. The game is than divided into four initial episodes, each featuring one of the characters. You must complete each of the episodes in order to advance in the game. There is a natural progression in regards to which character you should take on first, in terms of weapons available and number of baddies, but essentially you can choose your favourite character and jump right into the fray.

Starting each new episode, the gypsy, Madame Raven, will appear and explain your mission objectives (accompanied by a fly-by of the level). Once she's done clambering, it's time to jump into the action, head first. The episodes begin easily enough, but as you advance through each section you'll quickly find that the pace quickens and the enemies multiply considerably. I've seen many critics compare The Nightmare Child to the likes of Doom in terms of its gameplay, so who am I to break a trend? Essentially, it's very much like Doom in that it features old-school style action. Unlike the FPS these days, which attempt to introduce more complicated, intelligent elements, KISS: Psycho Circus is content with the old formula featuring hordes of creatures.

The level design is extremely linear in The Nightmare Child. Besides a few platform-like elements, each section features the sort of redundant switch and door-based puzzles that we've certainly become accustomed to in the past. The levels remain satisfying enough though due to the large number of enemies you'll face in a single area. They seem to be hiding around every possible corner and moments of silence will be few and far between. You might be wondering if this style of FPS still works considering some of more sophisticated shooters we've seen in the recent past. The answer to that question is yes. The reason for that is because KISS: Psycho Circus doesn't try to do too much. The developers, Third Law Interactive, knew what they had here with The Nightmare Child and didn't stray beyond those boundaries. The end result is an action-packed gaming experience that brings back the classic FPS formula.

One of the biggest flaws in KISS: Psycho Circus is the fact there's very little to distinguish each of the main characters. Each of the four Elders wields two unique weapons, a close combat weapon and a ranged weapon, but other than, there really isn't much to distinguish them by. None of them seem to possess unique attributes or abilities and when all is said and done, there's little if any reason to separate the characters if only to have the chance to play as your favourite member. Of course, those who don't follow the comic book series or the band itself won't have a favourite, which makes the selection process even less pertinent.

The Nightmare Child sports a modified LithTech engine. It doesn't quite live up in terms of visuals in comparison to some of the engines we've seen in recent months, but does an admirable job keeping the frame rates up amongst such massive melees. You'll probably notice the lack of textures when you come across levels with water and lava, but the visuals are more than passable considering you'll be too busy busting balls to look at the décor. The world that is KISS: Psycho Circus is a very colourful one. Grand architecture runs rampant and the environments are varied and unique. The psycho circus level probably best represents the entire atmosphere in this game. The Nightmare Child is also populated with some of the most colourful and freaky creatures you're likely to see, so you're certainly in for a treat there. The audio department is as much a treat as the visuals are. There are jukeboxes found throughout the game so you can play any of a selection of KISS songs when you feel the need. If you're not a KISS fan you can also blow up the jukeboxes to stop the infernal racket.

The HUD interface in KISS: Psycho Circus is one of the more creative interfaces I've seen in awhile. It shows you everything you'd ever want to know about weapons, health, inventory and other key elements and, in a console'ish move, you can even see health bars above enemy creatures within striking distance.

Another area KISS: Psycho Circus lacks in is multiplayer features. LAN and TCP/IP support is available, but there's not a great deal of variations outside of Deathmatch. There's your regular assortment of maps to choose from, but when all is said and done, there are certainly better options out there if multiplayer options is high on your list.

You don't really need to follow the comic book series or be a fan of the band KISS to enjoy The Nightmare Child. If it's a ground-breaking, sophisticated FPS you're after, you won't find it here, but if what you're looking for is an action-packed retro-FPS featuring hordes of enemies, The Nightmare Child is sure to provide an entertaining, if not button-breaking, gaming experience.


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