The horror genre has most certainly had its fill as of late with major releases on the remake front from monster-hit titles like Dead Space remake. However, the indie scene has often been a continual source for those looking for an experience that’ll shock their nerves and deliver adrenaline-induced goosebumps from the horrors that appear on the screen. Project Nightmares Case 36: Henrietta Kedward joins a long line of haunting tales on display in the video game medium like 2020’s frightful Visage and others. Like these other indie-developed games, Project Nightmares places you in the first-person perspective which ultimately aids immersion in the horror that unfolds. But does it actually deliver a truly compelling journey into the heart of terror?
At its core, the narrative is simple and casts you right into the creepy darkness nearly immediately by design. You are willfully placed in a catatonic dream-like state by a group of other paranormal investigators so that you can explore the evil buried within a possessed doll with the intention of ultimately vanquishing it. Henrietta Kedward is the tortured soul at the center of this haunting who has clearly shed her humanity in favor of demonic power. Instantly, you’ll find yourself in an old house with labyrinthine-like hallways with nothing but a candle in hand. Ghostly movements start occurring almost immediately as you walk the hallways. There’s never any combat in play with Project Nightmares. Instead, you must avoid harm through quick-time events or by simply running for your life when the time calls for it. Progression depends on you fulfilling a series of tasks that often require you to find objects that connect to the investigation.
"What ultimately makes Project Nightmares a real treat for horror fans is the pure love of the genre NC Studio injected into this adventure."
What ultimately makes Project Nightmares a real treat for horror fans is the pure love of the genre NC Studio injected into this adventure. It’s clear that the developers drew inspiration from both past horror games and horror cinema. Aside from the recognizable name, Henrietta, Evil Dead fans will undoubtedly note many other parallels to the Sam Raimi-directed horror films throughout that almost act as fun secrets. There’s even an obvious nod to Ghostbusters. You’ll know it when you see it.
What is rather impressive about Project Nightmares is that voice work aside, the game was developed by two people under the NC Studio banner. Technically, the game’s environments and sounds are striking and evoke the anxiety one is meant to feel given the circumstances. The investigative journey is simplistic but engaging. All in all, it’s hard to rigorously critique a game crafted by such a small team understanding that their resources were limited.
From a design perspective, the audio concerning the vocal talent seems rather muted. I found that the leading man was often hard to even hear in comparison to other ambient sounds and I’d have to crank up the volume. Thank goodness for subtitles. Furthermore, the voice work was a tad robotic and stiff. It seems this is par for the course with many indie titles. If you’ve played Tormented Souls, you’ll know where I’m coming from.
After an initial introduction to the game’s basic mechanics by collecting some old photos, you are quickly put on the path to receiving some jump scares and jolts that will ultimately cause you to hustle in an effort to save your skin. In the early moments of the game, burning out your candle will invite a creepy demonic spirit to end you rather quickly. So, it’s imperative that you collect extra candles along the way. You’ll eventually find Henrietta herself, in all of her creepy demonically possessed glory. When she spots you and sounds off with a shrill screech, it’s time for you to get out of there. These terrifying moments are only compounded as the game progresses. You’ll inevitably die multiple times in seemingly “got ya” moments that act as a teaching opportunity for your next stab at whatever hellish gauntlet claimed your soul. Eventually, you’ll progress further into the mind of Henrietta by diving into another layer of her psyche. It’s the horror version of Inception.
"Technically, the game’s environments and sounds are striking and evoke the anxiety one is meant to feel given the circumstances."
Unfortunately, the often panic-inducing moments can sometimes be totally upended by a notable lack of polish or a frustrating glitch. For instance, there is a sequence during the game where you must run down a hallway with obstacles while a creepy monstrosity chases you. During my playthrough, I couldn’t see the horrifying specter and then the lights in the hallway went out. I was blind. After several deaths and not understanding how I was supposed to find my way through the area without any sight, I saw that the PC version of the game shows the monster clearly and that the lights should have never gone dark in the hallway. Ultimately, I completed this portion of the game through trial and error. However, the development team has informed us that glitches akin to the one I experienced will be fixed in a day 1 patch. There were other moments, where it seemed the game’s usual processes were “stuck.” I’d find that I had to restart the game from my last save file in order to fix the problem. These occurrences weren’t terribly common, but they’re glaring hindrances to the overall experience. My only hope is that the launch day patch or future updates will clear up all of these issues.
In what seems to be a staple of the horror genre, puzzles will often present themselves during your investigation. Sometimes clues are where you least expect them. For instance, if you’re given a lens to identify unseen messages, use that lens frequently to ensure you don’t miss anything. For those who enjoy a good puzzle, Project Nightmares will fulfill the need. The puzzles aren’t achingly difficult but will give you pause to think or search for answers.
Throughout your journey, running for your life and completing quick-time events will be the core “actions” that you can take in this experience. Sometimes, you’ll be required to hold a lens to your face in order to see certain supernatural elements. One thing, however, that will truly keep you on your toes, is that many elements of the game are procedurally generated from walkways to puzzle combinations. That’s right, a puzzle answer can be very different each time. So, there’ll be no cheating and simply looking up the answer on your phone. This spontaneity is, perhaps, one of Project Nightmares’ best qualities.
"Unfortunately, the often panic-inducing moments can sometimes be totally upended by a notable lack of polish or a frustrating glitch."
Project Nightmares will undoubtedly test your resolve. It’s not necessarily an easy game. And, as mentioned previously, you will die many times with the expectation that you learn from your failures. However, the title isn’t overly long and doesn’t overstay its welcome. You can finish Project Nightmares in the space of 3-5 hours if you’re focused. At the culmination of the game’s narrative, you’ll have to make a choice that will ultimately affect the final outcome. Despite the story’s simplicity, this bite-sized horror experience lends itself well to the setup of a potential anthology series much like Supermassive’s The Dark Pictures Anthology series. Whether NC Studio is ready for that sort of future is anyone’s guess. But first, there’s some clean-up work that needs to be done with this console release.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox Series X.
Haunting atmosphere; Thrilling scares; Engaging puzzles; Simple yet eerie bite-sized horror story.
A lack of polish; Bugs that forced a prior save restart; Muted and rigid voice work.