“Neverending Nightmares” Evokes the Hopelessness and Despair of Mental Illness
True story: I almost gave Neverending Nightmares a pass because of the title, which makes it sound like a cheesy JRPG. Anyway, I’m glad I clicked through the Kickstarter and watched the trailer, because Neverending Nightmares is an interesting entry into horror games. It’s difficult to pinpoint what makes it stand out from the crowd. The art, inspired by Edward Gorey of The Gashlycrumb Tinies fame–is unique, especially since most horror games seem to default to pixel art or 3D. But that’s not it, either. What sets Neverending Nightmares apart is the stillness and subtlety of the horror…though that doesn’t mean it isn’t violent. Because it definitely is.
While not exactly a gorefest, Neverending Nightmares chooses its violence carefully. The game is black-and-white but allows you to discern what can be interacted with through color, but of course the question is, do you really want to see it? It’s a nice twist on gamers’ notoriously magpie-like attention spans, demanding you examine and search for objects but associating anything bright and colorful with anxiety and stress.
Based on Matt Gilgenbach’s own experiences with obsessive compulsive disorder and depression, the game follows the protagonist through a series of ever-worsening nightmares. Death, self-harm, and depression trigger a dream over, catapulting him back to the start of the nightmare or to an even darker one. Most of the gameplay revolves around wandering through seemingly endless and identical corridors, examining whatever objects you can. Neverending Nightmares gives you no objective, no quest, no storyline, leaving it entirely up to you to piece together what’s happening in his mind.