PERSONAL NIGHTMARE / Horrorsoft / Amiga

Still not tired of this logo

Unlike their later adventure-RPG hybrids with action-oriented combat, Horrorsoft's first release Personal Nightmare is just a straightforward adventure game in the old-school first-person manner, most comparable to Shadowgate or The Uninvited. No fighting, no statistics. Also, Elvira's not in it, they just struck a deal to use her image as the company logo for some reason.

It's very ploddy at the beginning, as you wander around this little English village with no idea whats going on or what you're supposed to be doing. The game is from the good ol' Read The Manual era of computer games, which is where you get the backstory from - the priest fapping behind the pulpit in the introduction is your dad, normally a reliable sort, but now he's disappeared after sending you a strange letter. Apparently The Devil will take over the village if you don't figure out how to stop him. It's kind of an Innsmouth deal, but you don't really get a sense of that as the characters rarely have any dialogue at all (there isn't even a Talk option), and for the most part just stand around doing nothing the whole game. It turns out your goal is to gather evidence on the various devil-worshipping conspirators in the village, and bring it to the policeman wandering about to get them arrested. The game also keeps time, with an overall time limit of 4 days, with roughly 5 minutes of gameplay time equating to one hour - so roughly 8 hours of real time total. It does the "virtual theater" thing of people moving about on their own schedule as time passes, though this only impacts puzzles in cursory ways in a few specific incidences.

Unfortunately, the game opens with one of those instances - a timed puzzle that's a bit on the cheap side. You have to start the game by waiting on a drunk chap to leave the bar, which takes a solid five minutes or so of real time without using the Wait command. Then you have to stick with him as he gets run over by a car, so you can search his body and find the evidence that opens up everything else ... but you only have a window of a couple of minutes from him getting hit to his wife showing up and preventing you from taking anything, and then a minute or two later the body is cleared out. The whole sequence is key to starting the whole adventure, but if you miss it you're consigned to just wandering around pointlessly forever, which undoubtedly put many people off to this game right off the jump.

The game is not as atmospheric as Horrorsoft's later titles, with almost no music, very little sound and crummier 16-color graphics. It seems amateurish, even for the time it was released the parser was limited, the movement system was weird and the puzzles were obtuse and sometimes completely unfair - and age doesn't make any of those things any better.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video