Monday 19 September 2016

Nightshade (NES review)

Developer: Beam Software
Publisher: Ultra Games
Released: 1992

Nightshade is an action-adventure game that's exclusive to the NES.

As Nightshade, your mission is to save Metro City from the evil crime boss Sutekh. There's over 100 screens and the gameplay involves searching for clues and picking up items to solves puzzles. You can wander freely around the city and pressing Select allows you to access your inventory, examine items and talk to strangers. The game immediately throws you in at the deep end, as you're tied to a chair and need to shuffle to the other side of a wall to avoid an exploding bomb. It's fun seeing developers take some chances by instantly throwing a life or death puzzle at you! Four lives are available and each time you die you're forced to play mini-games in order to survive. In one of these you're strapped to a moving conveyor belt that's heading towards a deadly press machine, and your only option is to quickly figure out how to escape! The city-based action is slow-paced and while none of the puzzles are particularly clever they're not too cryptic either. The world is huge and engaging, with tons of unique areas to explore, and interesting, yet bizarre characters to interact with! There's also some action elements such as having to rescue a girl from the outside of a burning building by climbing ladders and avoiding fire; moments like this break up the slow pace and add some variety. Occasionally you'll take part in combat screens where the objective is to drain your opponents' life-bar using punches and kicks. Some enemies have entertaining attack patterns (especially the bosses) but the controls are clunky and delayed. This leads to many lost lives and it doesn't help that the game has no save option!
Nightshade is unlike anything else I've played on the NES and it's great to see a game that would normally grace 8-bit computers find a home on a console. It does have some obvious flaws (especially the shoehorned combat mechanics) but as a whole it's a good adventure game with a large, open world and an intriguing plot.
Random trivia: This was supposed to be part one in a series of Nightshade games, but all subsequent titles were cancelled.

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