It’s time to swash your buckle and head out on this spooky pirate adventure…
Like a lot of people, I’m a sucker for a pirate story, and so I was excited to play Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart. The first in the Nightmares from the Deep series, this game tells the story of the fearsome Ghost Pirate Captain Remington who kidnaps your daughter and sets sail on his pirate galleon. You must therefore follow him and save your daughter, whilst discovering the story behind Captain Remington and his crew…
This game first came out on PC, Android and iOS way back in 2012, but this is a review of the new version that came out on PS4 very recently. I hadn’t played it before, so it was all new to me. And it was very much a game of two halves.
Nightmares from the Deep is primarily a hidden object game. You know the sort of thing – where you are confronted with a screen of many objects and you have to locate a set list of objects in order to gain a reward and continue. In between these set puzzles, however, the game operates more like a point and click adventure game, as you explore the areas you are in. First the museum, then the pirate ship, and finally Skull Island (where the majority of the game takes place) and as you walk around you find and pick up bits and pieces that help you solve puzzles and unlock other minigames in order for you to obtain the artefacts you need to save your daughter.
And actually, these exploratory bits are the best part of the game for me. I love point and click adventure games, and while Nightmares from the Deep may not be as in-depth as a classic like Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle, it still carries that feeling of excitement as you explore around. It’s not perfect, especially since a lot of the puzzles are solved by you finding one item the next room over and then bringing it straight back to the puzzle itself, but it’s still fun.
Unfortunately the other half of the game, the actual hidden object puzzles were the let-down for me. When you first run into them they are not too bad, and if you can’t find a particular item there is a hint function, or you can choose to skip the whole thing altogether and play a game of Mah-jongg if you prefer. Which I appreciated as an option, but seemed weirdly out of place within the context of the game itself. The hidden object puzzles were always tied into the story, so being given the option to just play Mah-jongg on a different screen instead felt like a get-out. It’s as if you went to the supermarket and tried to buy some sausages, but you couldn’t find the right money, so instead they let you perform a small speech by Shakespeare and then juggle three melons, and you can take them home.
But that is a minor nitpick. My major issue with the hidden object puzzles is that you have to return to the same puzzles three or four times throughout the game, and there’s no clue that you should go back there. And that really doesn’t gel with the rest of the game. The game as a whole has a natural progression, it works well and you are unlikely to get stuck. But then, all of a sudden, you’ll reach a point where one of the old puzzles needs to be solved again, but the game will give you no clue about this. So without spamming the hint function (which is very useful) you’d have to just explore every room again until you saw the shimmering effect that signifies a puzzle needs to be solved.
And that’s the problem. Although the game was clearly designed as a hidden puzzle game with a story wrapped around it, what you end up with is a basic but enjoyable point and click game that is often stopped dead in its tracks by the illogical progression of having to go back to a pre-solved puzzle to solve it again.
I don’t want to seem like I’m picking on this game, because I enjoyed about half of my time with it. Sure the plot may feel like an homage to Pirates of the Caribbean, but then Pirates of the Caribbean lifted a lot from Monkey Island, so everything comes full circle. It’s just a shame that the hidden object puzzles are so poorly integrated, and that the Mah-jongg isn’t integrated in the slightest! The other minigames (tile puzzles etc) are much better, having been well inserted into the game world and making perfect sense within the context of it.
On the whole, Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart, is an OK game. I certainly enjoyed its cheesy plot and voice acting, and the point-and-click style gameplay is something that will always be close to my heart. It’s just a shame that the hidden object puzzles are the weakest thing about this hidden object game.