It all begins when you and your wife take a train ride through the European countryside. It continues when the train derails, your wife is kidnapped by a mysterious man, and you find people getting slaughtered left and right as the survivors make their way through the countryside towards a dark castle, in the night. From there, things get just a little bit worse, as you find areas filled with corpses reanimated with machinery and a castle full of traps that are just waiting to kill you.
Rise of Nightmares places you in the shoes of a man who must rescue his wife from one hell of a deranged psychopath. Using the Kinect, you're given the ability to control him with movements, gestures, and some context-specific motions. To start, simple turning and movement is done by turning your shoulders, and putting your foot forward, respectively. To interact with things, you simply stick your hand out and put it over the object you want to use.
These motions work well enough, but can feel pretty jerky at times, especially when you're surrounded by enemies. It's also really easy to get stuck on doors, or various pieces of debris scattered around the environment. Fortunately, you can simply engage an 'auto-move' mode that will get you moving towards the next goal by raising your right hand.
Combat is performed by raising your arms and, well, flailing wildly. You can also kick forward, which, while swinging your arms, is quite the image to see. There is some ability for precise attacks, such as swinging from a particular direction, or stabbing forward, which is useful when there are certain enemies that have metal contruction all down one side of their body. There are numerous weapons scattered around the environment that you can use to take on your enemies; everything from brass knuckles to machetes to bladed enemy limbs can be used in your fight to save your wife. They also break rapidly, though luckily there's quite an arsenal laying around.
There are also a number of contextual actions you can perform, such as ducking down, opening a door, or pulling a switch. These really come into play during certain boss battles, where they can really save your ass. While they're a nice way to spice up the general movement and combat, they're just QTEs in a different flavour. Still, despite complaints, the controls in the game are responsive to your movements, very rarely requiring you to repeat a motion to get the game to do what you want.
While an interesting experiment, there are a lot of flaws with Rise of Nightmares. Some wonky countrols top the list, but the cliche-ridden story also gets a little ridiculous, quickly sapping any horror elements the game might have. Of course, when you can swing your arms while kicking your feet to attack, it's really hard to build up a spooky atmosphere in the first place. The lackluster graphics don't help in this regard.
There's also the issue of repetition. After a while, it's far too easy to feel like everything is just repeating: the enemies, environments, and puzzles start to feel a little too similar. Still, when the game shines, it really shines. For example, near the beginning of the game, your train has derailed into a fast-flowing river, forcing you to walk on it to get to dry land. When it starts to shudder, you need to run as fast as you possibly can before it sinks into the water, and you end up just as out of breath as your character. It feels pretty cool, and can really help you get into the game.
Rise of Nightmares is an interesting attempt to bring something new to the Kinect, and for that it gets my vote. Though it stumbles along the way, it's a unique experience to play through, fighting off the undead and sprinting from abominations without a controller in sight. It's got its flaws, but if you got an interest in the horror genre, and a Kinect, take a stroll through a haunted landscape in Rise of Nightmares.