There have been a plethora of novels throughout history that have explored the effects of depression and mental illness on the human psyche. The case can be made for Herman Melville’s famous protagonist, Ishmael, and his suicidal impulses that lead him on his whaling adventure upon the Pequod. However spectacular or insightful such novels can be they lack the visual impact that video games can provide. Neverending Nightmares reveals the deficit that electronic literature has managed to close through its simplistic yet stunning visual captivation.
Neverending Nightmares is a psychological horror revolving around a protagonist named Thomas. The game begins with a girl, later discovered to be Gabrielle, being stabbed by an unknown assailant. Immediately following, Thomas wakes up in an empty house that the player can explore. What transpires is a series of terrifying dreams, or memories, in which the setting keeps changing and usually results in Thomas’s untimely death. However, with every death a new “memory” begins. While the game seemingly wants the player to deduce the reality of what Thomas is experiencing, the game becomes increasingly erratic as the story progresses. Gabrielle’s character changes from sister, friend, wife, mother, and even killer until her relation to Thomas becomes purely speculation.
Neverending Nightmares uses a monochromatic color pallet which lends to the disturbing atmosphere. It also aids the player in finding significant objects and draws attention to the blood within each room. One innovative way that Neverending Nightmare uses its black and white pallet is by creating menacing shadows down dark hallways. The artistic styling is unnerving because it looks as if it were the collected scratching from a bored student’s notebook yet the story is gruesome and violent.
By no means am I suggesting that Neverending Nightmares is capable of surpassing novels like Moby Dick. The story can be confusing to the point of alienating. Thomas runs as if he had two punctured lungs and the setting can be too constricting at times. However, the visual effects are what make Neverending Nightmares and other games like it so different from the psychological investigations of the stream of consciousness mode. Even though Neverending Nightmares does not look realistic the player is drawn into Thomas’s mad existence. Neverending Nightmares has the power to intrigue, infuriate, and horrify the player in an irresistible fashion.