Review – Nightmare of the Deep: The Cursed Heart

Artifex Mundi brings Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart to the table this month as they push for Greenlight approval, the game is already available outside of Steam but they’re pushing to reach that next audience. Adventure games are a secret love of mine, I used to play them for ages along the likes of Doom II and Duke Nukem, simple narrative driven stories that weren’t competitive but made your brain rage out anyway.  Is this one of those games? Lets take a look and see what Nightmares from the Deep packs and how it executes upon that goal.

The story introduces a loving duo, a mother and her daughter leading an exhibition on a legendary dreaded pirate. Recovered in scary levels of preservation and with a boatload of swag they’re able to put on a massive exhibition… well, until someone decides to start outfitting our dear pirate captain with enchanted accessories. Suddenly the story goes sideways and the deeper truth behind his amazing preservation and trinkets comes forward.  Cursed ships, undead pirates mysterious enchantments and a deal with the devil while the curator’s daughter pushes closer to her own ill-fate all emerge in the story.

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To some degree I enjoy the story, it’s honest and while a bit taxing to build it piece by piece to find the entire back story (there’s a challenge for that). That said, sticking it to the undead, there’s nothing better than that, they can run off some smart remark about how you’re incapable or you’ll fail and then you shove it in their face and it’s just majestic beyond words to throw at them.  What I didn’t care for, introducing a massive geographical change and then not resolving it, because it only happens once but it still bugs about why it’s unresolved. You’re introducing a story driven game with lots of thinking mechanics to a demographic that will think about everything you throw at them. It’s not a deal breaker but sometimes it’s just an extra moment spent on review of the plot where one would go “ooh… we should probably make a note about that”.

While the story may have some rough edges, it’s easy to get distracted while playing due to the detail levels of the art within Nightmare of the Deep. There’s something about just heavy illustrations with painterly style, watching these intense scenes of still ambience without relying on lighting elements to paint it in the moment.  It’s a crafted moment and easy to take a moment to appreciate the intense labor to develop each scene. To some degree I can really say I almost wish they even omitted trying to use mouth animations as it does remove some of the immersion (it’s not really in sync at all).

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Players have to piece together just about everything in The Cursed Heart, jump back to the mid-late 90’s adventure era where things were click based, arranged, mixed and so on and that’s where you go. Artifex Mundi actually accounts for this and created 2 modes to cater to new audiences and classic players.

Regular Mode:

  • No misclick penalty for hidden-object scenes
  • Active zones glimmer frequently
  • The hint and skip button recharge quickly
  • Locations with an available action are indicated on the map

Expert Mode:

  • There is a misclick penalty in hidden-object scenes
  • The hint and skip buttons take longer to recharge
  • Active zones, except hidden-object scenes, are not indicated
  • Locations with an available action are not indicated on the map

Odd facts about those:

  • I played on regular mode, I’m extremely defiant about click spam, I still focused on targeting those or playing the Mahjong mini game to finish out those I could not finish
  • Had no use for the hint or skip buttons, most of the challenges are very accessible
  • I did notice glimmer but honestly I figured that was just part of the atmosphere of a cursed pirated adventure, wasn’t my focus
  • I never used the map unless it was an interactive event

You can act completely oblivious in this game on either mode and still have a fun time and a challenging experience, I urge players who do attempt to take on Nightmare of the Deep to also ignore the skip and hint options as with a decent pace, the game is only about 4 hours long with full exploration and even some double backing.

It’s been ages since I really dove into an adventure game, with so much experimentation and hybrid design it became off-putting to really keep after the genre. The art and general design of Nightmare of the Deep: The Cursed heart make for an enjoyable experience, the story tackles pirate lore and a lighter supernatural layer without trying too hard. I’d suggest checking into it now or boosting it on Steam Greenlight if you’d rather have it managed in Steam.

The good:

  • Beautiful areas, just flat out stunning art to look at
  • Challenging but not to the point of pure rage and quitting
  • Applies itself to new and old players, pick your entry level
  • Story is reasonable, not overkill but easy to relate to
  • Low entry point at $6.99 currently through Artifex Mundi

The not so good:

  • CG actually is a disservice, blocky resolution not sure how to avoid it
  • Facial mouth movements aren’t remotely synchronized
  • Using the tip and skip feature could probably make this game about an hour shorter if used

As Nightmare of the Deep released in 2012, a lot of people might already have the game, regardless I think it’s still worth supporting to see on Greenlight, it would give an enjoyable experience to the genre and bring in some new players to the adventure genre. The flaws within the game are cosmetic and not game breaking which are easy to overlook in the overall picture.

Link: Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart (Steam)