A first-person shooter featuring members of KISS, the '70s schlock rockers dressed in leather outfits and funky makeup? While you'd think Third Law's intentions were malicious, to leave permanent stains on the genre not to mention cashing in on the musical group's farewell tour, their plans were much different.
Released in an age where first-person shooters are damned for lacking innovation, KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child single-handedly rekindles the ashes of Doom without reinventing the genre.
And it works. Although it does lack innovative gameplay, KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child features blistering, intense action throughout well-crafted gothic settings with a fast-paced engine lending itself to multiple on-screen enemies. With four characters, varying adventures, a decent arsenal of punishing weapons and smooth graphics, this is one for the adrenaline-loving masochists...you know who you are.
Encompassing haunted cathedrals, dark streets, abandoned and decrepit buildings, dank sewers and colorful circus settings, the level design is well done although the latter levels leave a little to be desired. With monster and environmental traps (flooding and crumbling terrain) located throughout every level, id Software's influence is felt.
At the end of each character's campaign for elemental prowess, you must traverse a twisted carnival filled with horrible textures and annoying layouts -- levels that give the appearance of having been created by map designers indulging in a host of mind altering substances.
Succeeding in KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child means destroying hordes of enemies roaming the various levels, literally hundreds at a time. Ranging from the Headless spider monstrosities and big-boned Ballbuster to the menacing Unipsycho, the abominations attack in droves with almost no slowdown whatsoever.
Because violence is the name of this game, you can mutilate and sever creatures' legs and arms and blow off their heads. Yowza! In order to prevent the almost unavoidable onslaught, you must seek out and destroy spawning machines that create these baddies. Additionally, there are boss characters in the ending circus levels including axe throwing clowns and huge arachnids.
Needless to say, the action can get overwhelming at times. Almost too overwhelming. With spawning machines located in strange locations and positions, there are times when monsters block corridors, making it almost impossible to move forward; mowing them down with the provided weaponry is almost futile when ammunition is low.
Additionally, certain levels contain platform elements requiring precision maneuvering and jumping. Prepare to die often if dozens of enemies are behind your character and pelting him with projectiles. On the other hand, the provided arsenal is a decent mix of shotguns, melee weapons and other projectile shooters and depending on the character, the melee weapons differ. While exploring the levels, you'll also find important pieces of armor and weaponry that increase attack power.
While there are various references to the rock band including musical tracks, posters and assorted textures located throughout the levels, make no bones about it: KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child is for those craving an action packed first-person shooter.
Although there are story elements and cut-scenes (mostly for introducing new enemies), these features take a backseat to the ultra-violent shooting element and grandiose level designs. In conclusion, if you're looking for a 3D version of id Software's Doom, look no further.
And you don't even have to like KISS.
Graphics: Using an enhanced version of the Lithtech engine, the gothic textures and settings come together with little to no problems; the exception being the realm-ending circus levels. The monsters are basic though well designed.
Sound: Ironically, the sound department is somewhat lacking. While there are sporadic KISS anthems thrown in for extra measure, the basic soundtrack is a bit uninspired. Additionally, the sound effects are redundant and a bit unoriginal.
Enjoyment: KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child is the epitome of adrenaline-pumping action. With a super-smooth engine boasting tons of on-screen enemies, this first-person shooter is fast and furious. Although navigation becomes hectic at times, the challenge is adequate. On the other hand, cheap death syndrome is in full effect -- some of the platform elements are frustrating and your character is on the receiving end of unavoidable hits.
Replay Value: While there are tons of levels, the game seems almost too short. Like other first-person shooters, online support has been included with LAN and Internet options.
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