Reviewed on – PS4
You do not want to be messing with the devil’s dream-stealing daughters. These sadistic ladies (who actually look like they’d ravage you rather than savage you to death in their scantily-clad outfits), enter the sweet dreams of humans and leave them with horrific nightmares that end with certain death, stealing their souls as they grow in power.
Yes, Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess’s concept of killing those in their peaceful slumber is quite dark, but there’s something quite light-hearted and amusing about sending a mere mortal flying into the air with a swinging axe, before flinging them off a springboard into some wall spikes, and then humiliating them by dropping a pumpkin head from the ceiling to render them blind, before giving them a few sharp kicks in the gonads, just to rub it in.
Following in the blood-stained footsteps of Deception IV: Blood Ties, fans of the series will be happy to know that they can carry over their game save data and relive the entire story of Laegrinna once again. However, this isn’t a reboot or expansion; The Nightmare Princess is a standalone PS4 title which offers some new features, as well as 100 new quests as you step into the role of the flame-haired Velguirie (another one of the devil’s unpleasant daughters) in the all-new Nightmare Princess quest.
The Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess review in video and audio format
The story of The Nightmare Princess is told through Japanese audio and English subtitles with Velguire and her automaton decked out in an anime-style. The presentation of the narrative is fairly bland, with inanimate portrayals of the main characters popping up in between each stage rather than immersive animated sequences, which would have brought the story to life much more effectively. Velguirie learns that she needs to collect souls to increase her power ready for the return of the devil, and as the story unfolds it becomes clear that there’s going to be some competition between her and someone she’s close to. Though the short bursts of dialogue are worth listening to – for some of the humour – it’s basically little more than filler to provide you with a damn good excuse for killing folk.
Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home
Gameplay once again revolves around setting up traps to defeat humans across a variety of scarcely-detailed arenas, from hospitals and playgrounds to the gymnasium and castle courtyards. While the graphics appear to have been plucked out of the PS2 era, with reused enemy character models and a lack of detail in the environments, The Nightmare Princess attempts to make up for its lack of visual oomph by offering players a wealth of strategic opportunity to dispatch enemies, with the idea being to combine trap kills to deliver much hilarity and ultimate pain to your victim, while scoring high combos in the process.
Each quest (or level) involves planning and strategy. You head into the menu, select a trap from those on offer, and (from the top-down viewpoint) place them around the enclosed arena in your own time, as if you’re playing a strategy title. The action then switches to the third-person camera and the game begins as you move around the room freely, attempting to lure your enemy into the numbered traps in the arena. The idea is to attempt to activate them with pinpoint timing to inflict damage, while trying to lay out the traps so that you can combine them together; setting off traps one after another to chain them together and deliver ultimate pain to your victim.
Now, when I talk about traps, I’m talking about deadly ambushes designed to kill or maim, from cannons and wall spikes to bear traps and blast bombs. However, what softens the game’s violent edge is the amusing way that The Nightmare Princess combines these body destroying objects with items that first appear harmless, such as springboards, playground seesaws, or carousel horses. Combine these fun items with the more gruesome traps, and other interactive parts of the environments, such as a sword-carrying statue, and that’s really when the fun begins.
Let me give you an example. In one scenario, I laid down a banana skin, which tripped the enemy up onto a springboard, which launched him onto a spot where I dropped a vase on his head before launching a swinging axe to send him flying into a set of wall spikes. As you progress you get more and more items added to your inventory that can be used in some bizarre ways. How about setting off a toilet leak and shooting the enemy high up in the air so he lands smack bang on a carousel horse, hurting him right between the goolies? Once you reach this stage, with a ton of items to choose from, the variety of options at your fingertips makes The Nightmare Princess hard to put down.
On paper it sounds quite simple, but there’s so much more to take into account. Each trap has various attributes, such as the amount of damage it inflicts, as well as a cooldown timer — so once activated you have to wait for the symbol to build back up at the bottom of the screen. There’s also objectives to achieve in each level; one to pass the level and others to unlock other items that can be used to kill people. This becomes crucial as you end up needing certain items to fulfil objectives down the line. The real challenge comes in having to achieve the side objectives while also unlocking the end goal. For example, to complete all objectives and unlock everything in one quest you may have to chain together a combo of six traps, achieve an aerial hit, and finish by smashing them into one of the game’s environmental traps. It all comes down to timing (launching traps at exactly the right time), strategy, and a lot of trial-and-error.
And it’s this repetitiveness that can get a little tiresome. Further strategy is needed with the range of enemy types, with some able to avoid traps and others having extra armour, but things get really tricky when the game throws more than one enemy at you. Consequently, during the more intense levels, I just found myself running around, spamming the traps and hoping for the best. Then you’ll reach a stage where you can’t fulfil an objective because you don’t have the required trap, so you’ll have to go back to a previous quest to try and unlock that particular tool of destruction. As a result, progression generally feels repetitive and slow – particularly if you get stuck on one particular level and can’t progress – though there’s no disputing that when you nail a level there’s a great feeling of satisfaction, which should quench the thirst of those who enjoy a good challenge.
With traps split into various categories, such as Humiliation and Sadistic, there’s also a variety of different play-styles you can adopt, perhaps choosing to head down the pure sadistic route by using traps that inflict pure torture, or taking a more light-hearted approach with the likes of a slapstick-comedy-inspired, cake-in-the-face. Indeed, the highlight of The Nightmare Princess is its 180 traps, and the sheer amount of combinations you can put together to execute some visually entertaining kills.
Outside of the main story mode, The Nightmare Princess offers a wealth of content to keep hardcore fans happy. The biggest lure is undoubtedly the Deception Studio, where players can create new enemies and quests and then upload them for other members of the community to download. The customisation options are plentiful enough with users able to set quest conditions and weapon types, as well as assign various attributes to the traps. And there’s a voting system so you can cut through the multitude of poor levels and find the best ones to download. There’s also good replay value as you attempt to beat your grade and earn better EXP on each level in order to compete on the leaderboards against other virtual sadists.
When all’s said and done, Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess is a game that is bound to split opinion. While it doesn’t look great, it still manages to titillate visually with its entertaining trap combos. It takes a while to get going, and even when it does it can frustrate with its trial-and-error gameplay and the need to be so spot on with timing. Still, I actually really enjoyed the challenge. When you nail all objectives in a level in one super combo of pure humiliation and pain, this crazy game starts to gel and your brain kicks into the tactical mindset that’s needed to complete it. Deception VI: The Nightmare Princess isn’t for everyone, but for those who embrace its challenge (and can look past the dated visuals) there’s a Loony Tunes-esque, entertaining game ready to amuse those tactically-minded gamers.