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KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child Review

publisher: Gathering
developer: Third Law Interactive
genre: Shooters

PII-266, 64MB RAM, 500MB HDD, 3D accelerator
ESRB rating: M

release date: Jul 09, 00
» All About KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child on ActionTrip

Oh boy, never thought KISS would make for a good gaming material... I vaguely remember Gene Simmmons' on-stage antics, but from what I have seen, I would rather play a game about Abba, or The Jackson 5... I know it's unprofessional of me to say this, but I can't help it. Tongue-lashing, silly, costume-wearing geriatric rockers, never seemed like my kind of crowd. In fact, the only band that I've found even more idiotic than KISS would have to be the jolly bunch of inbreeds named GWAR...

Apparently, some of Ion Storm's ex-employees, now Gathered around GOD Games, and going by the name of Third Law Interactive though that making a FPS with a KISS motive would be a "really cool idea". I guess, on the bright side, most of today's kids haven't heard of KISS anyway, so they'll just play the heroes without ever knowing their true identities.

According to its makers, KISS: Psycho Circus The Nightmare Child straps 3D gamers into a high-paced (action)trip through a twisted world of horror inspired by the KISS legacy, conceived by the imagination of Todd McFarlane and brought to digital life by Third Law Interactive. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this; some strange individual out there was actually so taken by the band that he even made a comic based on it. Shhh... don't ever mention this to anybody, but I remember having a KISS: Live at Concert record that had the wacky comic printed across its covers... I actually though the comic looked cool, but I was left wondering who in the hell was responsible for those silly screams on the record.

Alas, Third Law Interactive made their decision, and it was too late to plea for a shift to Abba. KISS: Psycho Circus - The Nightmare Child was built on LithTech 1.5, a damn fine 3D engine that came a long way from SHOGO, and Blood 2. As the title so vividly suggests, KISS - the game has the players taking a role of one of The Elders - battling the nightmare child in a gone-mental circus, full of nasty clowns, Ballbusters, and all sorts of other weird-looking adversaries. The entire opus is split into four Acts, each with a different band member playing the hero --- The Celestial, mastering the element of air, The Demon, in control of the fire, (huge tongue sticking out, guess who) The Starbearer, mastering the element of water, and The Beastking, ruling the realm of earth. Psycho Circus holds some 25 "twisted freaks", 12 weapons, 16 ancient artifacts, scripted in-game cinematics, and a slew of boss and mini-boss encounters... Sverre Kvernmo, Lead Designer explains the storyline --- demigods, or Elder, have been cast into the void because of the breach of an ancient oath. Through the machinations of an (already dead) archenemy this triggers the conception of The Nightmare Child. If this entity is born before the return of the Elder, it will take their place in the cosmos and swallow the universe whole, just to spit it out again in a highly undesirable form. The players' first task is to restore each of the four Elder to power (by entering their elemental realms and assembling their KISS costume/armour). Finally you face the Nightmare Realm, an all-out hostile environment where the very walls scream for your blood and a new God of evil is taking shape down the hall. The storyline has that misty feel to it. Unfortunately, the players are never given a chance to really get into it... Apart from relatively boring opening cinematics, and this eery, Gipsy women talk, I didn't know where the hell I was, or why I was there for that matter. So much for the background story...

On To The Game...

And now, for the moment that you've been all waiting for... Er... is it any good?

...Well, after going through it, I would have to go for a negative answer. It's become more than apparent that single-player FPS has gone from one of the most straightforward and easiest to develop genres to a true nightmare child of every game developer that didn't have the knowledge, or the stamina of Valve Software. "Unfortunately" (for some game developers), Half Life has raised the single player FPS bar so high that you simply can't dish out an "original" premise (if you consider having KISS in a game original), and a few levels expecting to have an instant best-seller in this market. No sir, there is more to it than just providing spit-shined weapons, numerous levels and thousands of enemies. Third Law Interactive obviously didn't feel like thinking about such issues. They figured - oh yeah, we got KISS, we got millions of beasts and freaks to throw at the players, and we got an electric RL, what else do we need? I'm still not sure if the original design idea was to make a Doom-like, enemy-swarming game, or to provide the players with an involving world and a decent storyline. The puzzles are absolute no-brainers - I believe that even the most loyal of KISS fans, after they've consumed gallons of alcohol, and smoked a wagon of weed could easily solve them. In fact, you even have an icon popping up every time you come across one. And they usually consist of pulling a lever, pushing a button or smashing a crate... You know, the usual old-school-FPS stuff... There is a clear desire though, on the part of programmers to implement some kind of a story, and give Psycho's world some meaning. Obviously, they weren't really successful, so I'm left wondering of their original intentions...

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5.9   Okay

LithTech 1.5 has come a long way, baby! Blood spraying all around can be fun sometimes.

Stop throwing those bugs at me! Unbalanced is the word.


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