VR Bits’ Nighttime Terror came out of nowhere; a surprise announcement from the team that had built their reputation amongst the virtual reality (VR) community for the hugely ambitious space combat simulator Darkfield. And yet here was a cutesy-pie cartoonish take on a simple score-based twin-stick shooter. The team were clearly onto something however, as a sequel for Nighttime Terror has already been teased.
The original title launched early during the Gear VR Innovator Edition’s lifespan and is available for the consumer version now. The general summary of the experience offered in the introduction to the very is direct and accurate, but there’s more to Nighttime Terror than simply copying and pasting the genre’s formula into VR. Nighttime Terror plays with the mechanics of the genre in the same way that Totems in Dreamland turned the platform genre on its head for the new medium, though not quite to the same extent.
Nighttime Terror‘s level design, of which six maps are included with the videogame, is designed specifically for VR. Placing the player at a seemingly awkward angle to begin with, the full stretch of the environment is spread out across your field of view. This is not a flat surface akin to Robotron or Geometry Wars, but rather a fully 3D environment that offers cover, elevation and obstacles in a variety of ways. The player must use these assets to their advantage as the enemy numbers begin to rack-up, but also avoid them becoming pitfalls while trying their best to keep their aim steady.
The enemies offered come in a variety of forms; fast or slow, weak and tough, large and small. There doesn’t seem to be any particular weaknesses to specific weapons, though of course the player must decide between the easy kills for those coming close or making sure those further away concede enough damage before becoming a threat. Power-ups come into play allowing use of better weaponry, such as a limited range shotgun or a rapid fire mini-gun, altering the balance of the videogame considerably.
Nighttime Terror can be played with only the Gear VR (head-look to walk, tap the built-in touchpad to shoot) or a bluetooth control pad (analog stick to move, button replaces shoot) and the online leaderboards are divided accordingly. Sadly, a flaw exists in the Gear VR-only system wherein even the most basic enemy is as fast as the player, and given that the player is restricted between movement and shooting once the gap is closed death is inevitable; there simply is no way to turn and shoot fast enough to avoid taking damage. The bluetooth control pad design offers much more flexibilty as head-look is only used to aim (effectively replacing the right analog stick in the genre’s default set-up) and as such is the only way to play that VRFocus would recommend.
The visual design of Nighttime Terror is charming in its simplicity. Enemies are basic but have character, the environments offer large scale takes on familiar areas, such as a child’s bedroom or an office space, and the player’s character is clearly of Van Helsing inspiration. The soundtrack is reminiscent of 16-bit adventures such as Zombies ate my Neighbours; seemingly out of place but in fact a perfect accompaniment to the intense shooting action on-screen.
Nighttime Terror has some interesting ideas for the future of twin-stick shooters in VR, many of which will likely become staples for future endeavours from both VR Bits and other studios looking to enter the field. The lack of gameplay options and small number of environments prevent Nighttime Terror from becoming a ‘must have’ title in the Gear VR’s launch line-up, but the anticipation for that forthcoming sequel is undoubtedly high.