This past year has seen the release of many different Metroidvania titles; all with unique features and concepts that add to the original formula. The Vanir Project’s Nightmare Boy is no different. This 2D side-scrolling title really adds a more family-friendly feeling to the core Metroidvania gameplay style that gamers have come to know and love.

You play Billy, a young boy, who heads to his room to prepare for bed. Suddenly, he discovers his pillow has come to life as a monster. Balder, an evil wizard from Donorok: the land of nightmares, intends on corrupting Billy and removing his memories. The spell does, in fact, turn Billy into a monster, but his memories remain intact. Balder flees in search of a way to correct the situation, leaving Billy to realize that he is no longer in his own world. Billy sets out after Balder in an attempt to make things right.

Not so Rough! – While the main focus of the game is to be challenging and difficult, Nightmare Boy does offer the ability to lower the difficulty for the more casual player who wishes to enjoy the game and experience the story without the stress of constant deaths. The default difficulty is medium, which isn’t overly difficult until some of the later bosses, but bumping down to easy still allows for an enjoyable experience overall, the difference being the number of health bars a boss has. I had made it 70% through the game before I felt the need to bump down the difficulty. It can really prove useful for those wanting to learn bosses’ attacks and vulnerabilities while not having to focus on their own health bar all the time.

Pinpoint Accuracy – The controls in Nightmare Boy are perfect. While there are only a few controls that are used, they work flawlessly. With the amount of running and jumping that the game requires in some of the levels, the accuracy of when the button is pressed and when the game registers the press is immediate. At one point, I found myself jumping around hysterically while attacking a boss and scrolling through spells seamlessly without any issues. The simplistic layout of the controls is also a major benefit during intense fights or events.

The More the Merrier – Players will find more than just monsters in the land of nightmares. Some of the creatures of Donorok are friendly and will help Billy on his quest to stop Balder by offering upgrades and abilities to help develop Billy’s power. There are also 9 children that request Billy’s aid in certain situations, whether it be saving them from a boss enemy or just by providing them with an item. Each child saved offers Billy yet another upgrade. Finally, there are familiars you can cast from certain spells. These creatures’ main role is to help you do damage to various enemies you are attacking. They cannot die so the invulnerability and added damage are a bonus.

What I didn’t like:

Chit-Chat – Characters converse with each other throughout the game through dialogue displayed in text boxes. A lot of conversations happen throughout the game, and while it’s nice to have dialogue between characters, I found the speed at which the text scrolls to be rather slow. The inability to press a button and have all text immediately appear is non-existent and there is no scroll speed option you can change in the settings. This can make the game start to feel tedious during any additional playthroughs.

No NG+ –  I really wanted to run through the game again as my all-powerful version of Billy (as opposed to the weak Billy I started as), but Nightmare Boy doesn’t offer any form of New Game Plus. If players want to play the game again, there are a total of 3 save files allowed. Any plays past that, and you are required to delete 1 of the 3 save files and start a new game. Even if it were added later, a New Game Plus feature would be beneficial in a game such as this.

I went into Nightmare Boy not knowing what to expect. After multiple playthroughs, I can say I’ve really enjoyed everything the game has to offer. If after completing the game you’re looking for something to further the replay value, some of the achievements offered challenge players to complete the game without dying, without saving or even without killing any of the little friendly slime creatures riddled throughout the game. If you’re looking for a solid, challenging Metroidvania game to fill your free time, Nightmare Boy may be just what you’re looking for!

Score: Highly Recommended

Nightmare Boy was developed by The Vanir Project and published by Badland Games. It released on October 24, 2017, for $12.99. A Copy was provided for review purposes.