If Pokémon GO was the augmented-reality craze of the summer, then Night Terrors is going to dominate the fall. What is Night Terrors? We covered Night Terrors back in August, but it's essentially an augmented-reality game that turns your home into the setting of a horror game. Recently, a demo of Night Terrors was released on the app store that serves as a teaser for the full game, which is slated for a Halloween release.
Speaking to the CMO of Novum (the company behind Night Terrors) on behalf of the CEO, he told me that the single biggest film inspiration behind the game was the Paranormal Activity franchise. And while there have been several films since the original (with mixed reception), no one can deny the original was a smashing success that changed its genre.
Knowing this, yours truly decided to give the Night Terrors demo a try to see if it could truly do for mobile gaming what Paranormal Activity did for theatrical horror.
First Off, It Took Me A Couple Tries To Make It Through The Demo
To be very clear, I like the horror genre. I enjoy being scared, and if I can see a scary movie in the theatre or play a scary game in the dark, I will. But I do not have nerves of steel. I sit solidly in the middle of the "enjoys horror" spectrum.
With that out of the way, I have to say I didn't complete the demo on my first try. In fact, I nope'd right the heck out of there after the first real scare. I made it through on my second try, though, but not without several lowerings of my phone from eye-level to belly-button-level.
It was admittedly hard at times to tell whether or not the game was using its space-mapping technology or if I was supposed to be moving. Toward the end of the demo, I kind of just decided to stand still and let the game scare me if it wanted to (which it did, by the way).
The Sound DeReally Sells It images and way the game manipulated my phone's features definitely created the Paranormal Activity-esque vibe the creators were going for. Not to mention, it was damn impressive to see it all working together. I was hesitant at first that it might be a letdown in the augmented-reality department — it was anything but.e
The Sound Design Really Sells It
This is the part that I really can't emphasize enough. By creating a binaural experience, Novum has taken Night Terrors from any other augmented-reality game to a full-on experience.
Sounds will not simply play in your right ear or left ear; they will fade from one to the other, change from soft to loud and back depending on where you move, and in general, make you forget you're wearing headphones in the first place.
To add to this, the sound design keeps the game going even if you're too afraid to look at your screen the whole time. It didn't happen to me, but this totally real friend I know told me that he put his phone down at one point only to hear the inescapable sounds of a little girl whispering in his ear. What's worse, the binaural effect actually made him spin around to try to find where the girl's voice was coming from.
No Matter The Final Product, It's Going To Scare
Here's the thing: The demo is limited. It lasts about 10 minutes and it wasn't always apparent (to me at least) when or if I needed to be moving to cause something to happen. In the end, I thought it might have been better if the game had you map your living/gaming area beforehand so it could space out events or add some direction (though not enough to make it predictable).
But none of that really mattered. The demo still scared the hell out of me. In a very real way, it brought me back to the first time I'd ever watched a Paranormal Activity film. Except instead of turning my head to the side, all but closing my eyes, and barely watching through my periphery, I was lowering my phone and glancing back and forth between what was real and what was on the screen to remind myself I was safe.
Again, a lot of that is because of the incredible sound design. And yes, the remaining bit (so far) has been mostly due to the anticipation of a jump scare. But it still works. Especially if you give yourself into the immersion, you're going to be scared.
I have no idea if the release version of the game will find its way to a compelling story or how the space mapping will ultimately work. But I know it will scare. It will be the sort of thing you challenge your friends to do. It will be the game teenagers send their friends into the basement to play and dare them to survive through during sleepovers. And more importantly, it will likely change the way AR horror games are approached.
I cannot wait until Halloween.
If you've tried the demo, what do you think of Night Terrors? If not, do you plan to at all?