"Kinect is a full-bodied experience, so there is an immersion to it. Part of a horror game is feeling like you're in it," producer Satoshi Ito told me when I asked him that very question, via translator Sam Mullen. "On top of that, Kinect works in the dark -- you can turn off your lights and play Kinect. So we feel like if someone wanted to focus on the pure, make-you-crap-your-pants horror aspect of it, they can."
I didn't crap my pants at Sega's dimly-lit Rise of Nightmares demo event in San Francisco (embarrassing!); luckily for me, the game wasn't that scary. After flailing, ducking and twisting my way through four different areas over the course of a few hours, I found no fear -- at least, this Kinect game wasn't scaring me. But what it lacked in frights, it more than made up for with wonderfully tense moments.%Gallery-130815% Sega had set up four different stations to demonstrate different parts of the game: the E3 demo (which we've already talked about), a boss fight against a pair of ballerinas at the end of the third chapter, a combat-heavy section in the first stage of the fourth chapter, and the very beginning of the game.
Now, seeing as how I had never played the game before, I probably should've started with the first stage, but instead I went right to that boss fight. Armed with a simple hatchet, I encountered the two knife-wielding dancers, atop a nondescript wooden stage. From the sidelines, someone (presumably their instructor) yelled for my head. Like most boss fights, it mainly revolved around pattern recognition (they're twirling -- duck!) and violently punching the air. I also kicked a few times, too.
That portion, while pretty quick, set a wonderful tone for the remainder of my time with the game. While the boss fight itself was standard fare, the way I engaged in it wasn't -- and it was totally tiring and rewarding, to boot. Something about ducking, then kicking, then putting my leg out to run up to a crazy ballerina so I could shadowbox her face into dust really hit that sweet spot. It was just plain fun.
When you're looking for a bit less freedom, you can have the game move you along by putting your right hand in the air. Then the game goes on-rails and moves you to the next segment, though there are segments where you can't employ this feature. One such off-rails sequence had me running across the top of a derailed train as I stood in place, visions of youth spent crushing a Power Pad beneath my feet raced through my head.
Back to that key, once I found it and opened the gate, I emerged out in a courtyard teeming with zombies. I picked up an acid gun, a MacGyver-esque doodad that uses a bellows as a delivery method for hot, hot acid. Once swarmed by the undead, my weapon broke and I started to panic in the most wonderful way. I flailed against my attackers to knock them back, quickly dropping my fists and putting them back up to target different enemies. Slowly, I was killed, but those last brief moments desperately battling to free myself from the clutches of these monsters was gaming magic. I would've loved to see the look on my face then.
The first stage was entirely tutorial, establishing the controls and game story, so I won't bother touching on that. The E3 demo -- well, let me just say Richard was spot-on with his comments about the chainsaw, but I'm still kinda ticked that I didn't have to pantomime starting the thing up. That stuck with me.
The tension from not having a weapon on hand, or from your weapon being about to break, is masterfully delivered in the more action-oriented segments of Rise of Nightmares. Don't be fooled: this game is in no way scary, but it manages to elicit emotion more because it's a Kinect game. I'm more connected to the experience having to physically punch and turn and walk my way through this game world. Trying to run from a zombie by moving an analog stick is very different than moving your whole body. And it was because of this that I had a blast playing Rise of Nightmares -- and enjoyed another night of life on earth wearing clean underwear.