Review: Incredibly Short El Paso, Nightmare Manages to Bring the Scares

There’s something about the low poly aesthetic of the 90’s that make games extra scary. It could be because I was a kid during that era, or because the low res images obscures things, letting your brain fill in the horrifying details. Realistically, it’s probably a combination of both.  El Paso, Nightmare does a surprisingly good job of being scary, but just an okay job at being a shooter.

El Paso, Nightmare is a first person shooter that has a 90’s console shooter aesthetic—almost like something you’d play on an N64 at your friend’s house. It’s not quite a demo, but it’s about demo length, and actually serves as a precursor to the upcoming El Paso, Elsewhere, though Nightmare acts as a standalone title. El Paso, Nightmare works as an introduction to the world of El Paso, where demonic forces were spilling out into world.

Screenshot: El Paso, Nightmare

The first half of El Paso, Nightmare is almost like a different game than the second half. In the first half of the game you leave your room for a bucket of ice. After discovering you locked yourself out, you’re forced to go deeper into the hotel—only to find strange creatures roaming the halls. You don’t have a means of attack, so you have to navigate the increasingly labyrinthine corridors avoiding different enemy types. The developer did the music and voice acting for the game, and they have a high-gain type distortion that gives the game a more manic quality. Eventually, however, you get a gun—and things get a little worse.

I’m not saying that the shooting parts of El Paso, Nightmare are  bad, they’re just a downgrade from the almost backrooms-style enemy avoidance of the first part. Shooting in El Paso, Nightmare feels like something out of a Nintendo 64 game for a few reasons, like the way the weapons sway, and the art style. I can’t say if that’s what the developer was going for, but I dig how it feels and its aesthetic. However, I’m not a big fan of the enemy types you encounter, most of which just beeline towards you. Good shooters have a variety of enemy behaviors, but El Paso, Nightmare doesn’t achieve this feeling.

Screenshot: El Paso, Nightmare

While El Paso, Nightmare has an endless survival mode that adds time to this short game, the boring enemy behavior diminishes the draw of such a mode. If there was an endless mode that mimicked the first half of the game, I might give that whirl just to recapture the feeling of those perfect first 15 minutes of gameplay.

El Paso, Nightmare is an interesting sample of an idea, and a glimpse at what El Paso, Elsewhere might be. More than a demo, El Paso, Nightmare is a spooky game with an incredibly short length that nails its sound and atmosphere, but stumbles a bit when it comes to enemies and gunplay.

El Paso, Nightmare is available now on Steam

A Steam key was provided to us for the purposes of this review

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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.