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.
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.
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