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Vol. 2, Issue 7
December 22, 1999

The Top Shelf:


by Noel "HB" Wade




he 20th century was a time of great scientific and social change. One of the best effects of this, was the phenomenal growth in sci-fi and fantasy writing. Vast amounts of “pulp” fiction (in the form of comics, short stories, radio shows, and magazines) were published; often telling vivid tales of the fantastic and unbelievable. Sure, many were slightly cliché – and not “bestseller” material – but they WERE entertaining; and many childhood dreams were spawned by them.

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They're coming to get your Barbara...(30k)

Enter Terminal Reality; and their latest offering: Nocturne. Nocturne is a horror/sci-fi/adventure game that is remarkably reminiscent of the old “fantastic” fiction from earlier in this century. Like its pulp brethren, it isn’t the best story or the best game you’ve ever dealt with; but it IS a remarkably fun and immersive game, despite its few quirks. The game is set in the time between the Great Depression and the Second World War; and stars “The Stranger” (whom you control), a shadowy monster-hunter who is part of a secret government organization that dispatches super-natural threats to the world. Although you’ll quickly find out that “The Stranger” isn’t very chummy with them, the “Spookhouse” crew (the government agency mentioned in the last sentence) consists of everything from voodoo-magic practitioners, to a half-human/half-vampire female (complete with Transylvanian accent), to an outcast Demon. The missions span several years; and are varied in their purpose and goals.

The action is played out in 3rd person – but fear not, moving-camera-haters! Rather than being stuck in one viewing angle, or have a chase-cam follow you around, Nocturne cleverly has a different camera angle for each location. This mixes things up quite a bit; and the camera angles / scenes sometimes automatically change to provide a better view of the action. Unfortunately the system isn’t infallible; and you will occasionally get frustrated with the angles. This is especially true when a partner or ally of yours blocks the view of some big monster cutting your character to ribbons. But overall, it’s a nice breath of fresh air – and if you’re like me, you’ll be relieved not to have some stupid chase-cam getting stuck in corners or smashed up against the back of your character’s head when you step into a corner.

Graphically, the game is pretty top-notch. Don’t expect Quake III-engine detail; but then again, this game came out before Q3A – and is in a totally different genre entirely! The poly-counts ARE substantial; and the lighting helps smooth everything well. Speaking of lighting, I have never seen a game as thoroughly designed to be played in darkness as this one. ANY glare from lights in the room will ruin the experience. I wonder if the Terminal Reality offices HAVE windows, but seriously: the grim, dank, and foreboding atmosphere that the game creates is complimented well by it – and who doesn’t love the extra suspense you get when you do something like watch a scary movie in the dark? As for getting things adjusted just right, fear not: the game comes with a monitor calibration routine to help get things set up just right!

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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Dan Zalkus. This review is © 1999 Noel Wade. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, goldarn it.