Released in 1989 for DOS, Amiga and also Atari ST.
Created by Horrorsoft/Adventuresoft.
Download link for PC and Mac: http://www.gog.com/game/personal_nightmare
Genre: Adventure Survival Horror
Style: Point and click/keyboard command
Greetings, my fellow video game masochists! My name is Geinzram and I will be your guide on this journey into the dark underbelly of the video game world.
Once upon a time, before the internet, before the Super Nintendo, when our solar system had 9 planets (pours a 40 out for my homie Pluto), I was a 9 year old innocent little boy that enjoyed ANYTHING that dealt with video games. This expanding form of entertainment was interactive and provided me with countless hours of fun where I could escape into far away galaxies, fantasy filled forests, or ancient times.
The Nintendo Entertainment System reigned supreme, and the Sega Genesis was on the horizon.
Ah, nostalgia…..except those regulated systems were for SILLY BITCHES.
The filth that scarred me for life and also entranced me was on the computer, back when computer gaming was largely unregulated. Computer gaming in the mid 80s – early 90s was akin to movies in the 70s. The wild west, anything goes.
Behold “Personal Nightmare”, released in 1989 by a small company from the UK called Horrorsoft. Originally the company was called Adventuresoft, but somewhere along the line the owner was apparently visited by The Devil, and declared “HENCEFORTH, ONLY HORROR GAMES”, and thus the company was renamed Horrorsoft. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that, in and of itself, is fucking BADICAL.
Furthermore, this game had fucking ELVIRA as it’s LOGO. You heard me. ELVIRA. Horrosoft later went on to make two Elvira games: Mistress of the Dark, and Jaws of Cerberus. Both iconic, perfected games in the same style as Personal Nightmare.
Personal Nightmare had zero music upon it’s original release. It did have sound effects, however. Late 80s, glitchy, terrifyingly loud sound effects that would only pop up occasionally, but when they did, you were guaranteed to crack out an accidental fart from fear. A “fert”, if you will.
In a pre-youtube reaction-video era, the box art to this game was basically your facial reaction to the horrific things to come.
The intro scene to this game was unlike anything I had ever seen. The inside of a dark church is shown…epic creepy…stained glass windows on the walls behind a priest standing next to a pulpit as an “organ” played (it sounded more like indigestion back in those days, but we got the idea). Nothing was happening for a good 30 seconds, pressing buttons didn’t work. You just sat there, waiting for something to happen…when the most sacrilegious thing I’ve ever seen in gaming happened…behold the fert inducing footage, and RIP headphone users….
Your pops, a priest, has gone missing (wasn’t he the priest in the intro that just got booty-played by Satan? Whatever) Your mother invites you to help look for him, but when you arrive she is nowhere to be found. The townsfolk are acting weird. Everything is not as it should be. Blasphemous memories haunt your every waking moment. You must find your father and figure out what’s going on. Turns out, good ol’ Lucifer himself is making a quick stop in town, yet why is never explained. But I have the insider scoop: because FUCK YOU.
This was 1989, when game programmers and developers didn’t need to give gamers 30 minute long tutorials on how to crouch or switch weapons. These games by Horrorsoft were the original survival horror games later perfected by Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Dead Space. They also inspired the First Person Shooter genre – later perfected by Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, Half Life and Halo – that would make the largest impact in the gaming industry until World of Warcraft and the l33t MMORPG craze. Furthermore, this game allowed you to “wait”, to pass time, later adopted by games like Fallout3 and Skyrim.
The playable screen showed the first person view from your characters standpoint. On the top left of the screen you could mouse-click to move your view in various directions to navigate around the game. Below that was an Inventory button and a button named “Room” that allowed you to see all items in the current room. Being 1989, and brace yourselves for a term you probably haven’t heard before (I twisted my hipster mustache as I typed that) this game had a “Verb Bar”, a long forgotten term that had a long list of actions the player could perform, such as “take”, “drop”, “open”, “look”, etc etc (this was also perfected by LucasArts with its truly iconic Monkey Island franchise). Finally, the bottom of the screen was your message bar, where the game would tell you in game messages about what was going on, how much time has passed, and also where you could type commands with your keyboard, which would always end up in my pre-pubescent days typing in “penis” or “butthole”, because that was funny and I felt like a total badass rebel – but only after looking over my shoulder to make sure my parents didn’t see.
I giggled while typing out that last sentence, and I am now 34. Still a badass rebel, motherfucker. *glances over shoulder*
THE GOOD AND THE FUN:
A brilliant aspect of this game was that at first, you had no idea what was going on. But as time went on, you truly became immersed in this world and lore, and you felt compelled to figure out what was going on. Time was passing, but why? And did time run out? Where is your family? What is this place? Is Lucifer really hot?
Nothing captured my imagination at the time like this game…until one year later, that is….(I like you, Monkey Island. Do you like me? Check yes or no).
The atmosphere created by this game was unparalleled at the time. The color palletes used were outstanding for 1989. The great part of these old games is the sheer lack of information, the lack of visuals, because the unknown is the most terrifying aspect. Not everything has to be explained, or shown. The mind creates things much more terrifying than anything the eyes can see.
Does anyone else have a boner?
Speaking of which, this game loved to have things just pop out at you.
THE BAD AND THE CRAP:
Younger gamers simply wouldn’t have the patience for this game. I know that makes me sound like an old fert. But I am an old fert, so fuck you and your long hair and loud rock n’ roll music. In actuality, most gamers wouldn’t have patience for this game, and that’s not a pretentious knock towards anyone, it’s just that this style and era of video games is long gone and hasn’t been used in many, many years. Those goddamn masochists that play Dark Souls are the only fuckers that may have patience for this game, but even that may be a stretch, unless they’re gud and praise the sun.
You die in this game, and you die OFTEN, with no explanation, with the penalty being: START OVUR AGIN U GUNA CRY? This was in the age where you had to save once a minute at least. No pussified regenerating health bars. Hell, no health bar at all. Many early versions had this terrible in-game glitch where once you died, you’d instantly just be transported to that hellish intro again, and you’d be forced to watch it all over again for no reason. And yes, I was fortunate to have owned that version when I was 9.
On top of that, you had to complete the game in four days (game time). The entire time you played this game, random messages would pop up at the bottom, telling you what time it was. And if time ran out? BACK TO THE INTRO OF DEATH FOR YOU, HAR HAR HAR!!!!
It should be mentioned that this game is literally IMPOSSIBLE to beat without a goddamn walkthrough. Don’t believe me? Download link at the top. Prove it.
Navigating was difficult, because I remember having to literally write down and count how many times I pressed “north” or “west” or “south” or whatever to move around in this world. It became almost like a giant Mortal Kombat fatality on steroids.
You could easily go into a room, come out, be entirely lost, forget where you were, turn “east” and see this:
You could be walking towards a pretty mansion. Oooo, let’s go check it out, shall we? Wait, what is that thing running at me…
Or wander into an abandoned church and find a statue that cries.
On top of that, since it was largely keyboard-based, you had to type in full sentences very quickly. And since “lulz”, “roflcopters”, “n00bhaxxorz”, “l33ts pwn newbz” and “umad?” weren’t yet words in the gaming community, players in 2015 may be at a loss.
THE FINAL VERDICT FOR PERSONAL NIGHTMARE:
+ Fun, relatively new control scheme for the time.
+ Lush, colorful visuals.
+ Dark and demonic atmosphere.
+ Created a sense of emotionally sparked terror in the player.
+ Had moments of truly raw shock horror.
+ Zero fake jump scares…it’s all legit, baby.
+ Lack of music created incredible tension
+ Great deaths and death scenes
+ Beautifully blasphemous.
– Literally impossible to beat without a walkthrough as a guide.
– Abstract, extremely difficult learning curve.
– If you’re religious, this game will make you butthurt.
– Easy to get lost.
– Easy to get frustrated.
There you have it, fellow masochists. I have been your host on this journey back into 1989 and directly into Personal Nightmare, my name is Geinzram, and I will see you next time in the dark underbelly of the video game world.