Neverending Nightmares is a horror game dealing with mental health issues that’s out this week for PlayStation platforms.
The game’s creator Matt Gilgenbach drew inspiration for Neverending Nightmares from his own battles with mental illnesses like depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The game first released on Steam and Ouya in September 2014 but launches on Tuesday for the PlayStation 4 and Vita.
Neverending Nightmares is developed by Infinitap Games, a small independent studio from Canoga Park, California led by Gilgenbach. The game costs $14.99 from the PlayStation Store and is Cross-Buy with both versions. It also features Cross-Save support between the two consoles. The game is 20 percent off for PlayStation Plus subscribers through May 17.
Both the PS4 and Vita versions are updated to play at 60 frames-per-second. Each version also has improved visuals and better textures from the original release. The PS4 version also features sound effects coming from the DualShock 4’s speakers. A console release for Neverending Nightmares was always planned because Gilgenbach wanted as many people as possible to play the game.
The main character in the story is Thomas, a man haunted by disturbing nightmares who wanders through miserable hallways and rooms looking for answers. The psychological effects of mental illness comes through in the game, with different representations of the struggles a person faces.
The game’s visuals are done in a black and white, sketch style on a 2D platform, which were inspired by famed artist Edward Gorey. Certain objects in the environment can be interacted with and are represented through colors that contrast with the rest of the game’s world.
Neverending Nightmares features three different endings that can make sense of Thomas’ history and his dreams. The PlayStation versions feature better story branching options to give players a clearer choice on how to experience all the endings.
Besides being scary and having a creepy atmosphere, Neverending Nightmares opens up discussions about mental illness, both for those suffering and people who might not understand these problems. One of the main goals of the game was to remove some of the stigma surrounding mental illness and negative assumptions about the people with these issues. Gilgenbach also wanted people to learn that they weren’t alone in their struggles.
During his low points he said he felt that nobody could understand him. Later on he realized there were many others hurting in the same ways he had. He also suffered from intrusive thoughts of self-harm that would repeatedly attack him throughout the day. This issue is represented through different parts of the game. The fear, anxiety and hopelessness of mental illnesses are part of the game’s core design. By including these themes in the game, Neverending Nightmares tries to work through these debilitating issues by bringing them to the surface.
Before going independent Gilgenbach was at High Impact Games, working as the lead programmer on titles like Secret Agent Clank (2008) for the PlayStation Portable. This is Gilgenbach’s second independent game. His previous project was Retro/Grade, a rhythm-based game in the style of a shmup that released for the PlayStation 3 in August 2012 and on Steam the next year in March.
Despite receiving positive reviews the game wasn’t commercially successful, even after releasing on Steam. Retro/Grade didn’t earn back anywhere close to the $140,000 it cost to make, which the two-person team took over four years to finish. They borrowed loans from family, used all their savings and neglected personal relationships, including Gilgenbach’s marriage. His struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder prolonged the game’s development, causing him to spend extra and ultimately unnecessary time on its details.
The long development and financial failure of Retro/Grade caused Gilgenbach’s mental health issues to worsen during that period but was also the inspiration for Neverending Nightmares. It was the game he felt he needed to make, for himself and others in a similar position. The game went through Kickstarter for its original funding in August 2013. The Kickstarter raised over $106,000, successfully reaching its funding goal during the campaign’s final day. Creating Neverending Nightmares helped Gilgenbach deal with his own mental health struggles, giving him an outlet for self-expression and acting as a therapeutic tool in a way he never had before.
Watch Tim play an early part of Neverending Nightmares: