Parry Nightmare review [PAX] — The sleep paralysis demon is actually pretty chill

I was recently lucky enough to attend PAX East, during which I got to sit down and play Parry Nightmare. Developed by KAKUKAKU Games and published by Phoenixx Inc., Parry Nightmare is a top-down action game and the first game in the “Parry Heaven” genre. I went into it thinking it was a simple, fun, reaction-based action game, and got just that, plus excellent environmental storytelling.

You play as an unnamed woman who, as the game’s title suggests, is facing constant stress-induced nightmares from overwork and past trauma. Nightmares take the form of circular arenas shrouded by a fog of war, and your traumas–which take the form of enemy combatants–are constantly closing in. However, you’re not alone in your plight, here to guide and protect you through various nightmare-scapes is Honnou-chan, whose name translates to “instinct” in Japanese, as she represents your inner self. She’s got hot pink horns, shark-sharp teeth, a chain bolted into her chest that links her to you, and mouths on her hands—what’s not to love?

In all honesty, Honnou-chan isn’t really guiding you; you’re guiding her. In order to attack a trauma monster, you need to wait for them to get close, then parry them, thus knocking them down and creating an opening for Honnou to absolutely obliterate them with her laser. Parrying builds up your motivation meter, which doubles as your health bar. When it fills, you can release a pulse attack that erases all enemies in a massive AOE. Don’t worry, it won’t deplete your health to critical levels once used, the baseline it resets to is about half your health bar.

That being said, if you mistime your parry, then you’ll lose motivation and your parry will be put on a short cooldown. Even if it’s just a few brief moments, that’s plenty of time for trauma monsters to close the gap and attack, which will further demotivate you. This can really mess with your plans if you have a full motivation meter, because your pulse attack doesn’t get locked in, so you will have to briefly build it back up. Run out of motivation completely, and you’ll have to restart the level. Honnou can also be attacked, as bombs will try to chase her down and detonate. If you fail to parry them in time, then they will send Hannou tumbling away, thus giving downed enemies time to get back up. Standing by her side for a moment will revive her, so it’s not game over. To sum up, Parry Nightmare is all about the dual Ps and a T: parrying, positioning, and a healthy dash of timing.

Occasionally, a neutral mob will fly in with a food-based power-up. Honnou can gain abilities depending on what food she eats. Vegetables will create green circles that slowly orbit her, and attacking within the orbit will cause them to briefly speed up—think sawblade. The meat option will cause Honnou to take the initiative and run around attacking enemies with fire breath. Between the two of them, the vegetables seem like the better choice, as it’s both more effective at taking out enemies and is easier to keep close, allowing you to more easily protect her from bombs.

Destroyed trauma monsters drop small orbs of light—these are the key to your salvation. They progress the nightmare completion meter forward, thus freeing you when it reaches 100 percent. After reaching certain intervals of completion – 30 percent and 70 percent respectively – the fog of war that cakes the arena will lift a little until eventually, it disappears completely. The freeing feeling of witnessing the entire arena revealed is an excellent representation of alleviating stress by facing your anxieties head on.

In addition to basic trauma monsters there are also bosses who are invulnerable to standard parry attacks. A pulse in their vicinity is the only way to open them up to Honnou, who will smash them into a wall, defeating them and providing players with a lot of light. Bosses constantly respawn, but they don’t have any particularly dirty tricks up their sleeves, so a good player will be able to reliably farm them for light.

Speaking of excellent representations, Parry Nightmare does a stellar job of telling its story through art direction. One of the traumas from the work nightmare is literally a pointed finger in a suit. The traumas from the school nightmare fire dislikes at you from smartphones, and wear comedy and tragedy masks. The arena itself is flanked by warped versions of how the protagonist views the world around her: buildings have teeth and the walls have eyes. The art is all quite potent in showing the main character’s various subconscious critiques of society.

In between nightmares, you get a third-person view of the main girl stuck sleeping in her bed. Clicking on objects around the room will provide narration regarding some aspect of her life, and explain why she’s in this situation. Upon finding the right object, the next nightmare will open up. There’s text for just about everything around the room, so be vigilant to ensure you’re not missing out on any of the story.

Before I wrap up, it’s important to note the enthralling soundtrack that had me bopping around like a man possessed. The foot-tapping jazz was a high note, which is no surprise given that the composer is none other than Osamu Kubota. I hope that at some point in the future, players will have the option to buy the soundtrack separately, but this just gives me another reason to replay the game.

Overall, Parry Nightmare excels at everything it set out to accomplish, and I look forward to seeing how the developers–both of the game and those inspired by it–will build upon this steadfast foundation. While the game takes only about an hour and a half to beat, you will be engaged for every second of it.

Jackson loves to play and write about video games. Rogue-lites, FPS, and RPG games are his favorite. He's a big fan of the Battlefield series and Warhammer 40K.



Parry Nightmare

Review Guidelines

Despite Parry Nightmare’s short runtime, it makes the most of every action-packed second by flawlessly combining addictive, high-tempo, parry-based combat and attention-grabbing visual storytelling baked directly into the enemies’ sprite art and level design.

Jackson Lustberg

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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