A Nun Massacre review would not be complete without acknowledging the rise of VHS nostalgia. There was a golden era during the 1980s and early 1990s when video rental shops were an alluring curio where kids could stumble upon a hardcore R rated horror movie, rent it, and watch it.
Anyone who grew up during this time knew that the awesome cover art and high concept premise was the only way to get a winning movie. There was no internet then, so all anyone had to go on was the premise and how sleazy the cover could be. Nun Massacre taps into this aesthetic and era when you could find a transgressive slasher movie and secretly watch it when your parents weren’t around.
More than just a style over substance, Nun Massacre is also a harrowing horror experience that borrows some elements from fan favorite 32-bit era survival horror games. How does this bite-sized terror-title cause brown stains? Find out in the Nun Massacre review!
Developer: Puppet Combo
Publisher: Puppet Combo
Platforms: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: March 24, 2022
Price: $5.99 USD
Fans of classic survival horror will feel right at home with Nun Massacre. The item screen closely resembles the one from Silent Hill on PlayStation, but with a hard three item limit. The haggard and chunky pixelated textures and low poly count models are faithful to the aesthetics seen in 32-bit games.
The hazy and rugged cathode ray tube of CRT displays were a critical pillar to the flavor of horror games during the mid 1990s. Nun Massacre relishes in this aesthetic, as well as the sleazy slasher films that many millennials grew up with.
This style enhances the uncanniness in games that were hitting the polygon ceiling. In many cases, non-horror games would sometimes take on spookier characteristics because of the grimy and rough image quality. Nun Massacre relies on the uncanny atmosphere to make the simplistic gameplay utterly engrossing.
Nun Massacre is an indie game made by a very small but talented group of people and the team kept the scope small to match their capabilities. The premise is simple; Mrs. McDonnell must solve item puzzles and navigate a derelict Catholic school while avoiding a stab-happy killer nun.
There is no in-game map, Mrs. McDonnell can only hold three items, and the boarding school’s quarters are tight. The nun is the only roaming threat, but she is very capable of outwitting the player in devious ways. She can hide around corners, waiting for anyone careless enough to get caught by her.
When players have the motion detector, it only signals when the nun is moving. She will be undetected when standing still. This can cause a heart-stopping moment as players open a door, where the nun reveals herself in the center of a room. Players may even lock eyes with her before she charges forward, knife swinging.
Evasion is tactical cat-and-mouse style gameplay. Avoiding the nun’s line-of-sight and making ruses to distract the killer from pursuit is half of Nun Massacre‘s experience. Expect to hide under beds, toss stones, and to scramble into ventilation ducts to avoid getting gashed.
Chases are thrilling and intense. The nun moves much faster in the harder modes and murders Mrs. McDonnell in fewer slashes too. She is also able to follow the player into tight ducts and generally is persistent when chasing.
Mrs. McDonnell will not only have to contend with this ghastly killer, she will also have to figure out a means of escape. Various esoteric items will confound players early on and will probably get you killed. There is no way to save progress and dying costs a life, like a good old school game.
Having a lives system in a game today may seem backwards, but it makes sense in Nun Massacre. The game is too short to warrant save mechanism and lives are a fair way to balance out the difficulty. Failure allowance is the best way to give users some leeway when confronting a game that has some element of trial and error.
The level design also becomes easy to commit to memory after several runs. Item locations and puzzle spots become familiar and the real challenge is toying with the nun’s AI. After many attempts, solving the game becomes easier and easier. It can take less than an hour to complete when players know what to do.
Nun Massacre feels almost like an arcade game, but with less bombastic and in-your-face visuals. Fans of survival-horror will certainly enjoy what it has to offer, but do not expect a traditional horror game. Anyone who wants something a bit more substantial would be better of with Puppet Combo’s Murder House.
Nun Massacre definitely has the look and feel it aspires for. The game design is also focused like a laser, but it does have some mistakes. The boarding school environment is very limited with its level design and lacks variety.
Outside of the optional and safe prologue area, most of the school is comprised of winding corridors or small rooms. Worse yet, the setting is festooned with decorative doors that can never be opened. The idea behind fake doors in games is to suggest a larger world than there actually is, but they ultimately just annoy and break immersion.
Expanding the world might have been beyond the scope of what Puppet Combo was capable of delivering. Nun Massacre concentrates solely on pushing the player towards getting chased and gutted by a nun while trying to find key-items. It pulls it off as good as it possibly could, given the limitations.
For its price, Nun Massacre delivers a proportional amount of enjoyment. It’s strength is its atmosphere and how it flawlessly captures a gnarly grindhouse PlayStation 1 horror game ambiance. It also is an intensely scary game that is full of secrets and has multiple endings.
Nun Massacre will send shivers down your spine. Like a glinting flash of a knife, the terror can be sudden and jump scares are earned in this hazy, pixelated nightmare.
Nun Massacre was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by Puppet Combo. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Nun Massacre is now available for Windows PC (via itch.io), PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.