- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2011

The survival horror genre of video games just got a whole lot more interactive with help from a frightening first-person adventure built for an Xbox 360 peripheral.

Using the motion-detecting Kinect camera (a device that turns the Microsoft entertainment console into a Wii on steroids), an adult of sound mind stands in front of his television screen to become immersed in the cinematic Rise of Nightmares (Sega, reviewed for Xbox 360, Kinect required, rated M for mature, $49.99).

Stuck in and around a mad doctor’s castle, he becomes a tourist named Josh who uses his fists, feet and melee weapons to fight grotesque creatures and avoid annoying Eastern Europeans while trying to find his wife and stay alive.

With The House of the Dead-style of visuals and a tip of the machete to films such as “Hostel,” the game keeps a player sweating as the gory, bloody violence hits in constant waves, screams and groans pierce the ears, and the body parts keep flying.

In most exploration, the player simply moves a foot forward or back to walk around on screen, can duck to avoid attacks, twists a shoulder to turn, and uses either or both hands to defend himself and pick up a weapon.

Also, depending a situation, a player might make a twisting gesture to turn a handle, use both arms to swim (or sink if he just stands there), run through some deadly environmental obstacles, kick in a door by thrusting a foot forward, grab to climb a ladder, swat away at leeches  you get the idea.

Lazier types can avoid some of the foot movements with an auto-detect feature that turns the action more into an on-rails event. It is activated by raising the right hand (I call it a sign of surrender) when applicable.

Weapons, scattered around gloomy locations (torture chambers, dungeons and gloomy grounds, etc.), are a ghoulish treat. Josh can pick up  one at a time  deadly items such as a knife, pipe, ice saw, brass knuckles, hatchet, scalpels, meat hammer, hedge shears, volatile test tubes (for tossing), a stun rod and chainsaw.

The results of using the more diabolical of the devices will cause a discernable gasp from audience members and nervous giggle from the player.

Monsters look like the result of a creative collaboration between author Clive Barker and artist Dave McKean as a mixture of undead beings are held together with screws, surgical contraptions and metallic body parts.

Especially harrowing is when the monsters get into a player’s face (push them back) or when dealing with a vile fellow named Ernst.

This Michael Myers-meets-Leatherface thug lumbers around with a helmet blinding him. If he hears you, that metal face-hugger peels back to reveal one ugly mug and he is on an attack binge that always ends in a sure death.

Adults will find getting used to the control scheme exhausting and awkward  during any stressful situations, they likely will resort to flailing arms and legs around like a marionette controlled by an amateur.

However, those who take a deep breath and master the movements will find a really slick way to interact in this gory, haunted house.

Although this old gamer never wants to work this hard at a virtual experience, Rise of Nightmares definitely got my couch potato caboose up, my heart racing and muscles aching.