One, two, Freddy’s coming for you. Three, four, better lock the door. You know the rhythm, you know why you should be afraid and you know why Robert Englund’s tombstone will read, “See you in your dreams”. For most of the ’80s and part of the ’90s, Freddy Krueger ruled our nightmares. He made us fear sleep, he made us love coffee and he became the most beloved child murder in the history of film. With this kind of deep psychological damage inflicted on our society it’s easy to see why LJN would want to adapt A Nightmare on Elm Street into a videogame, but unfortunately, as is usually case with LJN, the game fails to live up to it’s pedigree.
The game begins with you taking control of up to four Elm Street children on a quest to collect and burn Freddy’s bones. For some completely unknown reaso,n these bones have been scattered throughout various buildings on Elm Street and are guarded by a wide assortment of bats, rats and snakes. It makes almost no sense within the context of the films, aside for referencing the original, but as a game play design, I guess it works OK.
As play progresses you’ll eventually start to tire and if you don’t get some coffee in you, you’ll fall asleep and enter the dream world. Visually it isn’t anything special, just the same map in a different colour palette, but what’s really interesting is the special powers you gain. Presumably LJN took the Dream Warriors concept and ran with it because if you collect the right tokens, you’ll be able to morph into three unique alter-personae. The first is an athlete who somersaults and chucks javelins. Hardly useful and soon forgotten, the only real benefit of the character is that you get her first. The Shadow Warrior and Necromancer, on the other hand, are far more useful, with the former granting you the ability to throw ninja stars and jump kick and the latter making longer jumps and throwing long range fireballs. The warriors’ powers are so useful that you’ll never want to wake up and perhaps that is my real problem with A Nightmare on Elm Street. LJN just didn’t understand what made dreams become nightmares. Sure, the enemies are slightly tougher and if you stay asleep for a long time you’ll be forced to fight Freddy, but the powers of the Dream Warriors easily out weight the added difficulty. In fact, play is actually far more difficult when you’re awake because you’ll face the same enemies, in the same locations, but you’re restricted to only punching and poor jumping.
Levels are solidly designed, but as you play on, you’ll start to feel like you’re repeating the same platforming sections over and over again. Progression is further complicated by the awkward restrictions the game places on entering buildings. In the beginning, only one house is open and it’s usually clearly marked with an open door. When you defeat Freddy for the first time you’ll be given a key that unlocks one of the other houses, however you will not be told which house has been unlocked. This process repeats itself until Freddy is finally dead. It may not seem like such a big deal, but given the length of Elm Street and the number of monsters inhabiting it, you can be faced with a serious problem.
Boss battles are, for the most part, fairly easy, and even the final battle where you much defeat all the previous bosses and then take down Freddy himself doesn’t offer much of a challenge. It’s a rather serious balance issue considering how difficult the level leading up to the battle can be, but it doesn’t really detract from the experience.
If I’m going to give LJN credit for doing one thing right; including support for four players via the NES Four Score or Satellite. I still have fond memories of playing A Nightmare on Elm Sttrr with three other friends, and if you can manage to round up three of your own, I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun. Just further proof that no matter how bland or unusual a game can be, it’s always fun with more people.
Mediocre design, great license, great fun with friends. It’s certainly not the game I would’ve wanted, but it’s far from a bad way to kill and afternoon. Worth a quick look if nothing more.