While most recent first-person shooters do their best to advance the genre, like Half-Life with its brilliant level design or Daikatana's AI side-kicks, Psycho Circus takes a huge step back by simply throwing hordes of enemies at you, making the gameplay feel like an updated version of Doom.
Through four major quests, you will guide each of the Elders - the Starbearer, Celestial, Beastking, and Demon - on a hunt for the missing pieces of their armour, which have been scattered in a curiously linear fashion across a series of strange worlds, ranging from a gothic cathedral to a creepy mansion. And with the exception of the carnival levels, most of the settings seem thrown together, rather than an integral part of the plot.
Based on the Todd McFarlane comic book by the same name, KISS Psycho Circus contains an assortment of bizarre enemies, including the spider-like Arachni-clown and flame throwing Uni-psycho. The Lithtech engine does a good job of bringing to life these unusual beasts and the world they inhabit with plenty of bright colours and nice light-ing effects. The reflective surfaces of the weapons are particularly impressive. The game was devel-oped with the Dreamcast in mind and it shows in the chunky menu screens and the HUD interface, which remains at 640x480 no matter what resolution you are playing in. (The latter is fixed by a patch.) Your arsenal includes most of the standard weapons, including versions of the machine gun, shotgun, and missile launcher, and they certainly get the job done. Different situations require different weapons and you will find yourself switching between them often. Each Elder has a different melee weapon (like Gene Simmons' . . . uh, the Demon's mighty battleaxe) and one unique weapon (like an energy-emitting crystal star for the Starbearer), but the rest of the arsenal remains the same for each character.
Incredibly, the game's soundtrack isn't by KISS at all. You'll hear the occasional classic KISS tune emanating from a radio or jukebox in the game, but that's all you get from the Detroit bad boys. It would have been nice to incorporate more KISS songs. Instead, you get generic background music.
The main problem with The Nightmare Child is that without an engrossing story to move you along, the task of taking out loads of enemies becomes tedious quickly. And there just isn't enough variety in the enemies to keep things interesting.
If you're looking for an innovative first-person shooter, then you should probably hold out for Half-Life 2, but if what you really love is mindless action with tons of enemies then KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child will rock and roll you all night.
Product: KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare ChildDeveloper: Third Law InteractiveURL: www.kisspsychocircus.com/tipsListen carefully for the sounds of enemies spawning behind you and you won't be caught by surprise.
When a horde of enemies is coming at you, there's a good chance that there is a Spawner nearby. Your first priority should be to take out the Spawner, or you'll face an endless stream of baddies.
When faced with a roomful of enemies, take out the missile-throwers first and then use your melee weapon to wipe out the Headless and conserve your ammo.