Collaboration and a unified front are all very well, but there's a point when these things can go a teensy bit too far.
That point is probably when you're part of a cooperative tasked with raiding dungeons full of things very much out to kill you, yet still feel compelled to act as one, no matter the consequences. This includes when said consequences involve stumbling into a pool of acid, just because your cohort fancied grabbing a nearby piece of bling.
And so it goes in this roguelike that liberally pilfers game mechanics from sliding puzzlers such as the masterful Threes!.
Navigating snails and Sir Swapsalot
You begin in a catacomb, two semi-randomly chosen fantasy characters (barbarian, mage, and so on) dumped among walls, golden chests, and odd-looking shells. Swipe and your pair of heroes/kleptomaniacs move as one, and the shells materialise into roaming monsters. Open a chest or make too many moves and more foes or hazards materialise, potentially blocking your path to the exit and getting all fighty if you venture too near.
Turn-based titles, and especially roguelikes like the brilliant 868-HACK, often force a steely kind of concentration, and a chess-like approach to fighting your way onwards.
This is immediately evident with The Nightmare Cooperative, which further ramps up the complexity through the manner in which your party moves. Getting a pair through the initial catacombs is fairly simple, but since you can pick up more team-mates along the way, the variables multiply, not least when the monsters become brighter and weirder.
The motley crew includes giant homing snails that leave an ice-slick behind them, and Sir Swapsalot a character that switches place with any adventurer that stumbles into his line of vision. You therefore repeatedly find yourself in situations where a single swipe could simultaneously result in battles with monsters, gold collection and death.
Heavy on the nightmare
Initially, then, despite some tranquil sound design and sharp, modern graphics, The Nightmare Cooperative is heavy on the nightmare bit, feeling like a savage and frequently unjust ordeal.
Often, the game becomes about cutting your losses, sacrificing one of the team so that the others may survive. But it nonetheless grabs hold, and you'll want to beat it rather than feel beaten.
Once you master the game's intricacies, how some enemies can be manipulated and used to your advantage; the way in which careful use of collectable potions can get you through otherwise seemingly deadly situations, you'll find your way to new sets of dungeons and, with some good fortune, the end of the quest.
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That the game even has an end is surprisingly rare on a modern mobile puzzler, and The Nightmare Cooperative's strictly defined nature changes the way you approach subsequent quests.
It's not simply about seeing how long you can stay alive, but also how smart you can be within given time constraints.
The fixed boundaries might not make for the most open game nor the most expansive, but The Nightmare Cooperative is frequently thrilling and punishing in equal measure. A focussed, novel and polished mobile title that rewards those determined enough to stick with it.
Coming later this year for Android