The first twenty minutes of Lost in Nightmares are more of an ode to Resident Evil than an expansion of any of its namesakes.
For starters it’s set in the Spencer Mansion, the original games’ renowned labyrinth of claustrophobic corridors and sly puzzles (with the odd shuffling zombie thrown in for good measure). It’s been renovated to suit the needs of an updated franchise but there are dozens of delightful nods back to a time when ammo was scarcer than quality voice acting and minigun-wielding zombies were a far off nightmare in their own right.
Set back when Chris and Jill revisited the Spencer Mansion, a visit touched on during the first brawl with Wesker in Resident Evil 5, Lost in Nightmares tells the story of how Jill met her almost-doom before reconciling with the vexatious Wesker. And if I’ve ruined the game for you, well it’s been a year now. Sorry nonetheless.
Depending on the difficulty, with all four included from the main game, you could spend half of Lost in Nightmares scrutinising the mansion, destroying furniture and walking leisurely through doors (this is back, a huge annoyance in co-op where only one person can walk through a door a time) without ever catching sight of a mutilated zombie. The frequent diaries and puzzles make no secret of the fact that this isn’t a lazy run of the mill extension to the Resi 5 recipe. Instead it’s paced, striving to create the tension and isolated disposition of earlier titles; something Capcom neglected in the fifth.
The many gestures back in time make it an episode steeped in nostalgia. Almost all of the puzzles are a direct, often unsubtle, reference to 1996, there’s even a hidden way of converting all the cameras into the traditional fixated system, which is a nice touch, if not a little disorientating at first. That’s all great if you’re a long term fan but the mansion is still compelling even if your Resident Evil knowledge begins and ends with: ‘there are zombies, right?’
When you do leave and fall into the curiously placed Spencer Mansion prison, the episodes’ only real threat shows and like all Resident Evil nemeses, it’s a medical experiment gone suitably array. Each one is armed with some kind of anchor-cum-nightmare bludgeoning device and they’re relentlessly tough and considerably quicker than their hulking appearance initially suggests. We encountered one within the cramped hallways of the Spencer mansion and it inspired fear unlike anything since The Regenerator. Or Terminator 4.
But it’s in its final puzzle that Lost in Nightmares’ genius lies. Stripping you, rather clumsily, of your already hopeless inventory, you’re left to navigate a flooded network of intertwined corridors and confined walkways stalked incessantly by the episodes’ caustic enemy. It’s an uncomfortable reversal of hunter and the hunted, projecting that lost sense of utter vulnerability and apprehension so missing in the fifth game.
There’s plenty of reason to turn your nightmare into a repeated one after you’ve seen it through as well. New characters add life to the revered mercenaries mode; unleashing the Barry Sandwich on an unarmed Majini is priceless (less so on the Executioner), and the harder difficulty settings throw a few surprises your way; enough to warrant playing each through at least once. And like the main game itself, Lost in Nightmares is best played with a friend because the unreliable AI is as much of an annoyance here as it ever was.
There are new figurines for your viewing pleasure too. You’ll have to download them, free of charge, separately but there are worse things to come by without a price tag.
Strangely the leaderboards no longer include separate tables for timed runs, perhaps for fear of revealing publicly that the whole thing can be completed in less than ten minutes.
But if that’s the case then there’s already enough content to justify the lowly asking price of four queen pounds, not to mention more significantly, quality too. Even a year after its release, Resident Evil 5 remains the go-to model for near-flawless co-op gaming. Lost in Nightmares itself is an affectionate throwback to the Resident Evil of old and it achieves the unlikely by marrying two disparate games in the same series to create something uncannily brilliant.