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Source: Phoenixx Inc.

Parry Nightmare Review: A Delightful but Frustrating Nightmare

Parry Nightmare
Parry Nightmare's innovative gameplay and charming aesthetics make it stand out, but its exceptionally high difficulty and contradictory narrative messaging won't work for everyone.
Unique parry-focused mechanics offer a refreshing twist on the traditional bullet hell formula
Polished visuals with a charming, eccentric vibe
Satisfying combos and rewards
Steep learning curve and lack of safety nets make it particularly challenging and sometimes frustrating
Narrative provides only generic details about the protagonist's life, leaving a desire for deeper exploration
Ending promotes a message that feels at odds with the earlier themes of addressing and overcoming personal trauma
Platform Reviewed: PC

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A PC code was provided to GamingPizza for this review. Parry Nightmare is available now for PC.

Let’s set one thing straight right away: I am terrible at bullet hell games. The frantic dodging, the relentless waves of enemies, and the barrage of projectiles always overwhelm me. So, when I started playing Parry Nightmare, a game that promises a unique twist on the bullet hell genre, I came in with plenty of caution. However, I was pleasantly surprised by its innovative mechanics and engaging atmosphere, even if the difficulty sometimes left me pulling my hair out.

Parry Nightmare takes a familiar genre and flips it on its head. Instead of the usual dodging and shooting, your primary defense is parrying incoming threats. You play as Honno, a soul trapped in a lucid nightmare, accompanied by your demonic guardian, Honno-chan. The game’s core mechanic revolves around using parries to stun enemies, which Honno-chan then destroys. This approach is both refreshing and challenging, adding a new layer of strategy to the traditional bullet hell formula.

At first, the parrying mechanic feels intuitive and satisfying. Timing your parries just right to stun enemies and watch Honno-chan take them out is oddly gratifying. However, the game doesn’t hold your hand. The learning curve is steep, and the difficulty ramps up quickly. Unlike other bullet hells that tend to ease you into the chaos, Parry Nightmare throws you into the deep end almost immediately. The lack of safety nets, like mid-level checkpoints or readily available enemy clearing items, makes each death feel particularly punishing.

Get ‘Em, Honno-chan!

Parry Nightmare Blue Enemies
Source: Phoenixx Inc.

Honno-chan, your demonic doppelganger, is crucial to your survival. She takes care of the offense, allowing you to focus solely on parrying and defense, which, as a healer main in almost any game I play, I appreciated. As you successfully parry attacks, you collect light fragments from defeated enemies. Collecting these fragments is essential, as you need to gather 100 to complete a level. However, visibility is limited until you collect 70 fragments, adding an extra layer of challenge as you navigate through the darkness.

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The combo system in Parry Nightmare rewards precision and skill. Building up combos through successful parries fills your Tension meter, which, when full, allows you to unleash a powerful Burst Attack. This attack satisfyingly clears out a region of enemies and leaves behind a multitude of light fragments. Power-ups from elevated enemies can also provide significant boosts, such as increasing Honno-chan’s offensive power or gathering all adjacent light fragments. These power-ups are especially crucial during the game’s timed boss battles. Yes, “timed.” Just another wrinkle to the difficulty mix.

Battling Nightmares and Stressors

Parry Nightmare Eye Enemies
Source: Phoenixx Inc.

The narrative of Parry Nightmare takes place in Japan and revolves around Honno’s various stressors, including childhood trauma, school pressures, work stress, and family issues. These themes are semi-universal, but the game’s setting and cultural context add a unique flavor. The story unfolds across four stages, each representing different aspects of Honno’s life.

Exploring her apartment between stages provides brief glimpses into her life. These point-and-click segments offer a line or two of exposition when you examine objects, adding depth to the character’s backstory. However, the storytelling feels somewhat ambiguous, providing only generic details about a life that I would have liked to have known more about.

A Feast for the Senses

Parry Nightmare Apartment sleeping
Source: Phoenixx Inc.

Aesthetically, Parry Nightmare is a feast for the senses. The game’s polished, eccentric vibe immediately draws you in. The visuals have a unique charm reminiscent of Paper Mario and Warioware, though the gameplay is distinctly its own. The enemies effectively convey the Honno’s stressors, from bullying classmates to jammed photocopiers, making each stage feel like a suburban gladiatorial arena.

Complementing the visuals is Osamu Kubota’s jazzy soundtrack. The music prevents Parry Nightmare from becoming too gloomy, offering a pleasing groove that intensifies as the number of adversaries grows. The soundtrack enhances the game’s atmosphere, making each encounter feel both tense and exciting.

A Mixed Message

Parry Nightmare Eye Enemies getting beamed
Source: Phoenixx Inc.

Back to the narrative, while the gameplay and aesthetics of Parry Nightmare are engaging, the story leaves a bit of a sour taste. The game presents a narrative about battling personal demons and overcoming stress, but its resolution feels contradictory. Throughout the game, Honno’s misery and the pressures she faces are evident. I expected for the game (at some point) to lead to a message about recognizing and addressing these issues. Instead, the ending promotes a “rub some dirt on it and keep going” mentality, which I guess can be good in some situations, but certainly not for more traumatic events.

This resolution feels at odds with the game’s earlier themes. It suggests that subduing trauma rather than confronting it is the solution, which can feel unsatisfying and even unhealthy. The ending implies that perseverance alone is enough to overcome deep-seated issues, which contradicts the earlier portrayal of Honno’s struggles.

A Challenge for the Brave

If you enjoy short, challenging games, Parry Nightmare might be right up your alley. The game’s difficulty is not for the faint of heart. The fast-moving enemies and harsh penalties for mistimed parries can quickly lead to feeling overwhelmed. The final stage, in particular, requires precise timing as a flurry of foes surrounds you, and the disproportionate difficulty spike can be frustrating.

Despite its challenges, Parry Nightmare offers a unique and engaging experience. It’s a delightful but flawed entry in the bullet hell genre. Its innovative gameplay and charming aesthetics make it stand out, but its exceptionally high difficulty and contradictory narrative messaging won’t work for everyone. If you’re up for a challenge and can appreciate its unique take on stress and trauma, Parry Nightmare is worth a try.

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