In the proud tradition of Undertale and Stardew Valley, Outbreak: The Nightmare Chronicles is a spiritual successor to a classic game coming from a single creator dev. The third entry in Drop Dead Studio’s Outbreak franchise, The Nightmare Chronicles pays homage to the Playstation era of Resident Evil. While I played the recent Switch port it is also available on PS5, PS4, X-Box Series X, X-Box One, and Steam.
Outbreak: The Nightmare Chronicles begins with some introductory text explaining that the protagonist, Lydia, has become separated from her group of survivors. From there the game consists of trying to escape from the bioweapon lab she finds herself trapped in. The plot never really becomes any more intricate than that initial premise, though journal entries do provide some nice world-building.
Fans of early Resident Evil will find the gameplay in Outbreak very familiar. The game uses fixed angles and tank controls (which can be changed in the options) as you navigate dark hallways and blood-splattered medical labs. Along the way players will solve simple environmental puzzles, usually centered around figuring out codes to unlock doors.
Combat is very simple, holding one trigger causes you to aim at the nearest enemy while the other attacks. This is functional if a bit dull for firearms and downright bad for melee combat. Like traditional Resident Evil, the combat is secondary, the real challenge coming from ammo conservation and inventory management. Outbreak leans heavily into those elements even requiring you to take up inventory slots with floppy disks if you want to save.
Outbreak’s main goal seems to be recreating the feel of PS1 Resident Evil games, and it largely succeeds in that. The fixed angle approach coupled with effective environmental horror can still work and Outbreak proves that. Taking a page from its predecessor’s Outbreak uses fixed angles to keep players on their toes. Entering a new area always comes with risk as you can’t see what’s coming. It also uses shadows of off-screen enemies and sound queues, sometimes to warn the player of an enemy and sometimes to mislead them, which heightens the pervasive sense of danger.
While Outbreak’s commitment to its inspirations is commendable, it’s also its greatest weakness. A great spiritual sequel takes the core elements of past games and finds new ground to explore with those elements. Aside from improving the graphics Outbreak does nothing innovative or new.
The game’s chapter structure is its other major hurdle. After each chapter, the player loses their full inventory and all sense of progression with it. Collecting the same set of items over again in each chapter is also incredibly repetitive.
As a fan of the original Resident Evil trilogy, I admire what Outbreak is attempting to do. That said the execution leaves much to be desired. Die-hard fans of the fixed camera survival horror games that dominated the late 90’s might get a nostalgic kick from Outbreak, but it has little to else to offer.
Rating: 4/10 Floppy Disks