Game

The Nightmare Cooperative popped up on the App Store recently out of nowhere but has the potential to be the next great iOS puzzler

TNC sees the player control a handful of characters, sometimes at the same time – with the aim of procuring gold from chests, avoiding bad guys that want to kill you, casting spells to kill first those bad guys that want to kill you, and eventually guiding your player, or multiple players (if they haven’t been killed) to the stairs, taking you to the next level.

The ‘Cooperative’ nature comes in the fact that you team up with a number of characters, each with their own special powers. Each character moves concurrently – unless there’s an obstacle in the way, in which case they stay put, making it possible to move one playing, while keeping others safely tucked away. However, if you don’t pay attention, you may lose track of one which wanders into a pool of acid, or is hunted down by a bad guy. The nature of this, and the need to place multiple facets of concentration around the board, really helps to give you brain a work out, and adds to the difficulty of this title.

A quick tutorial tells you everything you need to know, like being aware of dogs.

A quick tutorial tells you everything you need to know, like being aware of dogs.

Random approach

Shunning the cutesy nature (despite its App Store description saying it’s “adorably cute” – it really isn’t), and ‘so frustrating I can’t put it down’ style that many puzzlers aim for to win big on the mobile platform, TNC employs a more random approach to draw in its users. That is; each level, despite having several worlds, with a handful of stages, are completely different. Blocks will move round, and bad guys will appear in different places.

The game itself, though incredibly difficult, isn’t frustrating in the same way other puzzlers are. Like a well-crafted strategy game, you find yourself thinking “ah, of course! Well played computer man”, instead of the largely non-sensical and fruitless accusations of “cheat!” that we may employ to our smart device on other games.

Three solid players on the board here, but for how long?

Three solid players on the board here, but for how long?

Plan your moves

Like a game of chess, but you only have a few pieces, and you’re playing four people at once; thanks to the acid squares, the bad guys, flames, and good old fashioned iOS staple: spikes.

You have to not only plan your moves; which is essentially the movement of a number of pieces concurrently, with where you’ll end up, and in some attempt at blind foresight, where extra baddies will appear if you were to open a box.

Strategy questions: Do you wait to wake up your extra players first? Do you grab the boxes nearest to you? Do you waste your potions or spells? Is it best to get individual players to the squares first, so you just have one player to worry about collecting the gold. But what if you’re surrounded!

So, your character is... well, the big guy in the bottom left, the one in the big blue tunic, and the dude sitting down.

So, your character is… well, the big guy in the bottom left, the one in the big blue tunic, and the dude sitting down.

Of course, little of this matters because inevitably the bad guys will appear somewhere different, and the next level will look completely different to the last time you played it.

Difficult to strategize

This is in part why The Nightmare Cooperative is so hard; the levels change each time, randomness making it almost impossible to strategize. But at the same time, it’s what keeps it interesting – you can win via trial and error like many iOS games. You’ve got to use mental agility and adapt to the changes that throw you throughout the game.

Those red boxes shoot fire across the board – when there's four or five of them, it's nearly impossible to avoid.

Those red boxes shoot fire across the board – when there’s four or five of them, it’s nearly impossible to avoid.

As such, it’s almost impossible to get bored of The Nightmare Cooperative, while its simplicity gives it a great pick up and play nature. The setting, characters, and approach also give it an originality that puts the game above many other tricky puzzlers in the App Store. Highly recommended.

Price: $3.99 / £2.49
Size: 199 MB
Version: 1.1
Platform: iOS Universal

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The Nightmare Cooperative Review: Randomized puzzler
Incredibly difficult, but with enough detail to keep you trying.
For
  • Requires you brain to stay multiple steps ahead
  • Varying characters with different attributes
  • Plenty of levels and stages – not over too quickly
Against
  • You do tend to reach a point then struggle to get beyond it
  • The stages don't differ that much at all
4.1Overall Score