Personal Nightmare was developed and published in 1989 by Horror Soft, a sub-label of Adventure Soft Publishing Ltd., and was their first foray into the horror genre, and their first game featuring the 80's horror icon Elvira(however she only appears as a mascot of the Horror Soft label on the box cover, the title and loading screens and is not involved as a active character in the event). The US version was also published in 1989 by Box Office, Inc. and came with a different box art.
It was the first game to make use of Horror Soft's new AGOS engine, which was originally created by Alan Cox and is based on AberMUD V, with graphical extensions.
In Personal Nightmare the player slips in the role of a vicar's son who has left home, the quaint little village of Tynham Cross, many years ago and lost contact with the parents. A surprising and troubling letter from his mother mades the player character decide to return to his village. According to this letter, the player's father, the local vicar has started behaving very strangely and has developed a keen interest in the life story of James Hyatt, who was vicar at the Church of St. Anthony some three hundred years earlier and was killed by his own parishioners apparently in some bizzare ritual to rid the village of some devil.
Only a day before the visit the player receives a second disturbing letter, this time from his father, telling that he had made arrangements for the player to stay at the local inn, The Dog and Duck, because the parental home is being redecorated and the work wouldn't be completed in time for the player's visit. He also added that the player's mother had gone to visit her ill sister Alice in Campbelthorpe, hoping to return in time for the player's visit.
After a long train journey the player finds himself in the bar of "The Dog and Duck" in order to check in and to start finding out what is going on in the village and what happend to his father.
In the opening sequence a clergyman is incinerated in his pulpit and a demon is rising in his place and it is becoming clear that the local vicar, who's the father of the player character, has been replaced by the devil. It also turns out that the devil has taken over the lives of some of the villagers, and horrific crimes are taking place in Tynham Cross. The object of the game is to identify which of the village characters have been taken over by the power of the devil and then, by presenting the village policeman with the evidence of their crimes, have them arrested. While doing this the player will meet and have to deal with one or two pets belonging to the devil, also there are one or two people who need rescuing before they are subjected to some rather unpleasant rituals.
The game starts in the bar of the local inn "The Dog and Duck". Mr. Jones and Mrs. Jones are behind the counter and the player can start to look around and question people as they come and go.
The main area on the screen graphically displays the location the player is in and the events taking place within it. To the left of the screen are the direction icons with ten possible directions (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW, UP and DOWN), and to the right is a panel with the clickable verb commands. The windows directly beneath these are the text response window and the text input window.
The game makes use of a combination of text-based commands, clickable verbal commands and clickable objects to progress. It may also be played entirely by the use of the keyboard as a true text-adventure. But instead of typing commands, a verb can be selected from the panel on the right with the left mouse button and it will appear in the text input window at the bottom of the screen.
An object can be selected by clicking on the appropriate part of the picture, and the whole command is then entered by clicking on the right mouse button. Whole sentences like "CUT FINGERS WITH SECATEURS" or "KILL DOG WITH STAKE" will be accepted by the parser.
By clicking on the INV (inventory) button a graphical icon list with carried objects will appear. The ROOM button similarly displays all takeable objects in a given location. They can be taken by dragging into the INV icon.
The player must complete the game before the next sermon at the village church, which is in 4 days. This means that all the possesed villagers must be put behind bars or be killed and the devil must be repelled within this time limit or the game is lost. But there are also many other incidents that can kill the player (ideally at night time) unless the player performs a proper action to avoid them. The time passes in a day and night cycle and some actions happen or can be executed only to a special time.
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