Review (full game)

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UK  packaging
(different to the US one)

We've waited almost 2 years for this but KISS Psycho Circus - The Nightmare Child is out at last, and it was worth the wait - you won't be disappointed! As you probably know the game is a first-person shooter based on the Psycho Circus comic books created by Todd McFarlane. The story goes something like this:-

In an epic battle, The Four Who Are One defeat the Nightmare King, never suspecting that, from the jaws of this own annihilation, their arch enemy has played one last treacherous card. Seizing upon the broken oath of the Elder the Destroyer summons the last fragment of his once awesome strength to pull the spirits of the Elder down with him, trapping them in the void beyond. Although the Elder do not perish they are left powerless until their spirit can return to their realms......

Choose your character

Before vanishing forever the Nightmare King plants a seed of evil - the Nightmare Child, with it's birth the child will invade the space left vacant by the Elders so that no creature may challenge it's dominance. Only one mortal can devise a means of calling back the Elder - Madam Raven, from the Psycho Circus. She must recruit four proxies to collect the shards of the Elder's forms and give them the power required to overcome the Nightmare Child.

One of the cloners on level 1

Okay, enough of the story, what's the game like? Well after a nice little intro featuring graphics taken from the comics you get to meet Madam Raven herself who will talk you though what you need to do. Firstly you need to pick a character to play (none of them are 'KISS' at this point, they're supposed to be normal people). Although you're not restricted as to who you play first, it's recommended that you play Star Bearer (Paul), Beast King (Peter), Celestial (Ace) and then the Demon (Gene). Each of the characters has it's own world (water, earth, air and fire), which is a theme that remains throughout the worlds levels.

Fancy a bit of Psycho Circus? If not just destroy it...

You start the game wondering about with absolutely no weapons, the old gypsy hag will help you out though and you'll soon find Paul's Thornblade. At this point there's not much to kill, until you slash open a bar and flick the switch on the wall. Before you do that though go check out the jukebox, as long as you don't destroy it you'll get to hear a little bit of Psycho Circus, one of the 10 KISS tracks featured. Basically you've now got to find all the parts of Paul's costume that will turn you into the Starchild himself, starting with his gauntlets and finishing with his make-up (which you won't find for a little while yet).

Don't use this weapon too close 'cause
it'll take you out with it

The enemies are very well designed and at times swarm at you in what seems like hundreds. Once you pick up your first gun you'll be able to take pot shots at blowing the arms off the crab-like things that are everywhere in the first level. You usually find wherever there's a mass of them waiting for you, there will be a cloner nearby - destroy this and no more will be produced. Later on you get bigger enemies like the Archniclown - a huge clown with spider legs, easy to kill as long as you shoot him first. There's also some fat floating buggers that breath deadly gas, hit them and they shoot off around the room like a balloon, just don't walk into their fart though.... The final obstacle on Paul Stanley's level is a huge clown that will inflate bigger and bigger the more you try to shoot it. Make sure you save the game regularly though, if you run out of ammo you've got no chance against the things the game will chuck at you. 

Outside The Coventry, one of the many
KISS references

Progressing though the level you will eventually pick up various pieces of your characters costume that will help you along your way (eg the boots will allow you to jump higher etc), not until you get the make-up will you be able to become the KISS character himself and get the ultimate weapon that comes with it (just check out Gene's fire-breathing dragon!). Various other weapons are available to you, ranging from a chain gun to a windblade which if you use too near an enemy will probably blow you up too (as I found out the hard way).

Mr Stanley has just found his platforms

Graphics within the game really are excellent, I had it cranked up to 1024 x 768 without any problems on an Athlon 550. Sound too is good, if you have a 3D speaker setup then use it as the game makes great use of Direct 3D, whilst it isn't KISS, the in-game music is very well done and it even changes tempo depending on what is happening on the screen. The learning curve is excellent, start with Paul Stanley and you'll have no problems, try to jump straight in with one of the others and you'd better be good 'cause you'll soon have no ass left if you're not! The guys at Third Law recommend trying to use the mouse & keyboard to control your character (mouse to look around & fire, keyboard to move), I didn't get on with this at first but stick with it 'cause it's a lot better than a joypad once you get used to it.

Make sure you shoot this fat bugger
before he fires back

So what's in it for KISS fans then? Apart from the music (small segments played from jukeboxes, plus other small segments such as Shout It Out Loud in a cut-scene and God Gave Rock & Roll To You in the cathedral), there's also various KISS references scattered throughout, here's some that I've seen so far:-

  • The Coventry roadhouse
  • Advert for a band called Wicked Jester
  • Cold Gin in the bar /  on advert board
  • Deuce mentioned on an advert
  • Hard Luck Beer
  • Black Diamonds (try collecting 40 and using them)
  • A huge 10 story high copy of KISSTORY!
  • Pictures of the KISS solo albums on the wall (Paul's is in the Magic Shop)
  • Dynasty nightclub

There's probably loads of other stuff but I'm still trying to get through all the levels, after which you can play a 5th world against the Nightmare Child itself. Also if you're into online games then you can link up with other players over the net and play against one another, I haven't tried this yet but from what I've heard it works well.

Admiring his make-up in the mirror...

As for bugs (inevitable in PC games these days) I haven't found any yet which is a good sign, however I believe people with TNT2 cards may find problems using the games menus (only affects those with the latest drivers though), this has been fixed in a patch that Third Law are to release very shortly.

Overall, this is without doubt the best game ever to be based on a rock band (not exactly hard though considering some of the other crap around!), it is well up there with the greatest first person shooters. Although it may be slightly linear don't let that put you off, I haven't had some much fun with a game like this since Doom, something that I hope will give it a wider appeal to more than just KISS fans.


Graphics - 9/10

Brilliant effects, especially the outside scenes. GOD have done wonders with the Lithtech engine.

Sound - 8/10

Loads of nice in game music & 3D effects.... BUT NOT ENOUGH KISS!!

Gameplay - 9/10

Good solid gameplay, slightly linear although this doesn't take away any of the fun. Easy to get into and hard to put down.

Overall - 9/10

Brilliant fun, may not be enough KISS stuff for some fans likening, but this will definitely have appeal outside of the KISS world. Loads of action, without too much thinking makes sure you'll be coming back to it again and again. 


Test System

Win 98
Athlon 550
128MB Ram
G400 Video
Sound Blaster Live


Min System

Win 95/98/2000
64MB Ram
4X CD-ROM Drive
D3D Video Card
Direct X Sound Card

Available From


Electronic Boutique,
PC World,
+ Other PC game stockists

Official Site

KISS Psycho Circus


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