Nefarious

Nefarious Review

Say hello to the bad guy

Tyler Hall

Reviewed by playing a PlayStation 4 on

Nefarious is also available for Xbox One and Switch

ESRB Teen rating

Tired of saving the world and rescuing the princess? Nefarious flips the script by allowing you to be a supervillain bent on destruction.

Nefarious screenshot 1
Hmm... I wonder what I'm supposed to do with that button...

My introduction to Nefarious came last year when it was included as the monthly game in my IndieBox subscription. I've never been much of a PC gamer so I didn't play it at the time but the collectibles and game design definitely piqued my interest.

In Nefarious, you play as the villainous Crow. In a reversal of the status quo, you set out to actually kidnap princesses so they can help build a powerful doomsday device. Nefarious is very tongue-in-cheek about its plot but it does a decent job of portraying some of the challenges that a video game villain might have to face such as encroaching on another villain's realm and stealing their princess.

Nefarious is quite humorous and filled with funny and likable characters. Each of the princesses that Crow kidnaps has quite an attitude despite recognizing that their sole reason for existence is to be repeatedly kidnapped and saved. Then there's Crow's second-in-command, the no-nonsense Becky whose organizational skills are a perfect match for Crow's evil plans.

Nefarious screenshot 2
Who knew it was so colourful deep under the sea?

Nefarious is a 2D action platformer with about a dozen levels including a few secret ones that are unlocked by chatting with NPCs. Combat is relatively simple as Crow can either punch enemies or lob grenades at them while trying to avoid their attacks. The core gameplay is relatively mundane as well but it serves its purpose by allowing players to enjoy the better parts of Nefarious like its story, characters, and alternate gameplay mechanics that pop up from time to time.

After Crow kidnaps a princess, he temporarily gains a new ability while holding her and these segments are usually quite a bit more interesting than the punch-and-smash parts. In one level, the royal kidnappee allows Crow to shoot grenades that create platforms while in another, the princess turns the whole second half of a level into a goofy endless runner. These gameplay-altering mechanics break up the humdrum core gameplay and almost every mechanical change is quite fun to play; save for a dull underwater level.

While playing through each level and exterminating bad guys (well, good guys in this case), you can collect Lucre which is Nefarious' currency and is spent on upgrading Crow's attack and grenade powers. The upgrade tree is fairly unexciting but it always feels satisfying to power up your character and be rewarded for beating down so many enemies. Each level also has four collectibles in it: 3 crowns and 1 record which unlocks a new track at the Jukebox on Crow's ship. Anyway, the boss fights in Nefarious are exceptionally enjoyable. As a villain, Crow has plenty of bizarre weapons and machines at his disposal and he's not afraid to use them. While pummelling heroes with these devices, it was hard not to picture myself as Dr. Robotnik beating up that lousy blue hedgehog.

Nefarious screenshot 3
Bad guys get all the coolest toys!

While the core combat is mostly dull and uninspired, Nefarious still shines thanks to its witty writing, likeable characters, and enjoyable genre-swapping gameplay mechanics.

  • + Solid premise bolstered by clever writing
  • + Several gameplay changes make for some fun and exciting segments
  • + Being bad during boss fights is great fun
  • - Mostly mundane core combat
  • - Upgrades aren't very interesting
8.0 out of 10
Gameplay video for Nefarious 5:43
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