was released in early January 2011 and ever since I played it back then Iíve wanted to review it. Iíve even kept a post-it note that I wrote back then thatís constantly glaring at me and reminding me about it from its vantage point on my refrigerator. My urges to write a review only grew when I later discovered that Dtoid in fact didnít review it, but I didn't feel comfortable enough with my writing to be able to write a review about it, so I waited. To further add to my growing urge to write Nicalis brought up the possibility/ announcement of a 3DS port of the game , a thing that I personally think would be a brilliant and could help to make a amazing looking game look and feel even better and more immersive and it would mean that It would be seen by a larger crowd. This is a pretty important review for me for several silly but passionate reasons, so without further delay lets get to it!
Iím a pretty huge fan of Swedish inde developer Nifflas games , mostly due to his heavy focus on atmosphere. A thing that most games these days seemingly filter away in favor for a more action heavy approach. Which is understandable since itís probably more efficient and economically rewarding, given that most of the gaming crowd enjoys those kind of games which I enjoy too! But sometimes I just want to get immersed in a relaxing game to ease my busy mind with games that takes a less action heavy approach.One example of this the indie point and click game Machinarium
, however unlike Machinarium Nightsky
manages to both reach out to people who already are passionate about its genre but also manages to please people who isn't into the genre but just enjoy great games , effectively avoiding the hazardous ďatmospheric but lacking in the gameplay departmentĒ trap completely. It's a hard thing to balance atmosphere with gameplay for sure, but it is done well here and it's one of the reasons why I think coming back and playing it not even a year after I first finished it felt so darn good. Nightsky
is a puzzle / physics platforming game that tasks you to guide a mysterious sphere from one end on the screen to the other in order to reach the next screen and eventually reach the levels exit. Movement is made more interesting thanks to a couple of powers that lets you accelerate or decrease your spheres movement-speed as well as a power that lets you flip the direction of gravity upside down. These are by no means original powers but itís the way the game incorporates these powers that makes things interesting. Powers are level specific so you might find yourself without the decrease speed power in one level that requires precise movement while in the next level where rapid movement would ease things it deceleration may be forced on you,this helps a great deal in keeping things fresh and interesting and allows for some really clever level design.
There are also several different level based vehicles such as hot air balloons, planes and robotic limbs that will help you traverse some levels, all with their different handling and behaviours . So if one thinks that rolling a ball would become repetitive after a while think again, Nifflas manages to vary the levels enough with loads of imaginative settings, for example in one some levels you canít move your ball at all, so in order to reach the exit you have to use flipper paddles to launch your sphere to where you want it. Other levels have you dashing trough icy fields on a bobsled while in others will take you trough spinning mazes that resemble those old "lean your board to guide the ball without falling in holes" board games, and the list goes on. So there is no shortage of variety here.
One thing you will notice pretty fast is that the game isnít very long and can pretty easily be finished in one intense sitting. But no worries, besides the regular normal mode there is a alternative mode that tasks you in playing the game again but changes all of the levels so that they become harder. Most alternative levels arenít even recognizable, so it definitely doesnít feel like you re just playing the same game all over again , and the latter alternative levels can be downright brutal in difficulty , making sure that you will have to master the spheres movement and its different powers. Pair that with hidden exits that rewards you with stars that unlocks additional wacky levels and youíve got a healthy amount of content for a 10 $ game.
Visually the game looks nothing short of amazing, and fans of Nifflas previous games will feel right at home here as Nightsky has everything you'd expect from a nifflas game, minimalistic yet stylish graphics and a thick atmosphere. As you can see the game features silhouetted foregrounds that serve as the level you move on with some jaw-dropping gradient backgrounds and little silhouetted details such as swaying grass in open fields and curious wildlife in damp caverns, all of these things blend together and makes for a satisfying and surreal experience. The 10 different themes , each including several levels will take your sphere everywhere from the treetops of a sleepy forest to futuristic sky-ways and spooky caves, I had to suppress my urges to take screenshots of beautiful scenes in this game while replaying it otherwise replaying the game would take forever, and that's just a small testament of how beautiful I find this game to be.
There is definitely a sentimental feel going on here as most levels take place upon sunset or dawn, at least to me it draws my mind to sad but relaxing thoughts, I can't really set my finger on it but there is something inherently sad with being reminded that all things comes to an end. And I wont lie, Iím guilty of getting all wet in my eyes as I roll trough the silent Team Ico like ruins just appreciating the beauty and tranquillity of it all (I know Iím a wimp, but I canít help it ). But while and after I was done playing I always felt relaxed and relived as if I've been somewhere else, even just for a little while. So if you're looking for a relaxing game , look no further!
One thing is worth mentioning though, the game runs in a pretty small resolution on your pc, so unfortunately you are limited to playing on a pretty small windowed area of your screen , which can seem like a deal-breaker at first immersion wise but once you get used to it you wonít even notice it as long as you donít have crazy desktop backgrounds.
The Visuals are great but they wouldn't have been half as moving without Chris Shlrarb's amazing and ambient sounding soundtrack. Words fail me as I try to describe how great I think that man and his music is, he manages to portray the environments and their different feels in such a subtle but yet so brilliantly obvious way. The jazzy and high energy beats perfectly fits the busy factory with strumming guitars and high-hats going wild and the cold and distant chimes instantly blends with the visuals to transport you to freezing plains of the north. I was listening to the soundtrack , which you can listen to for free over HERE
while writing some of this and I would freak out as I felt my mind drifting to distant places in my mind where I can relax and just think about stuff. Nothing short of brilliant , and as far as game-soundtracks go ( which is a serious matter for me) , this is definitely one of my favorites!
Initially as a fan of Nifflas I was afraid of the absence of his own unique music would lessen the surreal experience but it seems as Chris was more than able to pull it off. If you want to you could listen to the awkward interview
I did with Nifflas when the game released to find out more about Nightsky
and his upcoming games.
One last thing that's fun to mentioning is that there is a story in Nightsky. At first the game didn't even have a story until Nicalis asked Indie God and Cave story
creator Daisuke Amaya to write one for it, but don't get your hopes up, it's not anything special but it is ultimately adds to the experience making it an welcome edition. So if you're buying it for that reason alone you will be disappointed. Just saying!
Anyways lets wrap it up, the bottom line is that some people will look at Nightsky and say - Thatís one of those artsy fartsy games, Iím not playing that. If you are one of them you are severely wrong about Nightsky
and you will miss out on a stellar experience. No appreciation for art or boring slow things is necessary to enjoy Nightsky. Even if you stripped away the gorgeous environments and the amazing soundtrack Nightsky
would still be fun game to play, and for 10 bucks youíre hard pressed to find a more immersive and entertaining game. However for those who claim to appreciate beautiful and immersive games Nighsky is a treat, I replayed it not even a year after I first beat it and the amazing feeling of immersion and of the surreal was still there, just as much as when I first played it . So go get it, and lets pray for a 3DS release!
If this made you curious about the game check out the demo here
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