Over the past year or two, I’ve played and reviewed some unique puzzle games. First was I Heart Geeks (or I <3 Geeks or however you spell it out on a keyboard) where you have one hundred or so puzzles to solve by setting up Rube Goldberg-style contraptions to do something simple like release a balloon or something. Then there was Pushmo, which had you were pushing and pulling blocks to climb to the top of some sort of structure, and to date it’s one of the highest rated games I’ve reviewed. Well, I got the chance to review another unique puzzle game with a rather simple premise: get a ball from one side of the screen to the other. Sounds simple right? Well, let’s find out as I dive into NightSky. As a quick note, NightSky has been available on Steam for over a year and a half now (since March 2011 according to Steam). However, it just recently hit the Nintendo 3DS, so that’s the version I’m reviewing.
As puzzle games go, this one has kind of a strange story to it. One day a young boy stumbles upon a strange sphere upon the beach. Unsure of what it is he decides to take it home, because the first thing we do with strange objects from the beach is to take it home with us. Anyway, after taking it home you start to have strange dreams at night. These dreams about the sphere is basically the game. There’s a bit more to the story at the end of the game, but I won’t spoil it, even though there’s not much to really spoil. After all, it is a puzzle game.
As stated before, the premise is to basically get the sphere from one side of the screen to the other. There are nine main levels to play through (not counting The Beach, which is just a small intro area) with about ten to thirteen areas in each level, and each area consisting of three screens. Got all of that? At first it seems like all there is to it is to just roll the sphere from screen to screen, but as you progress from level to level you begin to learn some of the game’s other mechanics…and you’ll also learn that these mechanics aren’t available in each stage. Hey, can’t make the game too easy. The two basic mechanics you’ll learn that are available more often than not are how to accelerate and slow down the sphere. Something else you’ll learn, though not necessarily a mechanic, is how to use the environment to your advantage to get through later levels. It’s not as hard as it first looks, but it takes some practice to really master, such as rolling up and around curves onto another wall and keep your momentum going instead of just plopping back down to the ground.
Not every level is a simple “move the sphere across the area” type of level. Some of the areas incorporate various vehicles that you have to use to get through, others act more like a game of pinball where you’re using flippers to hit the sphere around instead of you controlling the sphere directly, and still others force you to use various obstacles to open up a new path or a new way to get to the other side of the screen to progress. Something else you’ll find in some areas are hidden stars. In a couple areas in each level you’ll see a white star in the lower-left corner of the touch screen. This indicates that there’s a hidden star somewhere in the area and it can be in any of the area’s three screens. The star itself isn’t visible but it’s inside a hidden cave or hole you can go into. What’s the purpose of collecting the stars? I didn’t know myself until I finished the main game.
I mentioned earlier that there were nine main levels aside from the intro level The Beach. While you can select from either of the next two levels you haven’t completed yet (for instance, if you’ve only completed The Beach, you can only choose to play Harara Mountains and Skymining), there are two special levels to play through: Slightly Nonsense and Credits. I believe Credits can be played whenever, as it’s just the game’s credits. Slightly Nonsense however can’t be played until you complete the final main level as it’s somewhat part of the story. Not too far into it though you’ll notice that you can’t progress until you collect a certain amount of hidden stars. In fact, throughout Slightly Nonsense you’ll find two areas in which a certain amount of stars are required to pass. These puzzles are the most challenging of the game, requiring you to sometimes think outside the box to complete them.
The game has some replayability to it in the form of two different modes: Normal and Alternative. If it’s your first time through, Normal Mode is recommended. Once you’ve completed that, Alternative Mode should provide a nice challenge. It’s the same set of levels, but the puzzles are more challenging…much more in fact at times. I myself am having trouble on the first main level of the game on Alternative Mode, so I can only imagine what Slightly Nonsense will be like. However, beyond the two modes, there’s not much else to the game, and that leads me to the one negative about this game. After all, it’s hard to find a game without any flaws.
The two modes to the game are really all there is to it. There’s no multiplayer option, no level editor, no extras, no nothing; just the two modes. While the game itself is quite fun and I do highly recommend it, it just seems like there should be a bit more to it. It might be hard to imagine what multiplayer would be like for NightSky outside of maybe a co-op option, but I’m kind of surprised there’s not even a level editor. While playing I kept thinking what it would be like if you could create your own levels, choose whether to allow the user to speed up or slow down the sphere, place your own obstacles, and so on. I’m also a little surprised that the 3DS version doesn’t really make use of the touch screen. I’m not sure how the Steam version showed when hidden stars were in a stage, but that’s the only use the touch screen gets. However, despite the lack of any other extras, I do recommend giving NightSky a chance, but just keep in mind that all you're getting for about $10 are the two game modes, and that's it..
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