Andy's Art and Whatever

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nyx Quest: KindRed Spirits

WiiWare has been getting some really great games lately. Nyx Quest (originally titled Icardian) is a beautifully crafted masterpieces of a game and it’s only $10 for download. Not to be confused with Nintendo’s own Kid Icarus, this game tells the story of a friendship between a god and a mortal in ancient Greece.

Icarus is a man from Greek mythology who made a pair of wax wings and flew up to meet the gods. There he met the lovely Nyx and the two became close friends. One day, Icarus sensed that something wasn’t quite right on earth. He descended back down, and was not heard from again. Nyx decides to go in search of him and discovers that the wold has been laid to waste by the blazing sun, controlled by the god Hellion. And so begins the Nyx’s quest to find her lost friend.

Because she’s mortal on earth, she can be hurt by all around her. The scorching sands, the flying harpies, spikes, and crumbling ruins all stand in her way. She can fly, but only for short distances and she has very limited abilities at the beginning of the game. But Zeus and many of the other gods help her along the way and grant her special abilities to help her in her quest.

The game is a 2.5-D sides-crolling platformer puzzle game. That’s kinda a mouthful but it’s the truth. The characters and environment are all 3-D, but you operate in a 2-D plane. You move Nyx with the nunchuck and jump and fly around the stages like a platform game, but you also solve puzzles move heavy blocks, flip switches, and all sorts of things while you platform. It’s as much a puzzle game as it is a platformer and it does the job splendidly.

Some of the abilities the gods give you are to be able to move large blocks by pointing at the screen and holding a button. There’s a strong vibe of an earlier WiiWare title “Lost Winds” throughout this game (and indeed later on you even get to control the wind to a degree). It’s very unique to be solving puzzles by pointing at the screen with one hand while you move your character and navigate them through the puzzles with the other. For example, to cross a stretch of burning sand you might have to stand on top of a large block and drag the block through the sand with the WiiMote, while your character jumps and dodges obstacles which get in the way by using the Nunchuck.

There are only 12 levels (with a 13th level hidden for expert players) and though that might SEEM small, the levels themselves are broken up into sections (with save points) and are immensely huge. It’s not uncommon for 1 level to take a good 15-20 minutes to get through, and you’ll probably be redoing some parts a lot until you figure out the puzzles. So on average I think overall it’s a 3-8 hour gaming experience depending on your skills. If you’re like me you’ll keep coming back to it in short breaks and that could take you longer.

The gameplay is also very relaxed, while being tense at the same time (if that makes sense). There’s no time limit rushing you, and you can explore and work your way through the levels at your own pace... but there are traps and obstacles (especially in the later levels) which will really test your reflexes and ingenuity. So while you can be very calm while playing, you can also be very nervous and tense inside.

I would like to point out that it’s very refreshing to see a female character being used as the only player. I do not think that I would have enjoyed this game quite as much if it had been a male lead to be honest. Nyx is very tiny on the screen so you never really get a good look at her, but her movements are very fluid and well animated.

The environments are gorgeous too, in a somber depressing sort of way. All of the worlds have a lot of depth and character to them, and the particle effects, depth of field, and bloom are used creatively and do not overdo it. It’s a simple game with a simple style and it’s just very pretty to look at. The music is an eerie piano/harpsichord-like melody which blends well with the ruins of ancient Greece.

My gripes are very few. But they’re all very minor gripes.

I wish that we could see Nyx in the game a little bit closer up. It’s such a personal journey for her character so it feels a little odd to be controlling her from so far away. The only time you can really see her detail is on the channel screen on the Wii Menu (not in game).

The text on the screen is difficult to see on a standard TV because of the font they chose, and because sometimes they fade in and fade out too quickly to read. The in-game text is controlled by the A button, so you can read and re-read it until you’re satisfied. But the text for the cut scenes are not and I frequently found myself only a few words into the sentences before it faded away, forcing me to guess what was going on. Very seldom I found the text reaching so far to the sides that I actually couldn’t see the first couple of letters of each line. I imagine this is not a big deal on a wide screen or flat screen TV. But on my little standard TV it was kinda a burden.

The levels themselves are each different from each other visually (the final level looks NOTHING like the levels at the beginning of the game. However the desert sand, the ruins, and the blazing sun and heat kinda make everything feel very much the same. You won’t notice the changes in each level until you start to compare mid levels to previous ones. The progression is very subtle. I kinda wish there was just a tiny bit more variation in the visual design.

There are boss battles periodically throughout the game. Each one is slightly different from the last, and some of them will repeat later in the game, but with your newer abilities they feel different (which is good). While the journey through the game gets harder and harder, I found the final boss battle to be rather easy by comparison, which left me feeling a bit disappointed.

The only other thing I can think of is that I wish there were a little bit more in side quests. There are ancient artifacts of the gods sprinkled throughout the 12 levels which offer some challenges, and collecting them all unlocks the hidden 13th level... but aside from that there’s very little to do once you’ve beaten the game.

Thankfully though, this game does not leave you hanging. Lost Winds, which has a lot in common with this game, felt more like it was only 1/4th of a game. Almost like they just allowed the first level for download. You fought 1 boss and that was it. Game Over. Nyx Quest is not like that. This is a complete game from start to finish, and I applaud the efforts of the developers to achieve so much in such a small amount of space.

The game is so well polished I really can’t think of anything else to talk about. The puzzles are challenging but not insulting to your intelligence. They gradually get more and more complex and challenging over time, but the challenge never rises sharply and you never really get stuck. The animations are smooth and fluid. The graphics are crisp and clear and well rendered. And the story is sweet and heartfelt. Overall this is a fantastically amazing game. Buy this one if you have the points for it... it’s WELL worth it.

Graphics 8
Music 7
Gameplay 9
Story 8
Replay value 6

Nyx Quest is a WiiWare title available for download on the Nintendo Wii’s Shop Channel for $10 (or 1000 WiiPoints).


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