So you’re on the beach one day and you find this cool looking sphere. You’re not sure what it’s made out of or where it came from, but you’re going to take it home anyway. Now when you sleep at night, you are having strange dreams; about the sphere no less. In these dreams, you are going to take a journey through various locations and solving many puzzles to get to your final destination. This journey is Nightsky.
Nightsky is the latest game from Nicklas Nygren; you may remember him from Saria or Knytt Stories. In this game, you will play as a sphere who journeys through multiple environments with many puzzles along the way. Of course you have your starter puzzles which are really there just to teach you how to play, but after you finish those, you will start to see the puzzles that are challenging. The game has physics, and due to the fact that you are a round object that can build momentum, the puzzles become quite interesting. Most of the puzzles are a mix of balance, speed, timing, momentum, and precision. Some puzzles may seem familiar, but the sphere physics definitely adds an interesting twist. In one puzzle, you may find yourself trying to build up enough momentum to shoot yourself over a pit; while in another puzzle, you may need to balance yourself on an object while trying to get it to move so you can get to the next object, or perhaps trying to set off a chain of events that allow you to reach your destination with the right timing.
To make things a bit more interesting, in some areas the sphere will have certain abilities like moving faster or changing gravity. In most levels you are able to brake by pressing the A key, but sometimes this is taken away from you to make things more challenging. On the flip side of that, sometimes the brake will be engaged at all times which makes that particular puzzle a bit more challenging. At certain times, you don’t even have control of the sphere and will have to control certain aspects of the level to get the sphere to its destination. You will also come across vehicles that are powered by the sphere’s movement from time to time. These vehicles will either roll, fly, or even jump around. Each puzzle is distinct and with the rate in which I had to switch power ups along with the use of vehicles, I found myself fully engaged and not getting bored at all.
Nicklas did a great job with the level design. It’s my experience that in many puzzle games like this, the puzzle portion feels separate from the actual level as if the level is just a back drop. In this case, the puzzles are weaved in perfectly with the levels which gives it a more fluid experience overall and makes you feel like you are taking a journey. The world of Nightsky is dark and shadowy, but not in a scary way. Every level feels very dreamlike and sets the tone for the game along with the relaxing soundtrack. The scenery changes often since each section of the game has its own theme. My only gripe with the level design is that sometimes it’s hard to tell which objects you can and cannot interact with as everything is pretty much colored black. The game is played on a 2D plane, so there really is no depth perception. That cog that you thought you were going to land on after your jump may have just been some background fluff.
The control of the sphere is simple and fluid. There are no surprises and from the start, the sphere handled the way I thought it should. Movement is very precise, so you have only yourself to blame if you overshoot or undershoot your target. The sphere changes different colors depending on what function you’re performing. It glows amber when using the brake, blue when using speed, and purple when changing gravity. The most noticeable fact is that when you move the sphere there is a white glow that is off center. This helps you determine which way the sphere is actually spinning; something that is WAY more helpful than it sounds.
Even after you finish Nightsky, there is definitely replay value. There are two difficulty levels – normal and alternative. In alternative you go through the same levels, but the levels will have new pieces or, more than likely, be missing pieces to make that section more challenging. There are also stars for you to collect in certain levels. Collecting these stars will unlock parts of the very final level which is unlocked after you finish the last story level. That level is very… different from the rest.
I have to say I was quite pleased with Nightsky. From start to finish, you will be engaged in the world that was built. You can even play through the ending credits. Each puzzle you encounter is distinct and some will definitely leave you scratching your heads for a few minutes. The game play, challenge, and replay value is all there and definitely makes this a game worth picking up for fans of the genre. On top of all that, the visual presentation along with the music show that game development can truly be art.