“NightSky” is a new game from independent game studio Nicalis, best known for their work on the WiiWare version of “Cave Story.”
Those familiar with their version of Pixel’s masterpiece likely won’t find much familiarity in the world of “NightSky,” a puzzle-platform hybrid that demands mastery of the physics of a rolling ball.
Text beyond this point may contain spoilers
Players can spin the ball clockwise or counter-clockwise while fighting gravity, building momentum or adjusting speed as necessary to conquer the game’s increasingly difficult puzzles. “NightSky” delights in inviting the player to constantly reassess their understanding of the game’s world by throwing in all manner of clever surprises and puzzles to solve.
The increasingly inventive and difficult puzzles may perplex and occasionally frustrate, but the game’s laid-back approach to problem-solving, with infinite retrys and ample checkpoints creates an engrossing experience that invites the player to stick around just a bit longer after every puzzle.
Though players may find themselves stretching the boundaries of what they thought a giant rolling sphere would be capable of, the game never feels so abstract as to be unfair. Indeed, the addictive nature of the games’ puzzles, as well as the constant surprise of what awaits the player in the next level, are “NightSky’s” greatest assets.
Aurally, the game is appropriately ambient, creating a calming mood that compliments the serene atmosphere. Sounds of nature are seamlessly integrated into pleasant guitar work as well as some more surprising musical accompaniments. The score rarely overwhelms, but is nonetheless tasteful and appropriate.
“NightSky” seems to delight in its own visual simplicity, decorating the terrain with all manner of sky-inspired backdrops and silhouetted visual accents. There is always something interesting to look at in the world of the rolling ball.
However, since all objects, both interactive and non-interactive, are sometimes indistinguishable from one another, this creates some level of confusion. Though this is usually easily solved with some creative ball-rolling experimentation, some visual differentiation during the more difficult puzzles would likely save some headache and frustration.
Curiously, “NightSky” also has a story to frame its various irreconcilable puzzle worlds. Penned by the famous game designer Pixel, players should not expect any sort of dramatic plot twists or shocking events to unfurl. Like most everything else in the game, it provides a framework and an ambience, but little further.
“NightSky” is a refreshing take on the eponymous rolling ball genre. With delightful ambience and inventive level designs at a low asking price, there’s little reason not to take the plunge. Though the puzzles lose some of their charm after your initial playthrough, “NightSky” does its best to keep things fresh with unlockable bonus stages as well as an “Alternative” mode which remixes all the puzzles and cranks up the difficulty. Overall, there’s no shortage of content.
NightSky is available as a 10 dollar download from nicalis.com for Windows operating systems. A WiiWare version is also in the works.
Overall Score: 88