Review | htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary
htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary, (pronounced “Hotaru no Nikki“) is a puzzle game set to arrive on the PlayStation Vita in physical and digital formats on February 24, 2015. Is it worth your time? Let’s find out.
You take control of two fairies, Lumen and Umbra, as they attempt to guide a young girl with antlers named Mion through a dark, desolate world. As you guide the young girl, you may encounter memory fragments, which comprise the game’s story, telling of Mion’s past through interactive scenes. The ending you get will depend on the number of these fragments that you can recover in each stage.
You can utilize htoL#NiQ’s default touch screen controls to move the two fairies, or you can swap over to a non-touch screen setup. If you’re like me, you’ll be swapping the setup rather quickly. The touch screen controls caused me to die on numerous occasions, most notably in a maze early on that you must navigate one of the fairies through. If you touch any wall in this maze (or get hit by any objects within), it’s game over and you’ll need to restart at the closest checkpoint. I was unable to navigate this maze at first for one reason: My finger is simply a bit too big for the screen, and as such, I couldn’t accurately see where my fairy was as I attempted to get through it.
If you decide to utilize the default controls, then you’ll use the Vita’s front touch screen to move Lumen around. Mion, the young amnesiac girl, will follow Lumen… slowly. To be honest, it feels as if she moves a bit too slow, and it makes it difficult to avoid some of the seemingly random traps that can kill her instantly. It’s even more difficult when you realize that it will take Mion a second to begin moving when you place Lumen in an area to guide her.
As Mion moves and encounters objects, she will push them. If she comes across ladders, you will need to move Lumen so that she will climb up or down them. Unfortunately, there may be times when you have her climb one then try to move her on, but she’ll begin climbing the opposite direction because you weren’t quite perfect in your placement of Lumen.
When you need to swap to Umbra, you’ll tap the rear touch pad and proceed to utilize said touch pad to maneuver this firefly. Umbra can interact with certain objects, but it is limited to the shadow realm, so you’ll need to time things perfectly in many cases to utilize Umbra the way you need to in order to advance.
The game will require you to die quite often in stages as you attempt to learn timing necessary to advance. Of course, even knowing the timing needed doesn’t mean that you’ll be in the clear. The game’s controls can work against it as there is a slight delay when swapping fairies. Due to this I died several times in a certain area, despite knowing how/when I needed to hit the rear pad so that Umbra could move to an otherwise inaccessible place.
Though the deaths caused by controls can be frustrating, the developers alleviated this somewhat by placing checkpoints throughout the stage. These checkpoints are, mostly, in good places, and the loading time is almost instant. While it isn’t fun to die for the twentieth time while trying to utilize perfect timing, only having to play between five and twenty seconds before arriving at the spot you died in, rather than having to restart the full stage or something similar, makes everything a bit better.
htoL#NiQ’s art and music are, in a word, fantastic. Though the stages can be somewhat forgettable, due, perhaps to being designed simply to constantly challenge the player, these two really make the game stand out. The gloomy atmosphere, combined with the cutesy character design, makes for quite a nice contrast, and the music is fantastic at setting the mood.
Overall, I must say that htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is a decent, if rather unforgiving, game. The puzzles can be frustrating, and the trial-and-error design it utilizes may turn off quite a few players. That said, gamers who love a challenge (like myself) and fans of the genre should enjoy it. Unfortunately it isn’t a great game by any stretch of the imagination, and the sometimes frustrating controls hold it back quite a bit. If they were a bit more responsive, I’d be able to add another half point to the score, but as it stands…
Final Score: 3/5