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JPublic Will Play It - April 2011 - NightSky

Posted 04-02-2011 at 11:46 AM by jpublic
Developer: Nicalis
Publisher: Nicalis
Platform: PC (Steam), Wii (Wiiware)
Price: $10

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Due to a cavalcade of personal challenges, this month is a short one.

For this April's installment of JPWPI, I run through... NightSky. From what I find on the 'net, NightSky was an Independant Games Festival Seumas McNally (Grand Prize) finalist, so it should be entertaining.

Side note: Way to go, Steam, and misspell the dude's name on the store page. Real respectful.

NightSky is supposed to be an action-puzzle game featuring realistic physics, beautiful and surreal ambient visuals, and a soundtrack by an experimental Jazz musician, Chris Schlarb.

I'll be honest, upon starting the game I went: "This looks like it should be on Kongregate." I'm not trying to be mean here, the game starts in a miniscule window you can't can't change. Now I'm a huge advocate for windowed mode in games, but a 600x340 window is a mite too tiny.

So, I select a save slot, go to start, and wow, no mouse control, keyboard only. Okay... let's go.

I'm asked to choose between Normal mode, which has tutorials and the harder Alternative mode, which doesn't. We'll take the advice given and save Alternative mode for later.

Level 1. The Beach. Wait, story. Our protagonist finds a mysterious sphere on the beach, which he takes home, and how he as weird dreams about it.


So, in the start, we're on the beach, and I'm to roll the sphere around. Or rather, I'm to roll it right. That's the whole level. Roll it off the screen.

The initial gameplay screen. No resizing, it is that tiny. Sorry about the evil yellow skyfire in the center.

Level 2, Harara Mountains. In this level, we're shown how to use momentum to jump gaps, and to use the S key to get a speed boost. It's a substantially longer level. At one point, we get warned that powers (like the speed boost) are not always available. We're also told how to use the reset shortcut (Space).

During one section, I run into a hidden cave I can enter with the sphere. Going in there nets us a star (yay?) and allows us to skip the rest of the section. I go back to try it anyway, and see why they did it - tricky jump.

Next, we come across a green cursor, which highlights something on the screen we can activate - in this case, it deletes a platform which allows something to fall to create a path.

Following that, our next new element is pinball flippers. We don't get told how to activate them, I only figure it out via trial and error (movement keys also trigger flippers, but only when near).

Next lesson - some objects can be pushed around the stage by the sphere, and sometimes you may have to hunt around for the element you need to push to fill a gap.

After that the trick in the next stage is that you can't control the sphere's movement, you can only use A to brake (a new power). A cute bit is that eventually you roll onto a wagon, and have to brake to transfer your momentum to it.

Next trick is reversible gravity (a new power). A neat twist on this is that the game reveals to you on this level you're not moving the ball, you're spinning it. This is key, because when you're rolling on the ceiling your movement is effectively reversed! Tricky.

Also in this one we get taught precision movement, using A to break and left/right to move slowly.

For the last two lessons, it's another ride on a cart, and finally a little bit of platforming without any powers at all!

On to Level 3, Skymning. This one has no tutorial at all, and seems generally simple, until I run into an annoying series of pendulum puzzles, which seemed to require reaching the sphere back and forth and ramming them into a hanging weight.

Fun with pendulums. I have to push that sphere to the right down.

After that, the puzzles in general tended to focus on the rotational impulses we applied to the sphere. In one, we were inside a cart, and the spinning of the sphere was transferred to the wheels to move us around. In another we had to use the sphere to roll a plank out of the way.

Now, Level 4, the Old Ruins. The first stage in this level was really notable because there were two solutions - you could ride on a hanging basket along a rail track, or you could use the super speed power to bounce around the lower part.

I continued on in this level, past some interesting puzzles with fans that you have to maneuver around/through, and reach my first stoppage point.

Now, this needs to be explained. In most puzzle/platformer games of this type, I reach a critical annoyance threshold, at which point I'm usually driven to instantly uninstall/delete the game. It was in level 4, dealing with a puzzle on a series of broken windmills, that I reached said threshold, and it was only my sense of duty to you, my readers, that stopped me from deleting the badamned game. Instead, I put it down for a while.

When I came back to it, I played a few more levels until I reached my next stoppage point, a particularly irritating series of stages. Each one was 3 screens long, and I continually died on the 2nd or 3rd screen, and had to go back to do the whole series again. GAH.


I have to admit, I'm finding it very hard to recommend NightSky to anyone. The game is really little more than a decent Flash game. Nothing it does, from graphics, to sounds, to gameplay, to even the presentation is anything more than I've seen hundreds of times before offered free on the net.

None the less, it is a decent experience, and a somewhat fun and fairly challenging physics platformer/puzzler. When I wasn't frustrated with my inability to complete a challenge, I had an okay time with it.

All in all, if you can get a great deal and like the genre, go for it, but don't pay a premium. But really, just watch the Free and Worth Every Penny feature and something better will roll by.

1) The JPublic Fun Rating: 2.5 out of 5

2) The JPublic Irritation Rating: 4.5 out of 5

3) The JPublic Value Point: $1

Discussion can be found here.

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