+Intriguing use of the front and rear Vita touchpads
+Challenging stages that offer plenty of puzzle variations
+An intriguing story told through scenery and actions
-At times unresponsive reactions when using shadow world firefly
-Can, at times, be boring and cumbersome to play
-Lack of analog controls makes the game hard to play for those on the go
htoL#NiQ, also known by Hotaru no Nikki, is by all the means is a beautiful game. It is one that I’ve been closely tracking since it’s Japanese launch and was almost tempted on more than one occasion to download it. Before I begin, I want to applaud Nippon Icchi Software America for picking up this title, it is gorgeous, and at times gives players a truly troubling story that is told through the scenery and the actions of the characters. So where do we begin? First of all, we’ll begin with introducing the game. htoL#NiQ tells the story of an amnesiac child by the name of Mion whom has awoken in December 31, 9999, and has come to witness the dark and desolate world that has been left in ruins. Unfortunately, Mion has to escape the rubble she is stuck in so that she may see the outside world and hope for the best. In this story, Mion is lead by her companion firefly Hotaru whom is leading her through her journey upwards through the ruins Mion is stuck in. Unfortunately, not all that looks good – is good. With distorted and ruthless shadows, machines, and the bodies of dead children hanging around in random areas, Mion is put into a world that looks like it may not all be that great when she gets out.
In our exploration the game instantly opens up with some of the most beautiful art that one could expect to see for a game such as this, but afterwards our eyes will be drawn from enjoying this portion to a tutorial that teaches players how to control both Hotaru and Mion. Hotaru, being our playable character that guides Mion. Once players have become accustomed to using both the front and rear touch pads to control both Mion and Hotaru, it is time to try and get to safety. Within the game the atmosphere fits the setting with rather industrial areas that seem drab and dark, htoL#NiQ seems to try and boast a lot about its atmosphere, which it deserves to do, which is where I will leave it at that. This game is gorgeous is all that can be said to keep from going on a spew regarding it.
But in many ways, I felt that is where the games controls began to go downhill since the levels will eventually require players to have quick reactions to maneuver Hotaru and Mion from dying due to shadows, machines, and even the terrain that can be rather brutal. At times, it will become frustrating at how fast or slow the game seems to be. Though, that is where the charm comes in regarding the games puzzles that have a rather decent pacing until late in the game, which is where the game seems to have gone downhill and slowed down to a point I felt like I had chain and ball hanging on my thumbs. This is unfortunate since many of the games level designs (some of them overly challenging and left me rage quitting – admittedly) are almost too hard to do without a analog stick since they are almost impossible at times. With Hotaru at the lead, it’s not surprising to see that the developer has brought a few challenges that players will not expect, these challenges include Mion becoming confused and walking in the opposite direction of what Hotaru is in. This will lead players to needing to adapt and overcome in levels where they must use devices to protect Mion from floating up into saw blades, shadows, or simply just a terrain that will kill her. With this happening seemingly quite often, players will find themselves muttering, grunting, or even yelling in pure frustration since Mion seems to walk slowly above a world of death that awaits to claim her.
When not worrying about death, players will be growing frustrating with the slowly adapting touch screen controls, which will leave them frustrated when trying to move Mion up ladders, over boxes, and even to release items for some boss fights that will require her to run away. With Mion being as slow as she is, it’s hard not to get a cringe going when trying to re-position your firefly (Hotaru) where you need it. If you don’t when climbing up a ladder or box for example? You may end up dismounting it back to where you came from, this can be annoying and lead some players who want a faster pace to walk away and move onto another game; something I admittedly found myself doing multiple times before coming back to htoL#NiQ. This admittedly is a good thing though since it has actually shown that htoL#NiQ (Hotaru no Nikki) has some lure to it and will keep frustrated players coming back for more in order to find more saplings and even help Mion regain her memories.
With this exploration for such items, the question in mind that comes is the wondering of something else – where is the sprint? Does Mion just not know how to run or have the designers decided to omit this from the game on purpose? With moments of urgency that pop up, it would have been nice to see Mion run depending on how fast Hotaru is from her, which would make moving back and forth across the larger puzzle rooms rather nice while trying to also avoid falling death that tends to happen quite often throughout the game. On the bright side, the slow scenes due seem to end rather quickly thanks to events that help relieve this bit of annoyance throughout the game. We can only hope this is something that is added in if the game ever gets analog stick support.
When stepping away from the minor annoyances of the game, htoL#NiQ is a charming game that finds itself as a touch screen puzzle title that could easily find itself launching on tablets, phones, and other devices including the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. The Nintendo 3DS? It would have been a rather charming addition to the game thanks to the New Nintendo 3DS implemented C-Stick and Adaptive 3D. However, that is not a portion for me to discuss, which leaves me trying to revisit Hotaru no Nikki again so that I may snag up all this difficult (at times) to obtain Saplings so that Mion can regain her memories.
Final Score: 6 out of 10
Editor’s Note: This version of the game is based upon a pre-release retail version of the game. Our copy was provided to us by the games publisher. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, MMO’s, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable and can’t be softened by even the biggest names in the gaming industry. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. To follow Dustin, hit him up on Twitter over at @GamingAnomaly, find him on his Google+. Wanna game with him? You can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.