By: Casey Curran
And here we are again; another game that has you guide a child through a dangerous world while solving puzzles with htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary. It’s seemingly the backbone of indie game development, as important to smaller developers as invoking nostalgia is to Nintendo. Yet, Nippon Ichi Software proves that there is room for another game like this in the market.
The Firefly Diary is controlled entirely with the touch screen. First, a little disclosure, I am fine with touch screen controls. I wish the 3DS had more touch screen controlled games like the original DS had, as many of my favorite games for the system used them extensively. That being said, the controls here are not good.
The game controls exactly like the DS Zelda games, as you move a fairy around by dragging it across the screen, with the main character following the fairy. Meanwhile, tapping on the touch screen will perform actions on certain objects. Lastly, the rear touchpad is used in the shadow world, as you move across shadows to manipulate items with a second fairy.
These controls are well polished, but they suffer from a bizarre design decision. Rather than the fairy instantly moving across the touch screen, it moves very slowly, staying in place once you remove your finger. This makes sense on the rear pad, as you can only traverse through shadows. In the main world, however, it makes the game feel too unresponsive and frustrating.
The Firefly Diary is absolutely gorgeous, with an art style evoking a variety of areas from a creepy forest to a dark steampunk world. These worlds have their own distinct flavor, offering plenty of variety. However, each has one thing in common: a bunch of dangerous hazards as well as some hidden monsters all waiting to attack.
The music is very soft and ominous, adding to the tension while the sound effects either mirror the music or throw a sharp sound, demonstrating a clear sense of danger near. This game just nails its look and feel resulting in a fantastic atmosphere.
This game is pretty much Limbo controlled with a touch screen. You play a vulnerable character in a mysterious and dangerous world and must solve puzzles to prevent the many nearby hazards and monsters from killing you.
The dual worlds are a great mechanic for these puzzles, requiring you to consider every idea demonstrated in the past and check if there’s any potential for a new solution. The puzzles pretty much achieve the right balance in that they offer plenty of difficulty and will result in deaths, but they never feel too obscure.
The problem, however, is that these controls hold the game back in the main world. The game is very slow paced, which helps keep the cheap deaths caused by the controls from piling up too high. This extremely methodical pace combined with the controls, however, makes experimenting and trial and error super slow, which goes against what makes figuring out the solutions fun.
So with any wrong ideas trying the next idea takes an annoyingly long time, making some segments a chore to play. I’m fine with a slow paced game, but this one requires everything to take way too long, which hurts the game overall.
htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is an unfortunate kind of game, where the developers are clearly talented and thought out everything well, but they just made one design decision that doesn’t work and brings everything else down. It’s still a quality experience, but revolving the game around leisurely fairy movement makes the pacing too slow to stay fun consistently.