Well, there is a way to htoL#NiQ in normal words so repeat after me “Hotaru” “no”
“Nikki”… Got that? Good, because it is being referred to as game from here on in, because there is no way I am typing htoL#NiQ any more than this… it will get tedious very quickly.
So then what is htoL#NiQ?…. Damn it! I mean what is this game? It is a single player adventure game for the PS Vita that makes use of the systems unique front and rear touch areas. NO! WAIT! Please stay with me…there is no need to run away quite yet.
Remember Murasaki Baby, the Sony produced adventure time where you controlled a baby finding its Mummy using the screen and rear touch to make it follow a balloon? Well if you liked that, then you will get on just fine with htoL#…this game. If not, then to be honest, there is nothing I will say to change your mind or even tempt you into forking out for this. So goodbye and thanks for stopping by.
Those of you who are still with me will want to know what value there is in that game with the weirdly written title. “We understand that it is a game controlled with the screen and rear touch, but we are not put off by this, so tell us what we should expect.”
Let me take you forward to New Year’s Eve 9999, where the young Mion has awoken with amnesia in a dark, dank and seemingly lifeless world. She is joined immediately by a firefly who goes by the name of Hotaru who it seems has been tasked with guiding Mion through the world to her end game.
Now as you know, long time readers of Gamestyle, we don’t like to ruin any story aspects of games, so I will tell you that whilst the game does nothing amazing with the story telling, it is more than competent and you do start to get close to the characters as the game progresses.
Now by controlling Hotaru with the front screen, you will guide where Mion goes, hold the firefly to the right and she will walk right, up over a ladder, she will then climb, that sort of thing. But it isn’t just a simple case of navigating levels, there is a puzzle element to overcome too.
This is where the rear touch pad comes into play. There is another firefly who can exist in the World of Shadow. That firefly can manipulate objects that neither Mion nor Hotaru can reach or interact with in the normal realm. This adds a nice level of logic to the game and keeps it interesting for the most part.
There is some shock value to the world, with it mostly feeling like a ghost town, the art direction here nails the feeling of loneliness and utter despair, along with the deep rooted feeling that it isn’t going to be alright. Again some moments in particular are hard to accept, but I will leave that for you to discover.
Whilst initially I found the control scheme to be awkward and frustrating, wanting instead to be able to use the right stick to control the fireflies, it soon felt natural enough and makes sense with the way the mechanics work.
However it isn’t all positive, as it does at times feel like the game is dragging along, repeating puzzle types so as to extend the life of the game, rather than letting it naturally flow. There are also sections of the game that take you out of the main system and focus on memories. These are often little tasks that are easy to complete and explain things about Mion as her memories come back.
It’s not often I’ll say this, but in this case, it would have been better to have cut-scenes that give you a small break and allow you to soak it up. The change between styles and mechanics is just far too jarring and they aren’t long enough to feel like they warrant being part of the game itself.
That being said, they are the only bad things I can really say about this game, which I managed to play through in a very small number of sittings, because each and every time I went back, I was hooked for what seemed like hours.
htoL#NiQ (there! Last time) doesn’t do anything to define a genre, it isn’t the greatest game you will ever play, but it is competent and interesting for the most part and one you will be glad you played.