How in the world are you even supposed to pronounce the name of this game? That’s the first question that htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary posed to me. The new title from NIS is more than just a bit of a struggle to say – well, the first part of it at least – and that alone isn’t doing this game any favors. In fact, aside from its brilliant artwork and atmosphere I can’t find much appealing about this creepy puzzle game. The movement is painfully slow, the puzzles are difficult to overcome and the overall experience suffers greatly from a lack of direction. There’s not a whole lot of positive things that I have to say about this game other than stating that it is, at most, an interesting experiment in minimalism.
htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is one of the few titles I’ve played in recent memory where I’ve had to force myself to keep going. There’s really nothing compelling about it and it didn’t offer any incentive for me to return. I didn’t find the game’s main character, Mion, appealing in any way and the game’s distinct lack of text left me quite confused when it came to the story’s direction. This is where the minimalism comes in, because aside from the initial tutorials and prompts there is no text, no guidance, nothing that helps the player to understand what’s going on with little Mion, or why anyone should care. I’m not normally one to harp on minimalism in gaming, in fact I appreciate it when a developer assumes that its player is smart, but when there’s nothing compelling in terms of story or gameplay to keep me going then why should I continue?
"In fact, aside from its brilliant artwork and atmosphere I can’t find much appealing about this creepy puzzle game."
The majority of htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary is controlled via the front touchscreen and the rear touchpad. You control Mion by manipulating her firefly companions. You use the fireflies to light the way and little Mion follows and will interact with objects in the world via tapping the screen with the firefly nearby. The puzzles get a bit deeper when you incorporate the two different game-worlds together. There’s a light and a dark world and the player will find themselves bouncing between the two quite regularly to solve puzzles.
"The game’s atmosphere and art style are the two best things that htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary has going for it."
The puzzles are generally pretty generic, and include the usual find-this-switch-and-flip-it mechanics. The game becomes a trial in patience though, because of Mion’s abysmally slow movement speed. Combine this with her even slower animations (why does it take so long to get on and off a ladder?) and I guarantee that after a while most players will find themselves frustrated by completing the simplest of tasks. Mion’s slow movement speed becomes even more apparent during the later levels, when saws and other objects of death come speeding at you and Mion is still taking her sweet time journeying through the danger. It’s frustrating to say the least, and it’s really something I wouldn’t recommend subjecting yourself to.
"I can’t say I recommend htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary. It’s just not a good game, and after I finished enjoying the beautiful scenery there wasn’t much of a leftover incentive for me to continue."
The game’s atmosphere and art style are the two best things that htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary has going for it. The game does have a decent finale if you’re able to trudge through the rest of the bogged down nonsense, but I wouldn’t say it’s worth the price of admission. There’s an element of creepiness to the whole game, and though I think the control scheme is supposed to heighten the tension – think Resident Evil’s tank controls – I think that the art style conveys the dark brooding atmosphere successfully without the unnecessary inclusion of deliberately slow and imprecise controls.
I can’t say I recommend htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary. It’s just not a good game, and after I finished enjoying the beautiful scenery there wasn’t much of a leftover incentive for me to continue. There are a number of flashbacks that can be collected by replaying certain levels, and I’m sure that would help with the overall narrative, but I couldn’t bring myself to replay the same droll concept over and over again. NIS fanatics might still be inclined to give this title a shot, but be prepared for an exercise in frustration.
Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: Playstation Vita