The title screen for NightSky, though bland and draped in darkness, actually has a point. There are three different slots for your saved games, and maybe the developers didn’t intend this theme, but I’m going to put it here anyway. Each slot signifies a road into NightSky, a different way of seeing its world and solving its mysteries.
The three slots can also signify the visual, audio, and game play experience that constitute the NightSky experience. Having never played the title when it was released on PC and the Nintendo 3DS, I came to the game with fresh eyes. The idea of an individual finding a crystal sphere on the beach and having dreams just from that discovery certainly peaked my interest. Although you navigate the sphere through different terrain, the adventure may also serve as the unfurling of the person’s imagination.
If you want to use the tutorial, play NightSky through the Normal mode to learn how to move the sphere using various swiping and touching techniques. Tilt and digital controls are also options, but swiping is definitely the best way to navigate through the journey. For gamers who don’t like being told what to do, the Alternative mode, where controls are learned on the fly and the mysteries are a bit more difficult, is the way to go. Since I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, guess which mode I picked?
Game play for NightSky can be absolutely unforgiving. Since the sphere can, at times, defy gravity, its movements are often unpredictable. Coupled with the intricate structures and unyielding landscape that lay ahead, solving the puzzles can be a bit of a pain — literally. One sequence had me furiously swiping my iPad for half an hour, and although I actually had the puzzle solved in my mind, controlling the sphere to correctly bend to its environment was an absolute nightmare. Gamers, once you get to the Old Ruins and see the following picture below, make sure your fingers are properly rested, since you’ll be swiping more times than a polygamist.
The fascinating part about NightSky is that even if you are frustrated with a puzzle, the title’s visuals are absolutely stunning. Stark and shadowy, the images paint a unique portrait of a world shrouded in enigma. Although the animals you encounter along the way are just part of the scenery, your death will usually occur with a mistimed jump or falling down a hole of no return. I’ve already died at least a 100 times in NightSky, but all those pretty pictures keep my frustrations to a healthy simmer.
What will keep me coming back for more, however, is not the arresting visuals or gameplay. Musician Chris Schlarb’s soundtrack to NIghtSky, with puts gamers into an entirely different head space, is the game changer. For fans of ambient music or folks who just need to chill, NightSky excels as an iOS music player. Simply put the game on pause and listen to the music, and it’s bound to put you at ease, even if it’s just for a few moments. The score from the game, as well as a brief recap on how the music was developed, can be found on Chris Scharb’s NightSky blog.
NightSky is a puzzler that continues to intrigue, even though some of its mysteries are downright frustrating. Everything is a puzzle in this game, even its end credits! If you’re looking for an action packed title filled with gold coins to collect, keep on moving. NightSky is a cerebral and absorbing experience that allows gamers to dream their hearts out, one crystal sphere at a time.