htoL#NiQ might seem like a jumbling of letters thrown together to title the game for the US but the games title is just a unique way to translate the Japanese title “Hotaru no Nikki” which in English translates out to “Firefly’s Diary”. The world is illustrated as if it was sketched with colored pencils, and is one of the few games that is really engaging and unique without having any dialog what so ever.
First off, you’re going to die a lot in this game, this might be from just trial and error trying to figure out what to do or maybe your timing was off as well, sometimes though it’s just the game’s controls not being as polished as they should have been. I’m hard-pressed to say that this game seems like a ‘death simulator’ as I could not tell you the amount of times I died trying to complete the game. The game doesn’t have any of the usual interface displays most games have, gone is the health bar, mini-map and it seems to have this dark and mysterious tone and light flickers throughout the game that just add to the styling of the game. So the main thing you do in this game is use the two fireflies to guide and interact with the environment while Mion moves, you have no real direct control over Mion in this game, instead all you really have to do in the game is move the fireflies around, with Lumen where you move her Mion will start to follow at a slow and sometimes jittery pace, whereas when you move Umbra the game sort of pauses as you can navigate the shadows. Most of the levels are very puzzle orientated and you will need to really think ahead of where to move and when, like I said this game is very trial and error heavy as I would assume no one can just navigate the game completely without dying.
In htoL #NiQ you follow the story of Mion, a young girl who is mute. As she awakens from a slumber she finds herself in a desolate world filled with ruin and she has no memories of how she got there or what happened here to make it so bad. Early on she is quickly accompanied by two very different fireflies, Lumen who exists in and represents the light, and Umbra, that exists in the shadows. Working together, Mion and her two fireflies begin a journey through ‘hell’ in order to figure out what’s going on and why, but to also try and escape the nightmare that they now find themselves in.
The one place that this game really shines is in it’s visual representation, the very light-hearted drawing design of Mion in contrast to the dark atmosphere and vibrant color choices for the fireflies never gets old and makes the game appealing while you continue to die uncontrollably while playing. The game’s soundtrack was a different story all together, while at times the music fit the atmosphere of the game itself it really didn’t have the soundtrack that could fit the mood the game was trying to set, the one thing I would change about the game is to make it not sound so generic as it could have easily been the same soundtrack from a game like The Swapper (I use that as an example as I just played that on the PS4) or well any indie game that has been released in the last six months for that matter.
Originality in gaming is something that is getting harder and harder to find now a days, while this game isn’t going to be talked about for years to come as a game that really helped make the PS Vita’s library more solid, it’s definitely a game that was able to do what most couldn’t and probably won’t try to do; tell a story without any talking, but with a visual presentation and sounds that made you feel the story rather than have it just handed to you and told what was going on in ‘black and white’.
The Big Question:
The big question for me was if this game was going to keep me engaged or just leave me confused and not wanting to be bothered playing it anymore, and I can say that while finishing the game still left me feeling like there should have been more and that the story could have easily been improved on with more content it was still a fun game. If you like a challenge then this is a game for you.
It’s difficult to really look at the true value of this game, as it would be different for each person. I see this game as a unique and visually appealing game that while I was frustrated 90% of the time playing it I still found this attachment to it as I wanted to figure out the story and what this world was, plus finding collectibles in the game and also Memory Fragment sprouts that add flashbacks which help tell the game’s story. It’s also one of the few times I’ve played a game that had no dialog or anything to help tell the story but still had me hooked while playing.