Nelly 2: Ep.1 is the first installment in the sequel to Black Square Studios' original macabre puzzle platform adventure game, and it will make you go "Huh?" and "Zhuh?!" but also "Oooh" and "Ahh". Little Nelly lives all alone in the deep dark forest, where peril literally waits at every turn. But when she goes out one night, she discovers a friend, and some new abilities, that may take her places she never imagined. Use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move and jump, and [spacebar] to interact when a question mark appears above Nelly's head. Not everything you can use is friendly, and in fact most of it is fatal, but the game provides enough checkpoints that the setbacks are only temporary in the wah-wah-waaaah sad trombone way.
Early in the game, Nelly gains an amulet that allows her to change the forest around her back and forth with the [Z] key, which can allow you to reach places you previously couldn't, or even manipulate obstacles and objects. When Nelly finds her new friend, [X] will allow her to set him down, and then call him back to pick him up again, but by far his most useful ability is to eat any berries you place him next to, which can alter him in ways that will let you get around differently. In a lot of ways, it's a dramatic change over the original both in style and in gameplay. It leans more heavily on puzzles that require a bit of thought this time around, making it feel less like the game is simply there to showcase how purdy the art is. It is gorgeous, though, with its mellow soundtrack and otherworldly visuals, and a myriad of little touches, like the way your little friend anxiously whimpers and hops when you leave him behind, makes for an engrossing experience.
The game is, unfortunately, still a little buggy. You can wind up standing around for a while waiting for your fuzzy friend to chow down on a berry, especially if you use your powers to grow a new one. It's also not really what you'd call difficult initially, neither in the mental or platforming sense, and apart from accidentally snapping the kid's neck from a long fall (sorry kiddo, walk it off) you probably won't encounter a whole lot of trouble. It isn't until about midway through the game when a rather gruesome twist is introduced that it becomes a bit more of a challenge, and reflexes come into play in a way that may disappoint players who prefer the more puzzle-like aspects and mood they bring. It does feel like it's working hard to evolve from the much, much simpler game its predecessor was, and that's always good, especially since the controls here are significantly improved over an earlier version of this I played, which shows a dedication to improvement. Though it has its wrinkles, Nelly 2: Ep.1 is a gorgeous game that paints a vivid dark world full of scares and surprises you'll wish you knew more about.