NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits
Now, if you were to say that I'm terrible at platform games, you'd also be missing the perfect opportunity to use words like "fail terribly" or "could not play them at gunpoint". In spite of my overwhelming lack of talent for the genre, I'm completely smitten with NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits, a side-scrolling platformer by Over the Top Games that proves lovely visuals do not always have to come with over-the-top full-motion videos.
Inspired by Greek Mythology, NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits tells the story of Nyx and Icarus. Happy friends in the prologue, it seems that Icarus was struck down and forced onto a terrible, sun-scorched earth. Being the responsible compatriot, Nyx takes it unto herself to investigate the whereabouts of the missing Icarus. As you can imagine, the game takes enormous liberties with its re-intepretation of the old legends; a fortunate turn of circumstances, really, given exactly how scandalous the Greek Gods really were. If Over The Top Games had stayed true to the source material, I don't think the censorship boards would have been too happy with them.
Controls are simple: the [WASD] keys are used to navigate, and the mouse operates gifts the gods eventually grant you. You begin without any supernatural prowess, but as time goes by, you'll acquire a variety of new talents such as telekinesis and the ability to generate fireballs. I'm particularly fond of the former because there's something whimsically entertaining about being able to to set Nyx on a fallen chunk of granite and drag it across the scorching sands like the world's biggest surfboard.
Analysis: NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits is one of those few games that genuinely gets the idea of pacing; no small accomplishment given that even high-profile developers have fallen short of the mark before. Unlike many other platformers out there, this Greecian-inspired title doesn't start out deceptively easy before having its learning curved ramped up for no reason whatsoever. Instead, it seems that the people at Over the Top Games have learned the fine art of building from puzzle to puzzle, smoothly increasing the difficulty of gameplay without even making the transition seem too abrupt or inaccessible.
The only real complaint I have is in the gameplay department. Nyx occasionally dies for the most peculiar reasons. While I've accidentally crushed her a few times beneath a block I had let go over her head, I've found that sometimes even the slightest contact from a piece of masonry would be enough to snuff out the winged protagonist. At first, I didn't think too much about it up till the point where I accidentally dropped another slab of concrete on Nyx's unfortunate head; this one just slid past her and landed harmlessly behind. Since then, I've seen the bug crop up once or twice but it's nothing that really breaks the game; a fly in an otherwise pristine ointment.
As it stands, the excellent mechanics behind the game would have enough to elevate it to the status of memorable. However, NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits also benefits from surprisingly inspired artistic direction. I thoroughly enjoyed both the sound effects and the music tracks that accompanied the game. While nothing on the level of blockbluster productions, NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits still does a beautiful job in capturing the slightly eerie, post-apocalyptic Greece that players are thrown into. I was particularly piqued by the voices of the gods; a strange, garbled tangle of liquid syllables that sounded halfway demonic.
Visually speaking, NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits definitely stands out. The artwork is somewhat reminiscent of a more adult version of Disney's Hercules. The characters are not overtly detailed but still well-done, walking the fine line between caricature and realism very carefully. It is the environment, however, that has my vote. Steam wafts eternally from burning sands. There are ships lying buried in the unnatural desert, broken columns and ruined temples. NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits did a ridiculously awesome job at portraying a world that's larger than life, one that seems almost impossible to surmount. Nyx is absolutely tiny in comparison to her surroundings; something that makes it an absolute delight whenever you succeed in triumphing over a difficult sequence.
Love it for its art, love it for its inventive gameplay, or love it because it's such a great platformer with "awesome" written all over it. NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits is exactly the kind of thing we like to see in a game!