Hiversaires is a game about not knowing. Not knowing where you are, or why you're there. Not knowing what those markings on the wall mean. Not knowing where you're supposed to go, or how to get there. But eventually, piece by piece, you start to figure things out.
Created by Aliceffekt, Hiversaires is a first-person point-and-click adventure that drops you cold into a dark, mysterious, monochrome world full of cryptic symbols and machines. You begin on a white stone path pockmarked by abstract trees in a pool of blackness. The first thing in front of you is a white block displaying two unknown symbols on top of each other. To your left is a terminal with a different unknown symbol. Behind the block is a screen showing a circle with four symbols like a compass. Tapping the screen causes the image to change, but what is the significance of it? What purpose does any of this have? That's for Hiversaires to know and for you to find out.
The design of Hiversaires is minimalist in form and function. There are no menus, no inventories, no text, no heads-up display and no clues — save for some subtle cues given at the bottom of the screen. The controls are aptly simple. Tap the center of the screen to move forward, and tap the sides to turn left or right. Anything you need to interact with will always be in the center of your field of vision, so there's no worries about tapping on random areas of the screen to move into an awkward position in order to access something that seems out of reach.
Analysis: When you know nothing, everything you discover is an achievement. Like Myst or Kairo, Hiversaires is a game about exploration and discovery that makes no attempt to lead you, instead letting you come to terms with the world around you in your own time and on your own terms. Everything that can typically bog down adventure titles — pixel-hunting, frustrating item combining, cartoon logic — is stripped away, allowing the game to focus on the puzzles and the atmosphere, both of which are exceptional.
For those who like more information with their games, the stark simplicity of Hiversaires can be disconcerting. Akin to the old adventure games of yore, making your way through the labyrinthine settings requires taking notes — maybe even drawing yourself a map — and taking in full account of your surroundings. But for those who live for the thrill of discovery, who eschew hand-holding for the opportunity to walk into the darkness alone, Hiversaires is a breath of fresh air.
Conceptually and aesthetically beautiful, Hiversaires is one of the finest adventure games to come out in quite a while — certainly one of the best on iOS, if not the best. All of the game's mysteries draw you in, and unraveling them bit by bit in a world that becomes curiouser and curiouser with each turn is enthralling. All of the puzzles are well-constructed out of pure logic, and to say anything more about them would be a disservice. If wandering through a cryptic environment is your cup of cocoa, this is one title you can't pass up.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad 2. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.