Review: “Night Sky” (Nintendo 3DS, Monochrome May Special)
Welcome back to Monochrome May, The Splintering’s month-long celebration of all things inspired by color blindness. Sort of. Not really.
Today we’re going to take a look at Night Sky, which was digitally published by Nicalis for the Nintendo 3DS in 2012. Developed by Nicklas Nygren, Night Sky is a unique spin (kill me) on the puzzle platformer, adding rotation physics into the mix as players take control of a spinning, black ball.
Despite this premise, there is actually a story in Night Sky – something about a kid who finds a gleaming orb on the beach and takes it back home. The plot doesn’t play any kind of role in the game itself, as there are no story interludes mid-game, just the opening cinematic and the ending, so there it is.
Each stage requires you to navigate three physics-based puzzle screens before moving to the next stage. The inertia of your big, black marble is not only based on your speed, but also on the direction of your rotation. This takes a bit to get used to, but I adjusted quickly enough.
There’s quite a bit of variety with Night Sky’s level designs and puzzles. Though there’s not too many moving parts on most of the stages, so keeping track of what’s happening on the small handheld screen wasn’t a problem. Some stages give you a boost in speed boost or invert gravity, while others put your marble in a vehicle with its own control scheme, such as balloons, snow sleds, and airplanes. There are also stages that will take away your ability to control your sphere altogether and you instead maintain your marble’s inertia by manipulating the environment itself (blowing up blocks, creating ramps, positioning vehicles or platforms, etc.). All of that considered, I never felt as though I played through the same challenge twice, though I would have liked to see the slingshot more than once. It was a lot of fun to use and doesn’t appear until very late in the game.
For the most part, Night Sky is fairly easy to pick up and play at first, though the difficulty does ramp up significantly by the end. Some areas are rather tough to successfully navigate, while some were even harder just figuring out what to do. Overall, though, Night Sky is a very chill game most of the time, thanks to the generous checkpoints and the lack of a set number of lives. You can keep trying to your heart’s content, never risking being set back very far if you fail. Plus, there isn’t anything that I would describe as “enemies”, and the only thing that can really “kill” you is falling in a pit. It’s definitely possible to get stuck, though, and you’ll have to restart the stage when that happens.
Night Sky’s control scheme doesn’t take advantage of the unique features of the 3DS, as the touch screen isn’t used and the 3D function doesn’t add anything, either. When using the four face buttons and d-pad, I found that the buttons felt frustratingly too close together. It may have been the fault of my morbidly obese thumb (it’s not really all that fat), but I found that I accidentally pushed the wrong button several times. This wouldn’t normally case much of an issue, but considering that one of those buttons causes you to instantly restart a level, you can see how that might become an annoyance.
One of Night Sky’s standout features is its art style. The environments are built using two separate layers, with a black silhouetted foreground set on top of a highly detailed, but simply colored background. I honestly can’t quite call the game as a whole “monochrome”, but some of the stages absolutely feature monochrome palettes and the silhouette aesthetic still evokes a sense of black and white. In addition, this simple-yet-effective visual design offers a simple sense of depth even without the 3D effects.
The soundtrack features some chill tunes, which fit the mood of the game very well but are far too quiet. The 3DS isn’t known for having an impressive speaker, but even when using headphones, Night Sky’s soundtrack didn’t have what I would call adequate volume.
Night Sky is certainly a short game by modern standards, but it’s roughly on par with old school side-scrollers from the early 90s. I beat it in roughly 2-3 hours, and that was after replaying several stages trying to collect extra stars and doing a lot of dying, of course. For those hoping for more in terms of replay value, players can go back and collect stars hidden throughout the main stages which unlock the “Random Nonsense” challenges at the end, which are ridiculously difficult. I also give the developers props for designing the credits in an interactive way, even if the ending was “meh”, overall.
Overall, Night Sky is an enjoyable puzzle-platformer. It has a slick visual design and enough variety to keep your interest as you progress through the stages. I do wish that I could hear the music better and adjust the button configuration to assign one or two of the inputs to the shoulder triggers. For those hoping to pick it up, it’s too late to pick up Night Sky on the 3DS, but it is still available on Steam PC, so give it a shot if it seems up your alley.
And I even got through this entire review without a juvenile joke referencing the whole “black balls” thing.
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