WiiWare has introduced us to a lot of talented developers who seem to have sprung out of nowhere. Think of the likes of Gaijin Games with their Bit.Trip series, Ronimo Games with Swords & Soldiers, and of course 2D Boy with the sublime World of Goo. From the moment that NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits was announced, it already looked like Over the Top Games would be another developer to add to this quickly growing list. Now that it's finally out, does it live up to expectations?
In Nyxquest, you control Nyx, a winged girl who has come down from the heavens because Icarus, a mortal human who used to visit her regularly (with his wax wings, just like in the ancient myth) has gone missing. When she arrives in the world below she finds that it has been absolutely ravaged because of a war between the gods, leaving nothing but a desert wasteland littered with the ruins of civilization.
The game plays somewhat similarly to the excellent WiiWare launch title LostWinds. Nyx can only move around on a two-dimension plane, but the backgrounds, characters and objects are rendered in 3D. She starts off with almost no abilities - moving around, jumping and pushing blocks are abilities expected from pretty much any platform game hero, but she can also use her wings to temporarily glide, and do five extra "hops" in midair to gain extra height or airtime. Nyx can take hits from enemies four times - a fifth time will kill her. Most levels have an abundance of extra health for you to collect, and you also have an infinite amount of lives, so you never really have to worry about things getting too tough.
As Nyx manoeuvres through the levels, she'll gradually gain more abilities directly from the gods. For example, the famous Zeus will rather quickly bestow upon you the ability to "grab" certain blocks and fireballs with your pointer, then moving them around. Naturally, bigger blocks are harder to move, so you'll find that lifting them is nearly impossible, whereas smaller blocks can be thrown all over the place without much trouble. Just watch out you don't throw one on top of Nyx or she'll die instantly – it’s a good thing that there are checkpoints, really! All of the extra "abilities" are performed with the B button, because you move and jump with the control stick and A: this means you can move around and simultaneously use the B button to do other things, which always feels quite satisfying.
There are a total of 13 levels in the game, with the final one being a bonus stage that has to be unlocked. They're all surprisingly long , you'd think the game's great graphics would mean that the levels would almost have to be pretty short, so as not to exceed the maximum WiiWare game size, but most of them will easily take you about 15 minutes to clear, meaning the game totals up to around 3 hours. That's about the expected length for a puzzle/platformer game, but you can't help but feel it's just a little bit too short. It’s hard to begrudge this as the game is so much fun to play: it’s better to be on the short side and packed with innovation than long and drawn out with lots of recycled sections.
NyxQuest also features a two-player mode that we should mention. Sadly, this doesn't let you play with two Nyxes simultaneously. Rather, one player controls Nyx while the other uses the special abilities which are normally mapped to the B button. It's a nice option to have but it’s more of a novelty than anything else.
Of course, you can't play this game without noticing its fantastic visuals. We don't know how they did it, but Over the Top Games has somehow managed to create the best-looking WiiWare game yet. Those screenshots aren't a lie, it actually looks even better in motion. Yes, yes, we know that every single level in the game is set in a desert wasteland, but there's still quite a bit of variety in design between the levels, and you'll probably very softly say "wow" more than once. The music is quite decent too; all of the songs have the ancient Greece vibe which naturally fits all the various structures found around the levels perfectly.
In terms of gameplay NyxQuest does not disappoint. You'll only really encounter two normal enemies, Harpies and Satyrs, and just one "boss" who appears multiple times, the Hydra, but for the most part the game's primary focus is on puzzling anyway, so this can easily be overlooked. You'll get three new abilities throughout the game, so just when you think the levels might start getting repetitive, you'll get a new ability and the levels naturally get puzzles based around it. The developers have thought up multiple clever uses for each ability, managing to fill up every level perfectly.
It’s hard to say quite how much replay value there is in NyxQuest really. There are 20 "relics", items belonging to the gods, scattered around the game's initial 12 stages, and collecting all of them will unlock an extra 13th stage. It's a bit harder than the previous ones, but about the same length. Once you've beaten it there's really nothing else to do. However, although the game's focus is mostly on puzzles, they're not the type of puzzles which, when you know the solutions to them, make the game boring to replay. As with LostWinds we would recommend taking a break and replaying it in a few months to enjoy it all over again.
Over the Top Games is yet another indie developer to keep a watchful eye on. They came out of nowhere with NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits and have managed to create a beautiful looking game which is also lots of fun to play. It’s true that it is not a massive game, you should be able to beat it 100% in just 3 hours, but those 3 hours will be completely filled with pure platforming bliss. This is exactly the sort of thing we want to see more of on WiiWare and comes highly recommended to all.