(3DS eShop)

NightSky (3DS eShop)

Game Review

NightSky Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

A perfect circle

Three years ago, Nicalis announced a game called NightSky for release on WiiWare. Needless to say that never happened, but the project was far from dead. Last year our excitement was renewed by the news that NightSky would instead be released for the 3DS eShop, and now, at long last, it's finally here.

The question everyone should be asking themselves is this: was it worth the wait?

We can answer, without hesitation, yes. NightSky is an absolutely brilliant experience. Every screen is lovingly crafted and each puzzle serves the dual purpose of pulling you forward and preparing you for the ones still to come, with one of the most well-managed learning curves we've ever seen in a physics-based puzzler.

The story is decidedly slight and open to endless interpretation — particularly after the game is complete — which is in keeping with the main theme of the game: elegant simplicity. You control a black sphere — at least, you usually do, but to say any more than that would be spoiling — and it's up to you to maneuver it forward, from screen to screen, area to area, level to level, in search of...what? Toward what? That much is unclear...and yet NightSky still pulls you along, through tricky and treacherous hazards, through perfectly layered puzzle types, through a dreamscape that doesn't so much change as it does evolve.

Typically, you control the sphere with either the circle pad or the D-pad, left and right controlling its rotation but — depending upon the context — not always its direction. The B button can sometimes be used to brake, the Y button can sometimes be used to speed up, and the A button can sometimes trigger background events. These controls can change from area to area, and often do, making regular experimentation mandatory. An area may look simple at first glance, as your eyes trace the path the sphere must take and your mind works out how to get it there, but then your fingers touch the controls and you realise they no longer work in the same way, or do things that are quite different from what you'd expect. NightSky keeps you on your toes, and your strategy can — and often does — change from room to room.

It's a simple approach but it's perfectly refined, and like indie darlings Braid, Limbo, or even World of Goo, it's an experience defined by its atmosphere. The gorgeous silhouettes of far off structures and suggestions of civilization provide a feeling of passively profound scope, with the simple dipping of a tree's bough or an emerging head of a curious animal infusing what could have been an emotionless, geometric puzzler with a sense of life, of weight, and of importance.

Many times we found ourselves rolling back onto screens we've just solved, just so we could appreciate the simplistic beauty of the scenery. The 3D is put here to subtle but effective use, coddling the world beyond the action in a gentle, mystical fog that really feels like it could stretch back for miles.

The soundtrack likewise manages to be both unobtrusive and stunning, with simple melodies almost lost behind the quietness of the game itself. Even with the volume turned all the way up, it's easy to lose track of the music. That's good, because it lets the tactile experience dominate, and when your awareness of the music does return, it's typically because you've managed to solve a puzzle that held you so rapt you could no longer hear it. It's there, in the background, but it does not find you...you find it. And it's absolutely lovely.

The game itself is broken into 10 main levels, each of which consists of a large number of smaller areas, which themselves are typically composed of three screens. Puzzles can span entire areas, encouraging you to consider the consequences of even the smallest actions. A stone disturbed on the first screen can obstruct your progress on the third. Other times you will be made to double back in order to take a previously unnoticed path between screens. There's always something you can miss — and missing it is part of the fun. You respawn quickly and at any time can reset the area with a touch of the X button.

You'll become familiar with tricky puzzles the same way you would a rich and complicated non player character...but once you figure these out, you won't be meeting them again. NightSky does not repeat its puzzles, which helps it to avoid ever wearing out its welcome, and always keeps you looking forward to what it will throw at you next.

There are two difficulty settings, the harder one removing on-screen instructions and even further limiting the capabilities of your sphere, often redefining the experience entirely by taking away your ability to brake. This forces you to make fluid, continuous decisions without stopping for further consideration. It feels like an almost entirely different game in itself, and ensures at least two distinct play-throughs for those who allow themselves to get caught in NightSky's spell.

Additionally, there are a number of stars hidden throughout the game. Collecting them will open up an optional 11th level, and locating them will require you to find even more tricky solutions to the already fiendish puzzles. There's arguably also a 12th level in the form of one of the most beautiful credits sequences we're ever likely to see, and though it lacks for challenge it absolutely bursts with atmosphere.

NightSky is a great game, but it's also a great experience. It's an oddly gripping series of simple tasks and creative obstacles, one which boils gaming down to its purest form and raises intriguing questions about the nature of reality and imagination. It's a game that keeps you guessing, and which keeps you moving. It's been several years in the making, but every minute of that has been put to good use. Don't let this one roll by.


Nintendo fans have been waiting a long time for NightSky, and they won't be disappointed. The finished product is gorgeous, flawlessly designed and bracingly atmospheric, with perfect controls, clever puzzles, and an endlessly evolving play style that will never see you solving the same puzzle the same way twice. Hidden stars, a locked world and an advanced difficulty lend the experience significant replayability, but even if it offered only a single playthrough, it's not an experience that could soon be forgotten. At last, the 3DS eShop has its masterpiece.

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User Comments (132)



Spoony_Tech said:

Ugh! Too many good games competing for my attention. I wasn't planing on getting this but now I have to. I guess that's not a bad thing.



BenAV said:

Oh wow, nice.
Now to wait a thousand years for it to reach the PAL regions.



TheInvisibleTor said:

Holy crap, is that like the first 10 for any 3dsware game? I'm totally getting this game, though how much does it cost. No matter, i'll buy it at any price.



Fudge said:

I'll make sure to grab this. I own it on PC and I liked it from the bit I played of it, but I loved the 3DS version of VVVVVV so I'm definitely getting this. The score though, caught me off guard.



Aqueous said:

A perfect score? They let you review a 10 game in your eyes?
I may reconsider this one then, I was going to let it pass.



Geonjaha said:

"At last, the 3DS eShop has its masterpiece."
You seem to have forgotten about VVVVVV.



Raylax said:

Known Nifflas' games since he was making MMF2 titles like Knytt Stories on the Clickteam forums. They're always amazing an beautifully hypnotic



Mollutje said:

Please let this come to Europe as well.. pretty please! I'd hate to have to miss out on this one.



emayer said:

Can't wait to get this game on my 3DS. It's a fantastic game!

What's the bottom screen used for? From the screenshots, it just looks like pretty scenery.



PixelatedPixie said:

I respect peoples opinons and I'm glad that some people clearly love this game, but I think giving it a 10 is hugely overrating just how good this game is. I eventually gave up waiting for this to be released on a Nintendo platform and purchased it on Steam. It was a game I had been following for years and had been eagerly anticipating. When I finally played it though, for my tastes it was too easy, and it failed to really take the mechanics anywhere interesting. I had a pleasent enough experience playing it (much of it due to the great acoustic soundtrack) but it failed to make any lasting impression.



Auracle said:

Very nice! This sounds like an excellent game. I will now have to reconsider purchasing the Denpa Men as this sounds like a masterpiece. Great review Philip.



GeminiSaint said:

I remember playing the demo some time ago.
I found it so dull and boring.
I guess Nifflas' games just aren't for me.
Needless to say, I absolutely disagree with the 10/10 score.



TheDreamingHawk said:

A 10???? I never expected that! Getting it when I can. Also kinda jealous that one of my friends ( Not a NL staff member) somehow managed to get a review code...



Tethers said:

@ PixelatedPixie & "When I finally played it though, for my tastes it was too easy"

After playing through NightSky, you can start a new game with a higher difficulty.



HandheldGuru97 said:

Wow I was going to get this a few months down the road, but know...well I may have wait a few days because I am flat broke. November 1st better hurry up so I can play this "masterpiece".



Wonder_Ideal said:

I'm going to have to look into this one one. Anybody have any idea on how much it will cost in the U.S?



sonic_brawler95 said:

How much space does it take up?
I was always planning on buying it, but I am running low on space at the moment... :I



Flowerlark said:

Yes, I've seen $9.99 as well. That seems the average price for Nicalis games, sans VVVVVV, which is $2 cheaper.



Knux said:

Did I just see Philip review a game with a score of 10? I think I need to get some extra sleep (or drink more coffee)!



Zhanglot said:

Great! I've been eyeing this game on the coming soon page for a while. I hope the game can live up to this great review.



bro2dragons said:

This has been my number 1 most anticipated game since its WiiWare announcement. I LOVE this genre and this atmospheric style.

Unfortunately, I let a friend borrow my 3DS... six months ago... and then she moved. I still haven't seen it and until I do... can't play this game...



WesCash said:

Oh wow. Never heard anything about this game, but looks to be my sort of thing. I love games like Braid and Limbo so this is a must-buy for me!



SchamMan89 said:

I'm sorry, but I found NightSky incredibly boring when I played through it this summer. The style is cool, but everything quickly starts looking the same. Some of the puzzles are annoying to complete, as well.

The game does have a great physics engine, but I'd personally give it a 8... maybe



Radixxs said:

Wow, great review. Looks like this was well worth the wait! Thursday... The wait is over



FonistofCruxis said:

I was not expecting a 10 at all! This really doesn't look like my sort of game though but since it got a 10, after its eventual European release, I may consider it if it gets a significant price drop.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Did I just see Philip review a game with a score of 10?

My first ever! But don't say that too loud...Daz might be listening..



RR529 said:

Can't wait! I don't know whether to play this or Liberation Maiden first, lol.

Oct. 25 can't come soon enough.



accc said:

Man, I really want to buy this for 3DS but I can't justify spending another $10 on it when I already have it for PC. It's a great game while it lasts, but the experience is rather short-lived, even after playing the alternate levels.



Yellowgerbil said:

Hmmm, I must get this.... but I live in europe and I need to get art of balance. I do love this genre though. I might get this on steam though .



Smitherenez said:

I love the visuals! Hopefully we europeans will be able to play this game on our 3DSs soon!



JoanAM said:

I'm not getting it because I've bought it on Steam some time ago, but it's a brilliant game and you really shouldn't hesitate.



CanisWolfred said:

I played the demo on steam and got frustrated with it pretty quick. Maybe it plays better with a D-Pad, though? Not sure. I'll have to wait and see if a demo or price drop manages to convince me.



Squashie said:

This looks great, but Nicallis don't have a great past with releasing games European side.



chewytapeworm said:

To be fair, the amount of dross Chicken Brutus reviews, most games would feel like a 10/10! But yeah joking aside, the review had me hooked and I'm now gagging to give it a go.



Vann said:

On the eShop, I had my most gratifying experiences from games published from Nicalis. VVVVVV is amazingly addictive and so much fun and challenge, and Cave Story is simply glorious(have to add, the music in both games is heavenly, i love it!) so without hesitation I'll buy this (even more sure of it after seeing Chicken reviewed it so well). Cant wait!



rayword45 said:

Yeah, IMO, this game isn't a 10. High 8/Low 9 maybe.

The graphics are sleek and the music is fresh, but the game itself is quite short (I beat in around 3 hours) so compared to lengthier titles at the same price (DRW, Denpa Men, hell even Cave Story) it's not the best bang for your buck.

The gameplay itself is great fun, but similar games like LocoRoco are overall more enjoyable.

I'd still put Mighty Switch Force and Art of Balance: Touch above this game, but then again the only 10/10 Nintendo Downloadable I agreed with was World of Goo, so maybe my standards are too high.



Hokori said:

A perfect circle sounds like it got a zero/1O and seeing it was reviewed by Phill who usually does bad games make it sound like NLs first O/1O
I'd put a perfect 1Circle down



pariah164 said:

A 10?? Wow; the last game I recall getting a 10 from you guys was Shantae: Risky's Revenge.



Windy said:

Looks great with a good review. Im not even going to say its pricey after a friend gave me a psp this week and I went to their shop. I was very surprised at prices in the psp shop. This is cheap entertainment. You wont hear me complain about eshop prices anymore. I still wont be buying the retail games at 39.99 in the Eshop but the rest is resonable and this looks to be a great deal which I will pick up. Also just a heads up and don't know if peeps waiting for unchained Blades realize this but Unchained Blades in the PSP shop is 29.99 Idont see any reason why it should be cheaper in the eshop so be prepared.



Odnetnin said:

I agree with everything said in this review times 100 (at least what I know from playing the PC version at the beginning of last year).



sinalefa said:

Sounds interesting. I cannot say if this game deserves a 10 or not as I haven't played it, but I have to say that when any review does not even mention a negative thing about a game, no matter how small, it makes me a little wary. The same with reviews that only bash a game without even highlighting at least a small positive.



XCWarrior said:

10s are a rarity on this sight. Clearly you guys think very highly of the game. Probably will have to check this out when it comes out for the US.

Though also hoping Nintendo starts doing weekly deals again. eshop games are more frequently being in $10+ range, which I am not a fan of. I don't buy games on Steam for more than $5, really don't want to buy anything digitally for more than that if I can avoid it.



Knux said:

You know, I just realized something. How can someone review a downloadable game when it's not even out yet (on the eShop anyway)? I guess Nintendo gave an early access code to Philip or something like that?



KneehighPark said:

@ouroborous We don't hand out 10's too often, but we have given out our fair share:

World of Goo, Metroid Prime Trilogy, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, Super Mario Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Bit.Trip Runner, Shantae Risky's Revenge, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Ocarina of Time 3D, MotoHeroz, Skyward Sword, Rayman Origins, and most recently, La-Mulana.



shinesprite said:

Honestly, I don't see what the big deal is about this game. I played through the steam version this summer during my vacation and seemed . . . forgettable to say the least.



vdallos said:

Cave story and Mighty Switch Force are my fav games on eshop...this has common points with each one....im tempted



Kid_A said:

Feels like I've been waiting for this one forever. Glad to see it was worth the wait; with Nicalis it always is



Philip_J_Reed said:

How much did they pay you to review that game.

Since it was a much anticipated release, they paid me ten times my current rate. Of course, ten times zero is still zero...



TingLz said:

I love how everyone's trying to remember the last 10 given here...and totally ignoring La Mulana

Also, keep in mind folks, 10s can differ among reviewers. Phil probably gave it a 10 because there was nothing to complain about...or he's really lazy



Tony_342 said:

I've played through this game several times on PC, and I'm downloading this the very moment it goes live on the eShop. Well written review.



rayword45 said:

Also, seriously, of the Nicalis games (including La-Mulana) how the hell do NightSky and La-Mulana get 10s while Cave Story gets a 9? VVVVVV being an 8 makes sense due to the removal of features, but there is no way in hell NightSky/La-Mulana are superior an experience to Cave Story.



Slapshot said:

@Philip_J_Reed Fantastic review Phil! You've truly brought the wonderful atmosphere of NightSky to life in your review like few others could possibly manage. Great job!

I bought NightSky the instant it went on sale on Nicalis' website at launch on PC and I was totally enraptured in it for about a solid week. It's indeed a game that hides a substantial amount of depth behind its minimalistic gameplay and just as with you, the superb auditory effects caught me by surprise - those little 'tinks' and 'taps' literally echo throughout my cranium as I type!

There's just something to be said about a game that can soothe your soul as you play it and that's exactly what NightSky does for me.



47drift said:

I actually stayed away from news about this game in order to distance myself from spoiling the experience, but I succumbed to reading this review. Dang, does this look like an atmospheric masterpiece. Gonna have to give it a try after Liberation Maiden this week.



Odnetnin said:

Also, am I awesome for getting all the stars in my first run-through without a guide (and without backtracking iirc), so when I got to Slightly Nonsense I already had all areas unlocked? Or were they easy and everyone did is?



Chrono_Cross said:

I think I'll take this review for granted. Congrats Philip, you are the only reviewer in three years to convince me to purchase a game based on your review alone.



Cevan said:

Hmm, great review. I wasn't planning on buying it, but after seeing some gameplay and reading the review, I think I'll end up purchasing it at some point. It looks to be a fun game.



Nestalgic said:

If this was rated higher than PushMo it looks like a must-have. I'll pick it up this week.



Hokori said:

@Windy Unchained blades is technically a digital retail title, same with order up!!
So those are sort of discounted from the $40 even though they arnt retail titles in America they were in Japan and Europe respectfully, I just wish unchained blades would come out already...



Weavius said:

I've been waiting a loooooong time for this game to be released! It looks to be my next eShop purchase.



Windy said:

@NintenDude97 I just bought cave story for the first time last week in the US shop. The new 3d Classic one. I am not enjoying it near as much as I thought I would. I am really bummed about that since its so highly recommended. It's definately a quality title. Ive spent about 3 hours on it so far and just feeling like im forcing myself to play on. The thing is that it's the kind of game I like to play



TheInvisibleTor said:

OMG i had just read nintendoworldreport's review giving it a 6/10. I'm probably still going to get this, i mean, you guys gave it a perfect score afterall.



MaikoRULES said:

I'm planning on getting this, but as someone thats 100%'d the Steam version, is there anything new for me this time around?



Samholy said:

cave story and vvvv are two masterpieces too. and both from the same dude.... hmm
and this one is also form the same guy. This designer is a genius ! gotta get this this game ASAP



Philip_J_Reed said:

as someone thats 100%'d the Steam version, is there anything new for me this time around?

Content-wise, no. (At least I don't think so...I didn't 100% the Steam version.) But I will say the controls here were far better and led to a much more immersive and pleasant experience. There's also the 3D of course, which is subtly gorgeous, but whether or not that's worth another $10 is up to you!



Jukilum said:

@Samholy They are all from different developers. Nicalis just publishes ports of indie games to different platforms, they don't actually design any games.



MeloMan said:

I've waited for so long... I would've NEVER expected a 10/10. Just that much sweeter now



LittleIrves said:

I think I'd buy this for the soundtrack alone.... too bad you can't close the system and listen to the game's sound while in sleep mode.



Dark-Luigi said:

Whoa! This looked boring to me at first but After looking at the review I may as well get it!



atariman said:

well, this has to be over rated. I didn't buy it yet. but it got a 6/10 on NintendoReport.com. so just to make sure. is this a game that's really good? someone Reply.



ouroborous said:

i am really not impressed with this game. it's ALOT like Loco Roco for PSP, although at least that game was colorful and mostly fun. if there's any music in this game it is IMPOSSIBLe to hear and im finding it kind of boring all in all and when i get stuck it's just annoying. also, it seems like the game is going to wind up being rather short all in all.
ah well. im not mad i bought it, im just not really impressed by it at all.
think ill just play cave story for the umpteenth time, at least that's a title you can count on, even if there are too many versions of it.



emayer said:

This game is so good. I think most people who say it lacks gameplay depth have only played through Normal Mode, which is advertised as being good for casual gamers. Alternate Mode is where the meat of this game's creativity and challenge resides.



Klinny said:

I'm really enjoying this game so far. I skipped Normal mode and went right to Alternative, as I loved the appeal of being thrown right in with no tutorials or explanations. I'm pleased that it gives you the option to select the two modes right off the bat, as I was worried I'd have to play through the entire game first before being allowed to play on a difficulty I prefer.

I also love the art style, and so far this is the only game that I actually prefer to play in 3D.



gamerchick_22 said:

Bought it the day it was released \(^ ^)/...have Pokemon Black 2, haven't touched it since...have Rhythm Thief...also haven't touched it since. This game's got me hooked and mesmerized to the point that i'm now on my third run lol a bit overkill but i'm really into this type of game!!!



Philip_J_Reed said:

I skipped Normal mode and went right to Alternative, as I loved the appeal of being thrown right in with no tutorials or explanations.

I can't blame you for that, but I do want to say that you should try Normal mode afterward. Many puzzle solutions change completely between the modes, so don't miss out!



DerpSandwich said:

I played this game on PC, and I just don't see how that cost is justified. I really enjoyed it, and I might be misremembering, but I feel like I beat it in an hour or two. I might pay a couple bucks for it, or even five. It's a shame, too. I was looking forward to having it on my 3DS.



Klimbatize said:

The joke's been made, but it bears repeating--I think Phi has been forced to play so many lackluster titles that his opinion of a "near perfect" game has been skewed. I was iffy on this because of the price tag, but after reading this review (from my favorite and most trusted reviewer on this site) I took the plunge.

I don't regret getting it, but I think my expectations were so high after seeing a 10 that I am a little disappointed. I love the atmosphere and the subtle score--it's a great game to play with headphones on in bed right before you go to sleep--but I found it to be a little repetitive and easy. Plus, I suppose I was hoping for a better ending. I'd knock the score down a couple of points.



Bassman_Q said:

This is a beautifully written review, but after actually purchasing and playing it, I have to disagree and say I'm actually quite disappointed with the game. As someone else pointed out, it is nearly impossible to hear the music without headphones, and I never felt like I was truly immersed in the game. Over all, I felt the game was boring and dull and even a bit repetitive. I still haven't beat it, but at this point I feel like I'm just pushing myself to play it, so I probably never will. A 6/10 in my opinion.



luigifan2000 said:

i was gonna put this off my list but then i read this review. ill get it if it as good as 3d world.



Magrane said:

It's on sale for $2.99 on the 3DS eShop until January 5th, so if cost was an issue, now is the chance to get it. This review is making the decision for me quite easily today.

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