The last few reviews I’ve put up have been negative, so I was on the prowl for something that I could enjoy to balance out the scales. That’s when I came across NyxQuest on sale at Amazon for $2.99 (normally priced at $9.99) and figured it looked interesting enough to be worth a try at that price. After looking around the internet a bit, I found the game’s dedicated website where it mentions that it’s “100% DRM-free.” I hadn’t noticed at the time, but the game’s base price on both its website and Steam seems to have been permanently reduced to $2.99, so the sale was a lie. Another red flag turned up before I had even launched the game for the first time; despite the website claiming that the game is DRM-free, it turns out that this is only applicable to the version from that site. The Amazon version with the artificially-inflated base price and Steam version both come with an annoying DRM scheme that requires entering a key, then activating the game via either the internet or phone. Sadly, things only got worse once I actually began playing.
The story is vague, but the setting is interesting
NyxQuest exists in a kind of alternate Greek mythology where Icarus initially succeeded at flight and met the goddess Nyx, the two becoming fast friends. After his wings melt from a strange heat, Nyx decides to go look for him and in the process discovers a post-apocalyptic version of Greece that’s succumbed to that very same heat. It goes without saying, then, that most of the game consists of you controlling Nyx—envisioned here as a winged individual—as she makes her way through a mostly-empty world of blazing sands and dilapidated ruins in search of Icarus. It’s a strange concept, and one I can really appreciate the uniqueness of, though the ending is admittedly a bit vague. Despite ending on a bit of a question mark, however, I found the story and setting to be a net positive.
The controls aren’t all that great
First off, this game has no controller support. That may be a turn-off for some people given this game’s roots on the Wii, but it turns out to be a blessing in disguise since a large portion of the game is spent using the mouse (or Wiimote, if you’re playing on the Wii) moving a cursor and interacting with objects to magically move them in ways that would be a major hassle on a controller. This magical manipulation feels remarkably similar to using the wizard character in Trine, though unlike in that game, you can levitate and move objects you’re standing on. This is often necessary in order to move across large areas of damaging sand and block sand jets that shoot upward, impeding your progress.
This magical manipulation is all fine and dandy because it requires little accuracy, but midway through the game you’re given the ability to shoot lightning at things by left-clicking at them, and this is where the cracks begin to show. Somehow, this lightning doesn’t always seem to hit what you aim at, and I can’t tell whether this is a problem of where it hits or simply poor hitboxes. Another problem I had with the game is that the controls, while simple, require pressing W in order to jump and flap your wings to gain height (which you can do up to 5 times in the air, the count being restored upon touching the ground or a gust of wind). This takes some serious getting used to since most games have jump assigned to the space bar, and the game is too short to ever really become comfortable with the default control scheme. Thankfully, you can change the default controls.
Frustrating moments of non-control
The first of many “ugh, you’ve got to be kidding me” moments I had with NyxQuest came when I realized that Nyx is unable to jump for several seconds after dying and respawning. Until the mouse cursor shows up, she’s prone to running into pits to her death no matter what you press. This is actually kind of hilarious since the game seems to have been designed with speedrunning in mind, complete with a timer and stages that don’t require much slowing down. Including something that forces you to stand around doing nothing for several seconds after respawning at a checkpoint, then, is so backward and contrary to the rest of the design that it’s insane that this hasn’t been fixed yet. The game has been out for something like 5 years at this point. This is an inexcusable oversight.
The puzzles are really non-puzzles
NyxQuest’s game description mentions puzzles as though this were a puzzle-platformer, but in truth it’s closer to a Mario game than anything involving actual puzzles; the closest the game ever gets to including puzzles comes in the form of “move this magical fire to the statue it belongs to in order to unlock a door,” and even this is almost exclusively a linear trek from left to right necessitating neither exploration nor planning. The only other thing remotely puzzle-ish would be a small section of the game where you have to use your magical lightning to blow away blocks so that you can proceed. I found that I wasn’t able to do so while taking into account the effect gravity would have on the blocks. Little did I know that these were magical blocks completely exempt from the forces of gravity or balance. This isn’t a puzzle so much as it’s a stupid trial-and-error section where the rules that apply to every other block in the game are suddenly subverted for no reason.
Inconsistency! Surprise rams!
I have no problem with rams, or at least that was unequivocally true in the past. Hell, I’m an Aries—that’s literally my sign. NyxQuest’s tendency to throw shadow rams at you from off-screen has created an unconscious association in my mind between rams and sudden annoyance, though. Again, this is a short game, and yet I found myself endlessly annoyed by the many times I’d be walking along, only to have a surprise ram throw itself at me before I had time to react. The game uses a checkpoint system devoid of lives, so dying to these rams isn’t a big deal, but it definitely gets tiring having them constantly thrown at you toward the end of the game. This is especially true since a single jump isn’t enough distance to avoid taking damage from them. No, you have to flap, which means avoiding them in many situations requires advance knowledge of where they are.
This is somehow made even worse when you die to the rams. Sometimes enemies respawn and attack you all over again. Other times the game chooses not to respawn them. There’s no rhyme or reason behind which the game will choose, and that’s just the cherry on top of the inconsistency sundae that is NyxQuest. Take holes in the ground, for instance—a hole in the ground early in the game leads to an underground area that can be explored, whereas many other holes in the ground lead to instant deaths. They all look the same until you blindly dive into them. Then there’s the stage where you have to avoid the gaze of a giant eye in the background that opens every 15 seconds or so. You accomplish this by hiding behind pillars, but some pillars aren’t designed by the game as “hide-behind” pillars, so you can be completed obscured and still be seen and insta-killed by the eye, all because you chose the wrong pillar. In the screenshots at the end of this review, there’s a screenshot of me hiding behind a movable pillar that’s a hide-behind pillar that worked earlier, but it sunk partially into the sand and became a bit less tall. Despite still obscuring me entirely, this also led to an instant death.
Collectibles unlock a secret stage
Hidden throughout the stages are mythology-themed collectibles that you can find. If you find all of them in the game, a special final stage is unlocked. This stage has no additional story, however, so I didn’t bother. Apparently it exists solely to give you an additional challenge after you’ve finished all of the normal stages, and if the final stage is any indication, passing up on it was a good call.
The last stage is annoying as hell
I wasn’t a fan of the game going into the final stage, but that didn’t spiral into full-blown loathing until the final stage. This stage seems designed to be as annoying and busy as possible to provide the illusion of difficulty, when in reality it’s just cluttered and slow. In it, you have to dodge all kinds of enemies (including surprise rams, of course) while platforming and simultaneously shooting down fireballs that are raining down on you from the background. Shooting a single fireball splits it into three more, so you’re constantly needing to fire a bunch of shots at the background. Combine 2-3 fireballs—that’s 8 to 12 shots if you aim each one perfectly—on screen at a time with surprise rams and all kinds of other hazards that have to be navigated in your peripheral vision because you’re busy aiming at the background, and you have the makings of a nightmarish stage that exists solely to frustrate people into believing that the game has become harder. In truth, it’s just become incredibly tedious. It was at this point that I realized that I don’t care that the version I got was laden with DRM, a ticking time bomb that I’ll someday lose access to because their activation servers go down. Good riddance, I say.
NyxQuest lacks textures
The game’s models are good enough, but there aren’t many textures in the game. This actually ends up being a good thing, though, because it keeps the screen from being too busy during most stages. Nyx and Icarus’ character models lack a lot of detail, as well, and the animations in cutscenes could use some work, but I really don’t have anything overwhelmingly negative to say about the graphics. They’re decent enough, and they suit NyxQuest’s story and setting well enough.
The music is good, too
While the soundtrack is more like that for a film than a game and is thus not as memorable as some of my favorite game soundtracks, there’s no denying that it suits the game perfectly. In fact, the music is really what makes the world seem so mythological and dead, kind of like a Fallout-type ambient mixed with some 3D Prince of Persia sans guitars. It’s empty-sounding and hauntingly beautiful, and really the best reason to get the game (but seriously, you can just listen to the soundtrack on Youtube and spare yourself this abomination of a game).