Nyctophilia is defined as the preference for the night or darkness. In this case its a 2D side scrolling psychological thriller where you jump between worlds at night through the use of a light bulb. That’s if you can get immersed in the game, because to others it could be considered just a game where you’re stuck in a house and every time you’re out of the house its in a dark maze. Its a game about tediously looking for the next place and scouring everything you can before near dumb luck stumbles upon the solution.
The story begins with you trapped in a long dark room. Walking to the right reveals a wall and a sound behind you. Moving to the left leaves a mystery as the room is getting smaller. Soon after going back and forth your character awakens from a dream in his hotel room.
He’s on some sort of journey that leads him to a stay at a vacant house. The house has two bathrooms and two bedrooms, a kitchen, a cellar, an attic, a balcony and a few other rooms. They’re each small, but provide for some space for you to have a look around.
The 2D and psychological thriller work against one another. Think of it more as a low fidelity 2D point and click adventure without the clicking. The resolution is just a few pixels that leaves for little detail so the psychological part comes in the form of numerous text boxes that describe things, thoughts and feelings. Since its such a small locale that spans a house and little else, your character walks slow, but flailing his heels as he moves.
Each night you go to bed and that’s when the game transforms between a blend of nightmare and memory. You’ll find a light bulb that when used in the menu you hop between realms where you are yourself, but in a different clothes or a different era entirely. Here in this new dimension you have eyes looking at you. When you collect scattered diary pages, the eyes grow in size after you’re done. Its a way of saying that you are being watched.
From time to time you’ll meet a towering butler that explains things in cryptic ways. I would say he’s the narrator, but he’s more of a way to keep you on edge as to how strange things can get. Is the butler even real or just a hallucination brought on by strange discoveries?
With the darkness contrasting the daytime they do set two completely different moods, but they’re still the same tone thanks to the game’s piano music in the background. Its a simple loop with a sense of mystery and an effective way to keep you on edge.
One of the only facets to your character beyond having dreams that take him into another dimension is the fact that he refuses to do things. Is the attic locked? No. He says he doesn’t want to go there and then adds he doesn’t want to get there. It makes me think that he’s too lazy to crawl up a ladder. There are other times he refuses to do things and his descriptions of things are his own thoughts that lead me to believe he’s antisocial and prefers the isolation of the house.
There is a lot of darkness in the game with plenty of lights to flip on. You can still see in the dark and lights are never a requirement, so your character can read through books in a room with no light source. The character can even tell he’s talking to a woman when I saw nothing. Perhaps that’s his real Nyctophilia. He can see in the dark better than the game elaborates.
In some moments of extreme darkness there’s a light emitting from your character so you the player can see. I would say there’s a lighter guiding the way, but a lighter is never shown so I can assume its the light bulb in your pocket, but then again the light emits before you get the light bulb.
The game gives you tasks and lists them, which is great, but I had done the tasks before they were mandatory. When I was told to wash up, I was confused trying to use the downstairs bathroom. I then scoured the entire locale looking for the other bathroom. I checked the yard, a second bedroom and various other places until the last place I looked was the second bathroom with the soap. That’s when I was told to have a look around the yard, the second bedroom and other rooms.
Its the wandering around and checking everything until I stumble upon the solution that takes me out of the game. Having to look all over the house for the wind that the game tells me is a sound. I could hear no sound. I checked everything several times even burdened with the character’s slow movement. Until finally, I found what I was looking for and while everything is marked with an interaction button, this had no indicator. I had walked by it several times and even tried to do something with it long before I was ever supposed to. Therefore in my eyes it was just a part of the background.
Then there’s the underground maze that you need to explore. This labyrinth is dark with black holes in the wall. Its a place so easy to get lost in that you’ll get a map that lets you warp to the beginning again. The only problem is that after the labyrinth, using the map can cause the game to crash back to the desktop. At that point my mind just checked out of the game. We had a good run, got lost, frustrated and angry looking over a house. Now with a crash it symbolized that I should give up on the game, because it pads out its time with complex switch puzzles and dark mazes.
You’ll find little in the way of settings, only two languages and its keyboard only. That’s no issue since the game is so basic and requires left and right, X for interacting and tab for menu things.
There’s a relaxing, calming mystery here for those that want down the rabbit hole bad enough to find it. For the rest of us, its a game with issues. Its a good start for a better game in time.