There’s a good reason why people are afraid of the dark. It represents the unknown, which can be absolutely anything. In the case of Nocturnal, the dark is extremely hostile, at least according to Sunnyside Games. Nocturnal is the studio’s latest release, a 2D action adventure platformer with puzzle mechanics. It balances combat with navigation through areas that are deadly if you’re not properly prepared. It’s a straightforward experience with a hard-drawn style and FX applied to the stars of the show: the fire and the darkness. Play through with the hope of making it to the dawn that may lie at the end of the constant rain.
What Is Nocturnal?
There are many stories about the forces of light fighting against the forces of darkness, sometimes quite literally. This is definitely the case for the plot of Nocturnal. You play as Ardeshir, a soldier returning to his hometown of Nahran after a long time away. However, he arrives to find his home ravaged by a dark force known as the Mist. As one of the few unaffected soldiers remaining, he needs to fight back the evil forces of the Mist and the soldiers who have joined it by using the power of fire. It’s a heated quest to bring back the light that has the potential to end in a blaze of glory.
Fear Of The Dark
Some of us are night owls who are way more productive in the dark, able to come up with some great ideas. Nocturnal has a few good ideas, even if they may or may not have been provided by night owls. The first is the visual style. The hand-drawn artwork is solid with animations to support it, but the focus really seems to be on the special effects. Both the fire and Mist effects ebb and flow in natural and unpredictable ways, really selling the idea that both of them are alive. That’s good, because that’s what they’re supposed to be. You feel the Mist as a living entity constantly looking to consume you while your blazing sword flares with life, and you want to keep it alive as long as you can.
Then there’s the overall pacing of the adventure. Though the plot clearly hides more than is readily apparent, the action is ready to kick in right from the start. The setup gives you the necessary materials, and the overall layout of the introduction is quite intuitive. Even without tutorial prompts, it’s easy to figure out what you need to do as well as all the mechanics available to you. As if to complement the fire and the Mist, everything has a sense of flow from the movement to the combat. You can shift from exploration to puzzling to fighting in a few quick and fluid movements. Paths forward are clearly laid out so you know exactly where to go if you’re seeking extras and secrets.
The game also handles difficulty in a fair and naturally progressive way. It implements new features and mechanics piecemeal that fit in well with the gameplay. You experience fire mechanics and new enemies separately before they’re combined later down the line for an even greater challenge.
Bump In The Night
Being awake at night may be a chance to be productive, but can also be disruptive to the individual and their surroundings. Nocturnal experiences issues that can have the same disorienting effects during its gameplay. The main is that although everything has a flow as a whole, it can be stiff when it comes to individual actions. Jumps can feel stiff and heavy, while certain inputs feel delayed every now and then. You can get used to it over time, but it can be a bit tricky to deal with early on.
Combat is also something that interrupts the flow. Not combat segments themselves, but instead the execution. There’s a nice variety of enemies, but the game uses the same old strategy of “throw a bunch of them at you at once” frequently. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it can quite messy when foes group together and overlap with their particle attacks, jerky movements, and your very own flaming sword. Sometimes, swinging wildly while darting back and forth is your best bet.
The Nocturne Awaits
Nocturnal is a 2D action-platform game about fighting back a dark Mist with a smoldering sword that burns with sporadically placed flames. It’s visually very appealing with an overall feeling of flow, intuitive learning, and progressive challenge. You just need to get used to occasional input delays and combat maelstroms throughout your adventure. If you can confront that, then you too can be nocturnal.
Nocturnal was played on Steam with a code provided by the developers. It’s also available on Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox consoles.