Review by Rin-Coconut

Reviewed: 11/13/17

htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary

I remember hearing that this game was pretty difficult, and one of my friends who got it before me confirmed these claims. When I noticed it was on PSN for pretty cheap I decided to snap it up and check it out. The game has a very Japanese, and an equally very "how the heck do I pronounce this?" title. The Japanese on the original Japanese version though says "Hotelu no Nikki", which just means "Hotel Diary", so the way to pronounce that whole "htoL" mess is "hotel". Anyways enough with intro stuff, lets get onto the game~!

htoL follows the story of an adorable horned girl who wakes up in a bizarre area with no memory. With only two fireflies as her guides, she begins her journey of traversing through this strange world.

Gameplay
Now this is one of those games that are a cross between a 2D platformer and a puzzle game, but this game puts a unique spin on the controls; the entire game is controlled with touch, no buttons needed. You also actually play as the fireflies and not the girl. The green firefly is controlled by the touchscreen and guides her, she'll try to follow this no matter where its positioned, even if its off the edge of a cliff (yes, this girl really will jump off a cliff if her friends did!). The pink firefly is used to activate switches and buttons and is controlled using the rear touchpad. This one can only traverse through the shadows (which in this case also means all objects, platforms, and enemies). The controls are simple enough (literally no buttons), but it can be tricky at times. The touch element is unique and odd, but its fun and creates for a memorable experience, but does make me wonder why this wasn't released on DS.

The game consists of a few levels (the last of which is hidden), and each level consists of numerous stages. The objective of the game is to safely get from point A to point B while discovering and collecting memory plants, the plants being vital to revealing the story and unlocking the final level. The controls and objective sounds easy enough, but its harder than it leads on to be. The stages are full of power saws, enemies, drop offs, puzzles, and various other hindrances and dangers. The game has two key elements to the gameplay, traversing safely, and solving puzzles. Sometimes these elements are completely separate, and sometimes they're fused together. The game takes a lot of good timing to not die, with many of the dangers working in a pattern with only one very specific way to get through safely. This usually involves the well timed flips of switches to control conveyor belts, saws, and so on. The game freezes though when using the pink firefly, which aides in the timing. This game also takes a lot of just being observant of your surroundings. The puzzles might take some time to work through, but are generally solvable pretty fast. The more trickier puzzles is reaching some of the memory plants that may seem completely impossible to reach at first. The game is difficult, but not, at the same time. You'll die a lot, and I do mean a lot. If your timing is the slightest bit off, that's it for you. But, this game has an absurd amount of checkpoints, most of which are well placed so as long you don't immediately die after a hard part you shouldn't have too much frustration. At the end of each level there's a boss fight, and these are hard, especially if you're going for a perfect score to get the trophies. The boss fights are the usual "analyze the pattern and take advantage of the weak points", which is fun and nostalgic. Overall, the game is a lot of fun. The deaths are fine because they don't feel aggravating like how they do in other similar games. The navigating, timing, and puzzles, are all fun and make for a fun break from the usual games I play.

Its not all fun and games and death though, well it is still death and a game, but anyways.... If you try to get the platinum, get ready for some pain. I've had this this game with only three trophies left (not including the platinum) for an absurdly long time. The game only has 25 trophies total, but boy are some of these hard and time consuming to get. These tough ones are completing the boss fights perfectly and doing very difficult maneuvers within the levels (like traversing an area without touching the ground). I spent 6 hours just getting one trophy, a trophy for clearing a boss perfectly. It took my 3 hours to finally beat them perfectly, but no trophy pop, what gives? I thought maybe it was glitched, but it was not. I came up with a troubleshooting method, tried and tried again, and in another 3 hours, the trophy popped. The reason for this is that if you die and continue, the game views it as not completing it without mistakes. It doesn't matter if its a boss fight where the stage immediately starts with the fight, it doesn't matter if the continue point is long before the part you need to clear, if you die or mess up, you have to restart the stage. This isn't a problem if you know this ahead of time and take on a boss related trophy, but its such a complete and massive pain with any of the of traverse perfectly ones, that will only cause misery and zap all the fun out, not to mention waste hours of your time with no reward. So all in all, this game is fun, but maybe ignore the trophies if you aren't literally perfect at this game.

Story
As this game doesn't really have dialogue, its not surprising that the story is told minimally. The story is sad and feels somehow very dark and depressing. The story is enjoyable though, and is well developed despite being told unconventionally. The way the story is presented heavily simulates what its like for the girl, random weird memories with no explanation, that feel deeply sad and surreal, that then gradually develop into a complete story. Its very well done.

Atmosphere
This game has a huge sense of atmosphere, so going to be covering sound, music, graphics, and aesthetic all in one segment. The girl is in chibi style and looks absolutely adorable. The setting is very industrial, lots of factory aesthetics with giant gears and buzz saws and the sort. The art is very nicely done, especially for the genre, and it all looks great and has a good look to it. The music is awesome and hugely develops the atmosphere the game has. Ambient tracks that feel somber and mildly unsettling play throughout the game and helps immerse you into the world. Overall, the atmosphere and game feels sad and somber, but is a lot of fun to play through.

Overall
All in all, its a fun game. A challenging little platformer which executes good timing but isn't aggravating like other games of the genre (besides for the whole trophy situation, I never felt robbed). Besides for the trophy trainwreck, its a well developed game that's fun and kept me intrigued with the puzzles and the way the story was told. The physical is pricey, but its a cheap little grab on PSN which is worth checking out if you enjoy these kinds of games or want to get into the genre.

Also, haha hashbrowns NiQ *drops Vita*

Rating: 8

Product Release: htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary (US, 02/24/15)

Hi, I'm Rin-Coconut~! I run the game review blog, Obscure Gaming Loli, and play a wide range of games and systems~! If you've enjoyed this review, please check out my others: https://obscuregamingloli.wordpress.com/
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