- Title: Nocturnal
- Developer: Sunnyside Games
- Publisher: Dear Villagers
- Release Date: June 2023
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, PC, Xbox One/Series
- Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
- Price: $16.99 USD
Nocturnal is a quick-and-wicked side-scrolling adventure indie game about a man named Ardeshir who returns to his home that has been corrupted by Mist. It starts off as a complete mystery, and the remaining survivors call you–a solider of the Enduring Flame–a traitor. You must hack and slash with your sword and fire to uncover the mystery of what happened in Nahran.
The premise is simple, yet intriguing, much like its gameplay. There are clever puzzles, challenging platforming, and formidable foes–none of which overstay their welcome. There is some lore tucked away within the castle that is worth exploring as well. I will keep this spoiler-free, so let’s move onto the analysis.
Gameplay is, in my opinion, one of the strongest points of Nocturnal. The Sunnyside Games team worked hard to ensure tight, smooth, and clever elements that keep the player engaged. Firstly, there are plenty of fun platforming to be had in Nocturnal. You must jump or jump and slash across chasms and unstable or timed platforms. The platform elements felt purposeful throughout, and not once did I fail and blame the game…only myself.
Secondly, there are light puzzle elements, most of which involve lighting torches. In Nocturnal, your character relies on fire to survive. Fire wards off Mist and also helps unlock areas within the castle. Some puzzles require you to figure out the order in which the light torches, and others require you to forge through Mist to light all in one massive area.
Speaking of massive, although it is a 2D side-scroller (vs a 3D open world), Nocturnal makes you feel like you like a minnow in a lake! I wished there was a map for the indoor portions because doors will lock behind you whenever you reach certain checkpoints. This diminishes backtracking, which can be a bummer when I realize I missed a collectable.
Lastly, there is a decent amount of combat. There are varied types of soldiers as well as Mist creatures. Contending with both ranged and melee attacks, you must jump, dodge, and slash your way past them. After one boss fight, you acquire a dagger which you can set aflame, aim, and throw it at enemies or obstacles.
Oh, and did I mention there are also light RPG elements as well? When you collect enough ash (I think it’s ash), you can upgrade your health, speed, or time your sword stays ablaze. It is a bit rudimentary, but it still felt like a nice touch.
Art Design and Sound:
The graphics and sound also are simple yet feel perfectly appropriate for this game. The colors and music fit the vibe, immersing me into an epic journey, even if only for a couple hours.
What impresses me the most is that you can interact with much of the background. When I set my sword ablaze, I gasped in amazement when I accidentally set a banner and vines on fire (and in horror when I set a corpse on fire as well). Soon, I went out of my way to light anything and everything I could on fire…Such attention to detail shows the love and passion this team had in creating Nocturnal.
Simply put, Nocturnal is a solid action-adventure game. It has platforming, fun combat, light puzzle elements, and (very) light RPG elements that surround a plot shrouded in mystery. The game is short–around two to three hours–and I feel that it works in the game’s favor. While some critics find fault in the lack of bells and whistles that lengthier and meatier titles of this ilk have, I find its thoughtful and compact foundation to be refreshing. Sunnyside Games took a concept and focused on executing fun and tight gameplay.
This is one indie game that I firmly believe should be talked about more, and I highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for a fun 2D action game to play.
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Featured Image Source: Sunnyside Games