Title: Nairi: Tower of Shirin
Publisher: Another Indie, Hound Picked Games
Genre: Point-and-click adventure, Visual novel
Available On: Windows, Switch
Official Site: http://homebearstudio.com/
Release Date: November 29, 2018
There’s nothing I love more than discovering indie games that end up being far better than I’d ever expected. Not too long ago, I got the chance to cover Crosscode and I fell in love with its elegant design. Both Crosscode and Nairi share the fact that I expected not all that much from either. My early impressions of Nairi: Tower of Shirin were that it was going to be a cute game with no substance. I’m glad to say I was so very wrong.
Nairi: Tower of Shirin is a point and click adventure game led by its protagonist, Nairi. Nairi is a young girl who is smuggled out of the city of Shirin for her own safety as city guards are looking for her and her family. The story gets going once she runs into a group of cat bandits who originally intend to hold her hostage but develop a meaningful relationship with Nairi over time. Without getting into spoilers, the narrative is focused on how Nairi actually plays a far bigger role than she ever could have imagined. What starts out as a political story showcasing the gap between rich and poor quickly becomes one about a magical ancient world.
Just by a quick glance, it’s clear the biggest selling point of Nairi is its gorgeous visuals. HomeBearStudio has brought a painted canvas to life. It reminds me of the storybooks you would have read to you as a kid but now with a lot more life to them here. The characters are adorable and the entire world as a whole is a collective of brilliantly crafted hand drawings. There’s a charm that’s difficult to explain but I have no doubt in my mind that this animated storybook aesthetic is far more appealing than any generic AAA realism. Not to mention, I can’t even begin to explain how great a protagonist Nairi actually is. She’s cute, quirky and funny. You can really feel how the writers did a fantastic job of showcasing their fun cast.
Visuals are nice, but they don’t sell a game on their own. The puzzles make up the majority of Nairi’s gameplay. They are a little hit or miss in terms of their quality. Some of them are very satisfying and you’ll be smiling once you’ve figured it out but others can seem a little too abstract. By no means are any unsolvable and challenge is a good thing but clearer hints would have been nice. Especially with the later game puzzles. I can’t question their variety through which is actually pretty impressive when the only input the devs had to work with was a good old fashion left mouse click. There’s memory tests, exploration, investigation, patterns, deciphering and so much more. A direct comparison to Nairi’s gameplay would be Grim Fandango, albeit the latter is an overall more complete product.
If there’s one major regret I had with the puzzles it’d be that they feel like they’d be so much more satisfying if I was sitting back and relaxing. Considering this game is on Nintendo Switch, it would definitely be worth considering picking up on that platform over PC. I just feel it suits the calming nature of Nairi more as you could play it on a plane, down your local park or just lying down in bed. I believe the Switch version also has multiple control schemes with the touchscreen and joy-cons which is a clear plus too.
Whilst I personally didn’t have an issue with the game’s length, it’s worth talking about you that you’re aware. Nairi isn’t some thirty-hour blockbuster narrative tale. It took me seven hours to play through and I’ll admit I didn’t work through the puzzles particularly quick either. If you knew what you were doing or considering yourself a genre veteran that number could easily be cut down to six or even five hours. The length was satisfying for me but where Nairi leaves off is criminal. The ending is a hard cliffhanger that will leave you begging for more. There’s a real argument that this should have been labeled ‘part 1’ as you aren’t getting the whole story. In Nairi’s defense though, it is only $9.99. I’ve legitimately played AAA games with stories that are far shorter than this. I’m looking at you Call of Duty. This is both a positive and negative though. On one hand, yeah it ends in a horrible place but on the other, I enjoyed the story enough to want more of it desperately.
Another disclaimer is that Nairi features zero voice acting. How big a deal this comes down to your own personal preferences. I’ve played a lot of poorly translated visual novels so I’m used to it but there’s no doubting it hurts your immersion. Nairi was developed via Kickstarter on a hardly staggering budget of €8,253. That’s why I find a lot of criticism I’ve read aimed towards it just isn’t fair. Sure, it could have voice acting, be longer and offer a complete ending but you have to be respectful of the limited finances involved behind the project. Considering the lack of resources they had to use, I would say Nairi is a great game by all accounts. It’d be nice to see potential sequels be a little more ambitious but that’s just something we’ll have to wait to see.
Verdict: Whilst limited in scope, Nairi does a lot more right than it does wrong. This family-friendly point and click is a great candidate to kill a few hours if you just want to relax after a stressful day. I’d say the Switch version is probably optimal but I had no real issues with the Steam version either. It’s just that a touch screen would have been really nice. At ten bucks, if you have even the slightest interest in point and click games, you’d be doing yourself an injustice by not picking this adorable game up.
- Gorgeous, hand-drawn visuals bring out the best of Nairi's world.
- Both the environments and characters are very appealing.
- Puzzles are intuitive and mostly clear. A pleasant challenge for sure.
- A very strong narrative drives the overall game. Might not appeal to those looking for a more gameplay mechanic driven experience though.
- Nairi is a great protagonist. The devs did a great job of bringing out her humorous nature.
- The game length is fine, but the ending is not. It's far too much of a cliffhanger that just isn't satisfying for the player.
- Some puzzles feel a little abstract. Minor logic flaws that can be irritating to work through.
- No voice acting hurts immersion. It's understandable why it isn't there but Nairi could be so much better with it.
I’m an aspiring games critic who has been writing actively since 2015. I have a particular interest in both racing games and JRPGs as well as a love for Overwatch and its eSports scene. I consider gaming and writing my two big passions in life. So much so that I’m currently studying a one of a kind degree that covers both in one! My goal in life is simply to become a renowned critic who is respected for his opinions.