Title: NAIRI: Tower of Shirin
Publisher: Hound Picked Games
Platform: Switch (reviewed), PC
Release Date: 29/11/18
Price: £8.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this game
What the Developers Say
Follow Nairi, a troubled upper class girl, and Rex, a gangster-turned-scholar, as they uncover a dark mystery involving the mysterious Tower of Shirin! In a world brimming with with delightful, deadly, and dastardly creatures Nairi will need all her wits to outsmart bandit cats, befriend crime lord ducks, and escape a conspiracy as old as time.
NAIRI: Tower of Shirin is a charming graphic adventure with adorable characters within a troubled world that is sure to delight people of all ages looking for a strong narrative and puzzle experience!
Enjoy a huge amount of ridiculously cute hand-drawn art!
Meet tons of charming characters!
Become absorbed in a captivating story!
Collect, trade and combine wacky items!
Solve brain-teasing puzzles!
Enjoy a beautiful soundtrack!
The second I saw the key art for NAIRI: Tower of Shirin (hereafter just NAIRI for brevity’s sake) I was instantly charmed. The graphics and the design behind the game are all really impressive, and the universe itself is adorable but also interesting. I even loved the wordless artwork displaying the various control options, though that would come back to haunt me later…
I was excited to play this charming adventure game that I’d seen referred to as a Visual Novel, one of my favourite genres of games. But now I’ve seen credits on the game how did that excitement pan out? Keep reading this Rapid Review to find out.
Looks and Sounds
I’ve said above, and I’ll reiterate here, NAIRI is adorable. The majority of the people you meet in the world aren’t people. They’re super cute and fuzzy anthropomorphised animals. You meet a gang of crime ducklings, a troupe of cat thieves and a Lothario penguin who’s just looking for “the one”. Long story short this game is charming as heck.
The music is good too, and while not standing out as much as it’s graphical style it never grated or annoyed me even though you do end up going to the same locations more than once.
There are a few points with the graphics where you can see the game has been funded by Kickstarter, limiting the scope. This is almost exclusively in the animated cutscenes, which are basically flipbooks most of the time and barely animated. There is some that move a little more, but the final cutscene is disappointingly static.
There’s also no voice acting, which I expect is a result of it being funded by backers. This didn’t bother me too much as most visual novels don’t have VO, but I think it would have improved the game if they were able to.
Gameplay and Replayability
While I’ve seen NAIRI described as a visual novel, and I’ve even compared it to one in the line above, it doesn’t have the traits I would expect from one. It doesn’t have any choices that seem to impact the story for instance and has no alternate routes.
NAIRI is just an old-school adventure game, similar to something like Grim Fandango or Day of the Tentacle. You’ll be presented with a problem, and then you’ll need to find an item to solve it. Sometimes the item trading chains are excruciatingly long and feel a little padded. Multiple times I got pretty frustrated when at the end of a 20-minute chain of favours for people I wasn’t presented with the item I needed, but an item I could trade up to the item I required through another 20+ minute chain.
Speaking of frustration, I wouldn’t be doing my job right here if I didn’t talk about two fairly serious issues I had playing this game for review. Firstly I experienced a bug with the code that meant when playing the game docked I could not close a puzzle screen without completing it.
In some cases, you might get to a puzzle and not have a fundamental piece and need to close it, any time that happened to me I had to force close the game and start again. Usually losing at least 20-30 minutes of progress. It was infuriating enough that had I not been reviewing the game I would not have finished it. I only realised you could close puzzles when using the touchscreen on an undocked Switch because my wife needed the TV – about 30 minutes from the end of the game.
Updates applied by HomeBearStudio has since fixed this bug. If you download Nairi now, you won’t see this bug, and if you have it already, you can force an update to it to remove it.
One thing that also caused issues is the control methods artwork. In the artwork, the characters are shown using a single JoyCon as a pointer, and you’re told that you only need use one in a similar style to Pokemon Lets Go. And for almost every interaction in the game, this is the case. However in an early section, you need coins, and you’re told to look around on the ground for them (there are none on the ground in this section, they’re in lamps and other fixtures which were annoying).
I was using the left JoyCon and the right D-Pad button in place of A, and even though this worked with every other interaction in the game up to this point, it would not collect coins. I had to look up a guide video to see where the coins where, and then when this button press still didn’t work I pulled the other JoyCon out to find that it did.
Concerning replayability, I would say there’s little to none. Once you’ve played the story, you’ve played it like with most adventure games. The game offers multiple save slots, but I don’t see any reason to use them personally.
From reading the above section, you can probably tell I didn’t have a great time with NAIRI. I liked the story, artwork and characters but the actual playing of the game wasn’t great. And the bugs I had probably doubled my playtime clock to the point where I lost most of my interest in the game entirely. As I said above, I would not have finished the game if I wasn’t reviewing it. Now the bug that would have made the game impossible to complete in docked mode is fixed I do feel better about the game, but it still doesn’t fix the other issues I had with it.
I wish I were able to play the game again for the first time, but unfortunately, that’s impossible. I did really like the story and characters of NAIRI: Tower of Shirin, and will try out the sequel if it comes out, but I think I’ll play on PC to avoid docked/undocked issues, and I’ll probably wait a few months for any bugs to iron themselves out.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can buy NAIRI: Tower of Shirin on the Nintendo eShop on the following link, http://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/NAIRI-Tower-of-Shirin-1476594.html