Naught, a nifty looking side-scroller by Blue Shadow Games will have you twisting your way through many different levels in the hopes of grabbing diamonds and seeds. The controls are relatively fun. You can choose to use the accelerometer or buttons on the screen to tilt the landscape, forcing your little black and white dude to move one way or the other. At first the controls feel clunky or poorly tuned. It took me a while to try out all three control styles — my favorite eventually becoming the on-screen pair of buttons — before I felt comfortable. It’s a neat mechanic but it’s essentially the same game we’ve seen before.You’ll recognize the gimmick pretty quickly, but not until after you’ve had some fun working through some different levels.
The art style comes from the school of design that console indie gem Limbo brought to the masses. Everything is a bit vague, outlines and silhouhettes do the work where high-end graphics normally would. The wonderful thing about side-scrollers like Naught is how they present an impression of a world, a basic outline of a place that we wander through. It’s a very sparse art design but our brains are happy to fill in the blanks. In fact I tend to appreciate more minimal art over realistic graphics that can often fall flat, destroying any hopes of immersive play. Naught allows us to feel as though we’re in danger while exploring dark, damp caverns that are filled with spikes and other death-traps, all with some very basic shapes and colors.
The real joy of the game comes from the feeling of fighting gravity to steer your little guy from place to place. On the Nexus 7 the controls respond pretty smoothly but I would love to see some ability to tweak them for sensitivity. Even then I found myself becoming very accustomed to how they responded and soon was able to drive the character effectively. Unfortunately the smooth controls cannot stop the feeling of frustration as some of the levels just became a bit too difficult to enjoy. I’m not the type of gamer who cares about beating a game. I typically like to enjoy myself more than worry about snagging every point. I’m nowhere near a completionist. Would someone who has that certain compulsion to complete every level perfectly have a good time in Naught? Possibly. I found myself wanting to shut the game down more often than not, however. Then again… I’m lazy.
Even with the difficulty curve the game played well and looked nice. The music and sound effects are sparse but crafted well. Naught will be one of those games that I bring to a family get-together so I can give it to the noisy teens. Within minutes it will be almost silent, save for the sounds of the game. It’s also a great game for late-night bed playing. Even though it can be frustrating it is also often relaxing. The only catch is that the relaxing parts are often suddenly interrupted by a sudden uptick in difficulty. I imagine with some tweaking to the challenge curve, Naught can be a real winner. Maybe Naught 2 will be better.
If you’re a fan of challenging side-scrollers, physics puzzlers and games that generally pull a lot from the Limbo school of design, then pick up Naught. Just don’t write me when the game makes you feel like pulling your hair out.