Nairi Tower of Shirin is a difficult game to define in terms of genre.
At its heart, it’s a point-and-click adventure, but it’s not in the same vein as the Sierra Quest titles or the LucasArts games of old, which I grew up on.
In some ways, it’s also an interactive novel, not unlike the fairly popular Nonary series (aka Zero Escape) yet there are far more puzzle elements to simply lump it into this category.
In some ways, it feels like a more complex Gone Home, but even still, there’s much more exposition shared via conversation than via bits and pieces collected from the environment. Suffice it to say that Nairi is a point-and-click adventure built around a strong text-based narrative.
Nairi Tower of Shirin
Overall, which is a weird place to start, I know, Nairi is quite a good title, but it doesn’t do a great job of presenting this to the player up front. It’s quite a good looking game, sure, with quirky characters and detailed scenes.
However, initially, there is a lot of text, interspersed with very short and simple puzzles. Of course, the developers need to provide a solid foundation to the story before they can launch into the more interesting aspects of puzzle solving and exploration.
The first hour or so involves a lot of clicking through text.
I wasn’t sure what I was playing at first, but I encourage those with similar opinions to press on, as it does get significantly better.
Text on Text
The game tells the story of Nairi, a young privileged girl from a fictional town.
At the beginning of the story, her parents are captured and thrown into a cell. A helpful neighbour saves Nairi and helps her escape outside the city walls, where she befriends a bunch of wild cats.
By wild, I mean a band of poor, underprivileged anthropomorphic cats. At first, Nairi is captured by them, and her subsequent attempt to escape essentially forms the training for the puzzling aspects of the game.
You need to search every scene for items that can be collected or interacted with. You then determine which objects can be utilised across the varying locations to complete a semi-complex puzzle.
Initially, the puzzles felt far too easy. I wondered who the game was targetted at, but again, the first hour or two of the game sets the scene for everything else that is to come.
In fact, not long after this, when Nairi re-enters the town to search for her parents, the game really opens up. The story enters a new mystic phase, which is highly welcome, and the puzzles get far more complex and enjoyable.
However, it’s all fairly short-lived. I’m not exactly sure how long I played for in total before I hit the ‘non-ending’ but I’m sure it wasn’t much longer than 6-8 hours.
Given the price point, it’s very much worthwhile though, as there is depth to the story that uncovers itself over the course of the game. Sadly, when the credits roll, you’ll still have questions.
Clearly, there will be a follow-up, which I look forward to playing through, but I guess it depends on the success of this initial title. This was a Kickstarter game, after all.
I do have some gripes with the game beyond its clumsy initial sections and the somewhat unexpected ending. Firstly, it would be nice if the text could be skipped more easily.
As you need to click on the same item multiple times to find something you may have missed it hurts to occasionally have to sit through the same wall of text. Sure, you can press a button to speed things up, but it would be great if you could skip a text section entirely.
Secondly, you click the edges of the screen to move from scene to scene. This isn’t a huge problem, but it makes navigation painful when you have to, again, move from room to room trying to find something you overlooked.
I doubt there is a simple solution to this, but a smoother or faster transition between scenes would reduce the frustration.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly for a puzzle game, the puzzles don’t make perfect sense from a narrative perspective. Sure, you can get lollipops and glue them to a hat to make a cool hat, but that’s not really a cool hat.
It’s just a bunch of random objects that seem to have been selected at random, or perhaps its a joke?
I’m not sure, and this is a simple example as I don’t want to give away some of the larger puzzles, but sometimes it feels like the puzzles were secondary to the story.
Is this a huge issue? Not really.
The majority of the puzzles are still enjoyable, and it isn’t always a case of ‘trying to figure out what the developer was thinking’ but it wasn’t always the logical choice.
Nairi took me by surprise. At first, I thought that reviewing the game would be a chore; a tedious, unskippable text-based adventure with simple puzzles.
Happily, I soon discovered that there was a lot more to both the story and the puzzles, and it was a world I enjoyed being a part of. I look forward to the inevitable follow-up and recommend puzzle fans to take a look.
Nairi Tower of Shirin was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Nairi Tower of Shirin