I’ve played a lot of point-and-click titles over the years, from the good old days of Lucas Arts Games to the more modern adventures we get from Daedalic Entertainment, every single one of them has their own artistic style, control method, target audience, and varying mechanics. What I have noticed recently is that quite a few games are cropping up from small indie developers on Kickstarter in order to fund the creation of their games within this genre, NAIRI: Tower of Shirin was one of these.
Managing to reach its goal over on Kickstarter, we were promised a “child-friendly story with subtly mature themes, inspired by works such as The Last Airbender, Toy Story and Spirited Away” with a planned release on both the Nintendo Switch and the PC. Thankfully, everything seemed to go smoothly as the game was released and distributed on both platforms. Kickstarter can be a minefield though, some games come out shining and some come out to disappointment, let’s see what I thought of NAIRI: Tower of Shirin…
The story of NAIRI: Tower of Shirin, alongside the narrative delivered by the characters, is very compelling and enjoyable. You play as the titular protagonist, Nairi, who is forced to flee her household within the upper-class area of Shirin because of an invasive attack upon her family in the night. Forced to escape by any means necessary, she soon ends up in the hands of bandits and thrown within their basement whilst they decide what to do with her. This is a far cry from the life of luxury she is used to and an experience which left her scared and detached.
However, as the story unfolds, you’ll gain new allies in the most unsuspecting of places whilst you continue to grow into a much more confident and independent young girl as you overcome various puzzles and obstacles which are placed before you. Not only this, but you also embark on a side mission to uncover the secrets behind the Tower of Shirin whilst also trying to get back to your parents with the hope that they are both okay. This truly is a great story which allows us to see just how Nairi grows throughout her adventure as things become more fantastical and mysterious.
I had the chance to play the PC version of NAIRI: Tower of Shirin, so I’m not sure on how the game controls on the Nintendo Switch, but I’ve been told it supports touch screen and the use of the joycons over there. On PC, the game plays like you’d expect any point-and-click game to operate; you point and you click! You move from scene to scene via clicking on various doorways or the edges of the screen – this was my first dislike for the game. There didn’t appear to be any fast travel or map you could refer too (from what I could see), so I would sometimes get lost or not realise I could go in a certain direction. Also, if you enter a location by going to the left, for example, the next screen may have an option to go down and right. However, down will be where you came from and right leads to a new location – this wasn’t very clear and lead to a few navigational issues.
Another thing which was quite strange yet familiar, and caused a few issues, is that random objects in each scene present you with a coin upon clicking them. If you’ve ever played a Professor Layton game, you’ll know what I mean! However, whereas in those games it was obvious what would house a coin, in NAIRI: Tower of Shirin it isn’t so clear, so you end up clicking everything and you can accidentally trigger examination text or speech you’ve already read or even accidentally click to move to a new room.
One final issue I had with the UX for the game is in regards to the objects you can pick up. The game is built around three core elements; Narrative, Inventory Puzzles, and Regular Puzzles. I’ll come onto these next but the inventory puzzles require you to have the items in your inventory, obviously. I found that some objects weren’t very clear in the environment. Sure, you can comb each scene until your cursor turns into a magnifying glass and then click to interact, but I feel the game was missing a key function – highlight interactable objects. A lot of games use this mechanic in order to ‘hint’ the user into what they can interact with – just a simple blip of light on things you can click on at the push of a button like the Space-bar.
None of the above will affect the overall score of the game, it’s just a few Quality of Life elements which I’m used to seeing in modern point-and-click games in order to enhance the experience. With regards to the coin, I don’t know how that could be any different though, it was fun to find the hidden coins but accidentally clicking on other things was a little frustrating.
Okay, so one of the main components of NAIRI: Tower of Shirin is its puzzles and I’m very happy to say that I really enjoyed these. A lot of them were unique and not your usual set which we see in a lot of games, although a few of the classics do show their face every now and again. The puzzles also come in two categories, as I mentioned before, inventory and regular/environmental puzzles. The inventory puzzles are rather creative and the game is full of hints on what the character or object needs. For example, you’ll try and shove a hook into a piece of wood and your colleague will say you may need to ‘Drill’ it first, referring to the drill on the floor, or if you offer a hat to someone then they will say it needs to be cooler, so you stick everything in your inventory to it with glue and that suffices!
The environmental/regular puzzles are the main event though. Near the beginning of the game, you’ll have to escape out of your basement prison by interacting with various objects around the cell and working out how to manually operate the door and later on, you’ll have to read clues in scriptures to help solve puzzles. There was even a point where I had to open up paint on my PC and draw out a bunch of symbols in the order I encountered them so that I could unlock a door by punching in the right combination.
Overall, I was really satisfied with the puzzles, nothing felt too hard or too easy, it was all perfectly balanced and even got me to be more interactive than most puzzle games do. I also like that once you get to a certain point in the game, your companion has a notebook in which he draws out hints of what you need to do – he doesn’t give you the answer or a massive clue, but it does push you in the right direction as you may have missed something previously.
I’ve touched on this above but I wanted to talk about it a little more. For a small budget Kickstarted game I didn’t really expect much if I’m being honest. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the narrative the characters come out with and the direction the story flowed in. One thing which some people may not like, although I wasn’t bothered by, is the fact that there is no voice acting within NAIRI: Tower of Shirin at all – it’s all read-only. I’m used to 30+ hours visual Novels, so a 5-6 hour point-and-click adventure game isn’t that bad, but I know some people would have prefered a bit of voice acting, even if it was incoherent grumbles and dialect which we read over.
One major issue with the story (this isn’t a spoiler as such) is that NAIRI: Tower of Shirin is part one in the adventure of Nairi, although it doesn’t mention this anywhere on the storefronts, I had to read confirmation of this in the Steam Forums. The reason I was prompted to look this up is that the ending leaves on a rather abrupt cliffhanger, one which I wasn’t expecting as I thought it was a complete story. I’m not saying I’m disappointed or angry, because for the price you’re still getting a decent length story with a lot of puzzles and narrative to work through and enjoy. I just feel it should have mentioned it was part one on the storefronts or put something like “Experience the first part of Nairi’s adventure…” – Just something which lets you know that it’s ultimately going to be a series.
NAIRI: Tower of Shirin isn’t the only game which has done this recently though, my colleague reviewed Home Sweet Home a few months back and that also wasn’t touted as part one yet it ended with a ‘See you next time’ situation.
Okay, let’s talk about the gorgeous visuals and simply beautiful cutscenes! In-game, each scene is like a hand painted picture which has had so much love and passion poured into them. The colours are very vibrant, the atmosphere ranges from comical to sinister, and the overall visual experience is a treat for your eyes. But then we come onto the cutscenes. these are played out in stop-motion style, not fully animated, but the visual quality goes up a notch, all the way to eleven! They look like actual watercolours on canvas as you can see the bumps and wear on the material they are presented on.
It also looks a lot like a child’s storybook, not in a bad way, the characters are very cute and almost caricatures of what they look like in real life, and the whole presentation is a perfect experience for people of all ages.
Audio wise, I really enjoyed the music as it captures the mood and atmosphere and helps to enhance it as you progress through the various scenes. It’s a shame there is no talking within the game, but I didn’t mind much as I just gave each person their own voice in my head as I read their dialogue.
On a side note, I ran NAIRI: Tower of Shirin on my i7 PC using its onboard GPU (an Intel 3000HD) and it ran perfectly. I have a new GPU sat here but I’m awaiting the power cable adapter to arrive. As such, even if you own a lower-end PC, it should work just fine due to the simplistic nature of the game.
I really enjoyed my time with NAIRI: Tower of Shirin, it felt like an interactive storybook with delightful puzzles. Visually, this game is up there with the most artistically beautiful games of the last 12 months yet it also has a decent selection of unique and interesting puzzles to help it stand up as a great game to play. I had a few mild annoyances with the UX such as the lack of a map/fast travel, no interactive highlighters, and it’s rather easy to accidentally click to move to another screen, but I still felt compelled to move on and venture further into the story.
Despite the lack of voice acting, NAIRI: Tower of Shirin‘s narrative is funny and witty along with the overall story the further into the game you get. Don’t be put off by the lack of voices though, use your imagination and make the characters sound however you imagine them to sound.
NAIRI: Tower of Shirin£8.99
- - Beautiful artwork, especially the cutscenes
- - Funny and witty narrative with lots of diversions in the story
- - Fun and satisfying puzzles both in the form of inventory and regular puzzles
- - Delightful music
- - Likeable characters
- - Easy to accidentally click to move to another screen
- - No option to highlight interactive points
- - No fast travel
- - The story ends abruptly without the game advising it's only part one in the story of Nairi
- - Some people may not like the fact that there is no voice acting