REVIEW: NENA

Nov
26

REVIEW: NENA

Although this is a reasonable first attempt at making a game, none of its elements are exemplary. With everything being below average, it’s not worth paying attention to.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-Player
Genres: Adventure, Puzzle
Developer: ThanaThan
Publisher: Some Thing Games
Release date: 4 October, 2020

First Impressions

A game like NENA (N), with so few reviews, typically doesn’t interest me that much, even if they’re all positive. However, the handful of reviews I saw on N seemed blown away by its ending, in spite of the game only taking about 60 minutes to beat. Heck, with the achievements in mind, it can actually be finished faster than that, in only about 19 minutes. Regardless, I was very intrigued, and wanted to find out what made it so special, or whether this was all being blown out of proportion. Having finished the game for myself, it’s definitely the latter.

Gameplay

You play as a robot who doesn’t have a lot of abilities, as all Botley can do on his own is dash. However, you’re able to take possession of specific things in the environment around you. For instance, you can possess an explosive barrel, and fling it at enemies next to it, or take possession of the enemy directly and make a traitor out of it to kill other foes. There’s a few puzzles you’ll finish this way, which mostly consists of moving an NPC onto a switch or using enemy projectiles to hit buttons. It’s a mechanic that’s been used in other games, though it works well here and doesn’t have any confusing design or glitches that I noticed. However, nothing revolutionary or very in-depth is done with the possession system, so the gameplay doesn’t evolve or change that much from beginning to end.

I know what you’re wondering. How did I get into this situation? Well, to find out, we’ll have to go back a few days.

Controls

In N, there’s the option to play with either a keyboard or controller, and when I used the controller, I didn’t notice any problems with the controls. This is in part because Botley has so few maneuvers, the controls are pretty simple. Movement is controlled with the ‘L joystick,’ and aiming the line of sight of your possession ability is done with the ‘R joystick.’ Activating a possession is done with the ‘R trigger,’ and ‘A’ dashes. There’s a cooldown before you can dash again, which is a hassle in the boss fights.

I guess I wasn’t supposed to set the car on fire.

Story

N is set hundreds of years in the future, with a world that has supposedly been taken over by a single business run by robots. However, there’s only a few times when the lore of the game is discussed at all, and you see a very small sliver of what’s going on, so there’s no way to know whether this is accurate or not. I found the tone to be inconsistent as well, because it’s fairly grim with the amount of NPCs that are destroyed, how you can demolish bots in the beginning area, and the depressing situations of immobile NPCs. At the same time though, the two main characters get everything they would want, after destroying the monolith controlling the company, and perhaps even the company itself. Again, it’s hard to get a sense of scale or know what’s going on.

We could have called you Blue instead, based on the color of your monitor.

Graphics

It’s hard to be sure, but I think the game’s background are made up of square tiles. I’m basing this primarily on the outdoor environments, as the grass and pathways look like a tiled floor with how the designs are repeated. The game looks alright, but the enemy designs lack variety, with them consisting primarily of turrets that shoot different bullets and what look like different colors of gingerbread men. There’s some differences in how they attack, yet it comes across as underwhelming when they’re most of the enemies you have to deal with.

“Are you concerned about that missile coming right towards us?” “No. Why, are you?”

Sound Design

The music has a very tranquil sound to it, and the strumming of a guitar or other stringed instrument is enjoyable. However, I don’t know that it suits this setting very well, when it’s supposed to take place hundreds of years in the future, and human beings might be wiped out. The sound effects are sufficient, without anything being ear grating.

Well, the exit is right there. Looks like that guy is screwed.

Pros

  • The controls are straightforward and work well. Having to utilize the game’s main mechanic to start the game serves as a simple tutorial or reminder.
  • I enjoyed some of the humorous moments in the writing, and felt bad for some of the NPCs. It’s unfortunately not developed further.

Cons

  • There wasn’t a consistent logic behind the things you could possess. It’s not only other robots or machines, which would make some sense as you’re downloading your programming into them vie a wireless network. However, you can possess non-robotic items too, such as plants, trees, and rocks, with no explanation given as to how you do that. This begs the question of why other bots weren’t able to do what Botley does, as there’s no suggestion that he’s unique or special.
  • Elements of the world are hinted at, but never explored. For instance, all the other inactive robots at the start of the 3rd chapter. Why are they all shut off, and why does Botley spuriously boot up without any outside intervention?
  • If you’re paying attention, most enemies are a non-threat. However, with the sporadic movements of the first 2 bosses, who could get in close and whale on you, they were much more difficult to deal with.

Tips

  • When you take possession of anything else, your body is left immobile and vulnerable. Sometimes you aren’t able to hide it away and make sure it can’t be attacked, and will have to use good timing and quick reactions to return in time to dodge an attack.
  • If you attempt to go for the time-based achievements, you can turn on a timer from the options menu. This way you can see if you’re on pace or already missed the deadline.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, I don’t see why the other reviews for N hype it up so much. I can only guess how difficult it’d be to make a game as an indie developer, but by now, lots of other teams have done just that and put out something that takes more than an hour or two to beat. If I had to guess, most of this praise comes from the after credits scene, wherein the developer, who is a self-insert protagonist, includes a video clip of his proposal to his girlfriend. Considering how it has nothing to do with the game or its story, and that I don’t even know these people, it’s irrelevant to what the game is like. If nothing else, this unnecessary intrusion irritates me, as it’s very reminiscent of social media making people think whatever goes on in their life is of interest to the rest of the world. I hate to break it to you, but most people don’t want to watch a stranger’s wedding proposal, let alone when it’s irrelevant to what they’re otherwise doing.

Putting that aside, I find the game to be quite mediocre. The story isn’t fully fleshed out and doesn’t delve very deeply into its own lore or setting, there’s not much enemy or situational variety in the gameplay, unless you hunt for secrets or achievements it’s quite short, and the ending is abrupt as you wander off into the forest with who knows what awaiting you. A broken and destroyed planet, thousands of busted or confused robots? With nothing to make this game stand out, let alone for its asking price, I don’t recommend playing N. If you want to watch wedding proposals, search for it on YouTube and save yourself the time and money.

So that’s what they mean by ignorance is bliss.

Bonus

If you’re interested in playing NENA you may be in luck! Ask JimDeadlock on our Discord server and he may have a free key for you, if you’re quick!

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