non – The First Warp has its fun moments, but sometimes feels as alien as the game’s main character.
Developer: Lars Pontoppidan
Publisher: Black Grain Games
Release date: 12 August, 2021
non – The First Warp is clearly a labor of love from the creator for the point-and-click genre. As may be anticipated by a game fondly incorporating so many classic sci-fi concepts, some of the quirks are a joy to experience. However, other aspects may have fallen a bit flat, and it’s best played by someone who’s into a bit of zany and understands the idiosyncrasies often present in some of these indie games.
The game’s story takes place over six chapters and centers on the eponymous character non (and no, that lack of capitalization is not a typo), a purple alien with yellow spots and a career in the intergalactic shipping business. After being mysteriously warped away from his home planet, he must figure out how to get back home.
The game’s tone largely employs humor, with non frequently cracking jokes that break the fourth wall, and this comic tone helps the game tackle the tricky science fiction staple of time travel with some panache. However, (hopefully without spoiling any plot points or puzzle solutions) there was at least one multi-step puzzle I found perplexing and disturbing because it involves cruelty to animals in a way that comes across as too macabre for the overall lighthearted tone of the game.
While the universe is fun, the worldbuilding could have provided more robust contextual information when using made-up words, and unfortunately, the English version of the game is occasionally hampered by translation errors and typos. For example, the character says that he hopes something is poisonous when contextually it’s obvious that the character means the opposite, that he means he hopes it’s NOT poisonous.
Gameplay and Mechanics
non – The First Warp is a point-and-click adventure game clearly developed by a genre fan; however, that doesn’t mean that the mechanics familiar to experienced point-and-click players are intuitive. Not much guidance was provided for how the standard point-and-click mechanics work in this particular game, and it had a surprisingly high learning curve. After some trial and error, I determined that the character moves by clicking on the ground as opposed to WASD, and that clicking is also the method for looking at objects.
No text or icons (such as an eye or hand) pop up when the player hovers over an object to indicate whether an object is interactable, so it was very useful when I figured out that there is a button that will temporarily highlight all interactable objects within view. Some interactable objects don’t do anything to further the game, which will be fine for some players but potentially irritating for others. Inventory items must be clicked and dragged to use and combine.
Many puzzle solutions essentially amount to throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks rather than interpreting clues and using logic, so I had many “What the heck?!” moments. I frequently felt like I had no clue why I was doing what I was doing. I found the puzzle to access the help book particularly perplexing (it was enabled by default in my game). I could never figure out how to solve it, so I eventually turned it off in the Settings.
The Steam store description describes that “The game features a genre-first time-manipulation mechanic – never before seen in the genre.” While I have no idea if this is true, once I figured out how to use it I found it added a fun additional challenge to the game’s puzzles.
Art Style and Graphics
The cartoon art style is what first caught my eye about non – The First Warp when I saw it in the Steam store, and the speech bubbles for dialogue enhance the cartoon vibe. The alien character is classic in shape if not color, but the overall color palette of purples and greens calls to science fiction sub-genres. I personally found the runtime of cutscenes to be excruciatingly slow, but it should give all players ample time to read the speech bubbles.
Sound and Music
While there’s no voice acting as all dialogue takes place in speech and thought bubbles (non speaks telepathically), the game utilizes a robust ambient soundscape. This includes occasional “hmm”s from non, random squeaks, and other sounds to give the background depth. The music comes and goes, but when it is present, it’s got a pleasant folk twang with electronic elements.
non – The First Warp has 32 possible Steam achievements. As of the time of review, I’m not convinced that they are all unlocking when and how they are supposed to. There are some that I am mystified as to how I got them, and others that really seem like I should have unlocked them, and yet 0% of players have done so. Some of the achievements also seem very random.
non – The First Warp is a fun experience with many great moments, but the game is rough around the edges when considered as a whole. It’s definitely worth a try for point-and-click lovers who can appreciate what it is despite its flaws, but despite its charms, it isn’t a game that would be in my top picks to recommend as a must-play for the point-and-click genre. At $10.99 at the time of review and approximately four hours for my first playthrough, non – The First Warp meets the criteria of offering enough content for time and price as a movie ticket. If you’re looking for a weird game with a bit of humor, some goofy moments, and know what to look for in puzzle games like this, you’ll probably have a good time despite the imperfections. I, for one, would love to see the developer continue to learn and grow because there are definitely the bones of greatness there.