Platformer games and touch screens don’t often work well together. The precision necessary for most platformers simply isn’t possible with virtual buttons, which makes it all the more surprising that NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits– a port of a WiiWare and PC game– plays quite well on the iPhone. There are some control issues, but they don’t do much to detract from this charming, thoughtful adventure.
Though it plays like a 2D, side-scrolling platformer, NyxQuest is equal parts puzzler. The goal of each stage is to reach a portal at the end, which will in turn take you to the next stage. You can move left or right as well as jump, though your wings will give you a few extra vertical meters as well as let you glide through the sky. But getting from point A to point B requires more than just navigating platforms and avoiding enemies; You’ll also need to figure out how to move ahead. And thankfully, the gods are here to help.
Fly into the crackling energy beam.
As you progress, you’ll come across several gods from Greek mythology who will bestow upon you various skills to help you navigate the environment. The first skill you’ll learn lets you manipulate certain objects with a touch. You can grab fireballs with your finger and throw them at bad guys, or pile blocks on top of one another to make new areas accessible. Later on you’ll be able to control the wind and cast rays at enemies.
The real highlight of NyxQuest is the incredible level design. As you learn skills the types of puzzles and obstacles you face will change accordingly, and the difficulty curve feels just right. Though certain parts of the game can be frustrating until you figure out just what needs to be done, the liberally placed checkpoints make sure things never get too annoying. And to make things better, each of the dozen stages in the game features two secret items to find, giving the game a dose of replayability. Which is good since it will only take a few hours to complete the entire game.
It’s just too bad the controls aren’t as perfect as the rest of the experience. One problem, as with many games with virtual buttons, is that they can get in the way. Often an object you’ll want to touch or interact with will be located in one of the lower corners of the screen, directly beneath one of the buttons. Obviously you won’t be able to do anything until you move so that the buttons aren’t in the way. It’s a minor inconvenience most of the time, but an inconvenience nonetheless. More frustrating is how unreliable the controls can be while jumping. When you need to jump to the side, the game often won’t recognize the input, which can be especially frustrating.
Still, NyxQuest is a beautiful adventure that’s worth putting up with some occasionally wonky controls. The slow-paced, but very rewarding puzzle/ platform combination is incredibly enjoyable, and it’s complemented by some wonderful visuals and an even better soundtrack. If you haven’t had the pleasure of exploring NyxQuest on another platform, now’s your chance.