The trailer to N.E.R.O. Nothing Ever Remains Obscure on Steam had me impressed and curious so I was excited until I scrolled to the review section that was sitting heavily in the ‘mixed’ category. I read through a few reviews with positive ones saying vivid visuals and negative ones saying poor puzzles, upon completing the game it didn’t surprise me that all were correct. It came across as if Storm In A Teacup had some awesome design ideas then forgot they had to make a game so they threw a bunch of rudimentary puzzles into a walking simulator. I insult the game but I have to admit there is some merit to N.E.R.O’s art design and story.
Straight off the bat the game looks amazing with an emphasis on bloom effects and a nice use of neon lighting. Most of the game sits within a wilderness kind of vibe, with prominent parts (like the stems of leaves) painted in neon giving the sets a euphoric, other-worldly feel. With concentration put toward aesthetic, the game is severely lacking in interactivity which made me feel like I was in a museum: I can look but I cannot touch.
The story is interesting in places but to me it seemed a bit rushed. It’s a gripping tale about family hardship but it’s simple, obvious and has not a single shred of nuance. I thought the game would have done well with just environmental storytelling because the whole story could have pretty much been told with the scenery alone but the game doesn’t let you soak in the environment as it throws narration at you as well as story paragraphs and character conversation in the form of giant floating neon billboards everywhere. The edge video games have over books and video is the immersion one feels stepping into a digital world; N.E.R.O. Nothing Ever Remains Obscure relies on the techniques of different mediums to tell it’s story instead of using the game itself. The story isn’t even told that well, there’s an entire bit at the start where it’s building up some tribe then as soon as it defines the main characters it completely abandons everything else in the story. There are bits that do tug on the heart strings and the story could have been done really well but the whole thing is just spoon-fed to you which is only insulting as the game is trying to be artistic.
Speaking of insulting, the puzzles in this game would have toddlers offended. One puzzle was a clock and all you had to do was set the time to the time of a different clock lying on the floor. The only difficulty in that puzzle is assuming it wouldn’t be so easy. In the games defense the puzzles get a bit harder later in the game but that’s at about the 90% mark and they still maybe take a minute to solve. I recognize that this make seem like I’m bragging and I am literally not; I spend far too much time in my day staring at the wall trying to remember what I was just doing. The majority of the puzzles are simple button presses: buttons on pedestals, buttons on the floor, buttons on the wall. The rest of the puzzles involve either your projectile or your support character. Your projectile is just a magic ball that you throw at targets which can be difficult sometimes but with the infinite ammo and god awful reload speed it’s more tedious than challenging. Your support character is dumb and annoying and should have only existed on a piece of crumpled up scrap paper on the writers floor. So you command him around and have him stand on buttons… That’s all, and the detection of his character model sucks so there will be times where he’s actually standing on a button and it won’t register, so you have to command him to walk away then walk back onto the button. It’s a mess. There are collectables in the game but they aren’t very hidden and all they do is unlock pictures about the story and you really don’t need any extra storytelling aid.
So N.E.R.O. Nothing Ever Remains Obscure isn’t very fun. The only merit I give it is for it’s art and it’s story but I should only really merit the story if the storytelling was good, which it was not, and the art is only good when it isn’t hindered by giant neon billboards cluttering up the sky. This game technically has nothing good going for it but I still feel there’s something there. It looks great and the world is interesting it was just horribly portrayed and there wasn’t much to do.
If there was something, anything, else to do that was actually fun then it would have been awesome. If there was anything else to aim your magic ball at then stationary pillars and maybe some drawback to using them, or literally anything else you could have used the support character for then this game could have been great; these mechanics were built into the game and were used in the most mundane way possible. N.E.R.O. Nothing Ever Remains Obscure was obviously intended for adults with the subject matter but then it doesn’t respect the intellect of the player. If it was an animated picture it would be a visual arts spectacle but sadly it’s a video game.
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