Over the past few years we have seen the rise of a new genre in video games known as the ‘walking simulator’. This genre has given birth to whole variety of different games and experiences, some of the most noticeable being Everybody’s gone to the rapture and Firewatch. Italian developer, Storm in a Teacup’s most recent game N.E.R.O, is the newest entry into the genre.
N.E.R.O is an explorative first person game that is split into four different worlds; Hospital, Forest, Caverns and the Dessert. While these four worlds do provide unique experiences from each other and allow the progression of a story in a way that the single world of Firewatch can’t, it is my belief that the potential of these worlds was never fully recognised during my play through of the game. I always felt as if the game would have been better served if it had fully embraced its fantastical themes throughout the entirety of the game instead of trying to ground each level in some sort of recognisable reality.
In my opinion, games of this genre are often defined by the experience they give you, and part of that experience is the story. N.E.R.O’s story is one of the more positive aspects of this game. While it is short, lasting around 3-4 hours, it still manages to convey a well told and thought-provoking narrative. The story is mainly told through the use of a narrator and a variety of different coloured text bubbles, however, the various number of collectibles in the game help to expand on and fill in some of the story’s unanswered questions. This gave me a reason to care about getting the collectibles and was a good way of extending the length of the game.
However, while I did enjoy the story, the same cannot be said for the gameplay and the puzzles that are included in it. Each puzzle in the game felt very much as if there was no purpose to it being there what so ever. They ended up feeling more like doors that took a few minutes to pass through than anything meaningful. The puzzles soon became very repetitive due to the lack of creative design. Most of them can be boiled down to simple pressure plate puzzles which quickly became very boring. On top of all this the puzzles weren’t even challenging. I didn’t come across one puzzle that I had to think about for more than thirty seconds before groaning at how simple everything had become. If you’re going to base your game around puzzles, you have to do it in a way that keeps the player interested and wanting more by varying and escalating the difficulty of each of the puzzles.
As for the games graphics, the game opens with a beautifully rendered cut scene that blew me away when I first saw it. Unfortunately, the feeling of astonishment I had at the beginning quickly began to fade as the game transitioned from cut scène to the actual game. Each of the four environments ended up looking pretty awful compared to the initial cut scene. the low quality of the textures really hindered the overall experience of the game as I feel like a walking simulator should be about creating a world that you feel as if you are walking around in. it just wasn’t possible to immerse myself in a game that had frequent frame drops and a clear dichotomy between what the artists thought that unity engine could handle and what it actually ended up looking like.
N.E.R.O for a PS4 was a game that set high expectations for me from the beginning of the first cut scene and while it didn’t disappoint when it comes to the story of the game, every other aspect felt as to me as if there was very little though put into it. The visuals lacked the sharpness and fidelity that I have come to expect from games in this genre and the puzzles seemed to lack in any imagination. With all this said, if you’re looking for a strong narrative ‘experience’ than this will be for you but, if you’re looking for a fun and engaging game to play, then it might be better to look somewhere else.
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