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Nairi: Tower of Shirin

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Adventure
Developer: HomeBearStudio
Release Date: Nov. 29, 2018


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Switch Review - 'Nairi: Tower of Shirin'

by Cody Medellin on May 10, 2019 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Nairi: Tower of Shirin is a special fusion of point & click adventure puzzle game with stunning graphics and a cast that gives it its own unique quality.

Buy Nairi: Tower of Shirin

Point-and-click adventure games have proven their place on home consoles since the likes of Maniac Mansion and Shadowgate on the original NES. Over the decades, some of the heavy hitters in the genre, like Myst and Blazing Dragons, have seen home console releases, and as the hardware become better, even some of the handhelds got a taste of the genre, since touch controls were sometimes a better fit than an analog stick, cursor or d-pad. The Switch's hardware has proven to be perfect for the genre, with several classic game ports and newer titles like Detective Gallo gracing the system. Nairi: Tower of Shirin is different, as the Switch is the console-exclusive home for the game, and from the first screen onward, the title is an absolute treat.

The story starts off in the kingdom of Shirin, a world where humans and anthropomorphic animals coexist in harmony. You play the role of Nairi, the sheltered daughter of a noble family. One night, you're visited by one of the noblemen and asked to flee the castle; guards have arrested your family and are coming for you next. You're smuggled outside of the kingdom, but then you're kidnapped by bandits who want to sell you to the highest bidder. From here, it is up to you to escape and hide out while trying to discover a great mystery that could save the kingdom and your parents.

The story seems simple enough, and while the dialogue doesn't complicate things, it doesn't dumb down things, either. The writing is done well, and the many characters you meet are very likeable because of it. There are some expected quirks, but no one is written as annoying or too smart for their own good. In short, this can be compared to some of the surprisingly nuanced animated shows.

That last part is important because the presentation makes it attractive for both kids and those who love animation. While the actual animation itself is limited to a few frames, the art style of the environments and characters is adorable and reminiscent of illustrations in children's books. The slightly larger-than-normal heads for the human characters and the plumpness of the animal characters make them as attractive as plushies, and their facial expressions are emotive. The music also adds to the charm, with whimsical tunes played in towns and mysterious melodies playing when things get serious. There are no voices present, however, which may be disappointing to some but a benefit for others, since they won't be disappointed by voices that don't fit the characters.

For the most part, Nairi plays like a typical point-and-click adventure game. Iconography takes the place of text-based actions, so it becomes clear when you can interact with something, look at it, or move somewhere else. Item combination is another thing you'll do often, while dialogue is often straightforward enough that dialogue trees are present but not prevalent. One thing you'll notice right away is that there is no option to highlight every hotspot in a scene, so instead of immediately knowing what can and can't be interacted with, you'll need to scan the area for a change in your cursor state.

While players may miss the lack of hotspot highlighting, the puzzles aren't bafflingly difficult. Quite a number are challenging, and you'll spend some time trying to find hotspots on your own to see what you can interact with, but puzzle solutions are plausible instead of nonsensical, like some of the classic adventure games. For those who are truly stuck, the game provides plenty of hints via Nairi's companion, who always seems to be taking notes that highlight key puzzle pieces and possible solutions.

As for control schemes, Nairi supports just about every type you can think of. If you're playing in portable mode, the game fully supports touch controls, but you also have the option to use the buttons and analog stick on the Joy-Con. You might find yourself switching between both due to the lack of aforementioned hotspot highlighting, so you could scan around with the stick to highlight a hotspot and then touch it on-screen. When playing on a bigger screen, you still have the standard control options, but you can use a Joy-Con as a pointer as if you were playing this on the Wii. Either Joy-Con works, so both left- and right-handed people can play this one comfortably.

With everything going right for the game, its only failing is a major one. Namely, this is merely the first chapter. The game ends with a nice cliffhanger, and there are plenty of story threads left open, so players will have plenty to chew on for an inevitable second part. Still, there's no mention that this game isn't a self-contained story, so those who take the journey all the way to the end will be disappointed at the lack of resolution by the time the credits roll.

Despite this, Nairi: Tower of Shirin remains a charming and engaging point-and-click adventure game. The story is conveyed well via good writing, with enough twists and revelations that make it feel like a children's show due to the subject matter and higher stakes involved. The puzzles are great brain teasers but also have the good sense to not fall into the trap of being difficult for the sake of it. Most of all, that art style is too attractive to pass up, with every character being extremely likeable. Provided you don't mind the cliffhanger ending, Nairi is a worthy pickup for adventure fans.

Score: 8.0/10

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